Thursday, March 2, 2017

Oratorical Contest ~ Thursday 3/2/17

It's foggy this morning and very overcast.  Bleh.  The good news is that it feels cool-ish so I have been able to open the windows. It's now 7:32 a.m.

Tonight is when Youngest Son will compete in our district's Optimist Club Oratorical Contest.  I'm sure he's anxious to put that behind him as I'm forcing him to compete. As I have mentioned previously, this is a contest that doesn't draw a lot of applicants so the odds of him winning a 1st, 2nd or 3rd place are very good.  The prizes are Amazon gift cards (or were, the previous 2 years when my daughter competed and won) and last year one young men who completely fumbled his speech still won 3rd place and $80, as there were only 3 contestants. I expect he'll be back this year. He had shown amazing poise and I wish him well!  I hope Youngest Son will do well. He is reading his speech and speaks too fast, but it's also a timed event so having him slow down means he needs to rephrase some sentences so they're not so verbose and, at this point, he doesn't want to change anything.  As I said, he just wants it to be over :)  If he won, he would go on to regionals.  Am I a bad mom to think he's not going to win?  LOL. Anyhoo, he and I will be headed to The Villages tonight. That's where the contest is taking place.  If you're not aware, The Villages is a huge retirement community in North Lake County/South Marion County.  It's very conservative, for the most part, and a frequent campaign stop for various conservative politicians.  It's also pretty wealthy.  None of this has a bearing on the contest itself, the Optimist Club does commendable charitable work and everyone I've met from the club was very friendly and supportive of the kids entering the contests. It's just background information to explain why I'm talking about "The Villages" as if you knew what I was talking about.

After he's done with this contest, it'll be time to get Youngest Son registered to start taking French I via Florida Virtual School.  FLVS, as it's known, is free to Florida residents.  It allows kids who can't make it to school, or homeschooled kids, or kids who want to take classes not offered at their own school (like French at our high school, for instance), online and have it counted as an official high school credit.  He will complete 2 years as most colleges require 2 consecutive years of foreign language classes.  Note to self: I probably should contact the Guidance department to find out which AP classes are available to him as a sophomore next year and when the deadline is to apply to take the PERT test to see if he qualifies for dual enrollment.  Or have him go to Guidance to discuss that. I should just do that and stop hovering over him. It's just hard because Greg's daughter and my daughter were both very self-motivated in finding out the information they needed whereas my boys have been just content to not do it unless they were "strongly encouraged" to and even then, I had to step in otherwise nothing would have been done about certain things.  Youngest Son is a mix of the two.  I think he definitely would make the appointment with Guidance, but I do need to tell him to do that and then check on the progress and outcome.

I took my library book to bed with me last night, inspired by a comment Nan had left about reading before bedtime. I was tired but felt that I could benefit from a little reading.  However, as soon as I got into bed and settled, I realized that I was far more tired than I thought, and didn't read one word!

I slept well, but not enough. The overcast weather this morning is further making me sleepy. I don't know if I'll do much at all today!  I was standing in line at RaceTrac earlier this morning and my eyes saw a package of bacon jerky, which my brain read as "dragon jerky" and it took me a few seconds to think "wait, dragon jerky?! what?!" and look at the package again. Sigh. Sometimes I wonder if I'm going senile.

I just realized that there aren't any birds chirping outside right now. That's unusual.

I'm supposed to get an Amazon package from UPS today.  I'm curious to see if I'll get it or if they'll pretend, once again, that they couldn't find my house.

Time to see what is on my plate for today!

  • Fold the laundry DONE
  • Put the laundry away DONE
  • Research state park for a hike this weekend DONE
  • Give a driving lesson to my son with the stick shift 
  • Clean bathroom ceiling
  • Make my bed DONE
  • 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 last night's dishes DONE
  • Do the dishes by hand, drain/dry in the dishwasher (AFTER DINNER) 
  • Watch "Spy in the Wild" DONE
  • Sweep/mop the downstairs bathroom DONE
  • Vacuum Greg's bedroom Swept it
  • Vacuum Youngest Son's bedroom
  • Make a dermatologist appointment for Youngest Son
  • 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) 
  • Read one of the library books in progress
  • Clean upstairs litter box didn't need to be cleaned
  • 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
  • Inventory the freezers
  • Purge the top drawer of the file cabinet
  • Take RaceTrac surveys 
  • Take my measurements
  • Look into transplanting hyacinths in garden - I composted them
  • Scrub patio pavers with bleach (wear old clothes and shoes, gloves and goggles)
  • Finish decluttering exercise room shelves
  • Move coffee table back to living room
  • Call my bank to consolidate my IRA accounts
  • 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
  • Update French blog
  • Mend sliding door window screen
  • Finalize and mail letter to UPS CEO (add Amazon's comparison)
  • Plant and water the tree
  • Purge the coupon organizer I'll do it this weekend as I realized I have quite a few coupons expiring on 3/3 and I want to make sure I don't purge something that I might need between now and then.
  • Make sure I get answer from the Educational Foundation director re: Daughter's scholarship after what paperwork to fill out she'll probably answer next week since they have a big event his weekend
  • Finish calculating our Net Worth in progress, waiting for new mortgage statement
  • Track my and Greg's IRAs for the IRS
  • Do the shredding
  • Download all February pictures from phone, Canon camera, and Panasonic camera to external drive
  • Trim cats' nails
  • Clean the downstairs bathroom DONE
  • Make Greg's bed DONE
  • Mail Boxtops to former elementary school
  • Get the hummingbird feeders out of storage
  • Make hummingbird nectar
  • Input location of contest into my GPS DONE

  • Youngest Son packed a lunch to take to school.

  • He finished a box of cereal at breakfast so I saved the inner bag to reuse it as a freezer bag and clipped the Boxtop for Education. I need to mail those to our former elementary school as I think the Spring Drive is going on right now.

  • I packed leftovers for Greg to take to work.

  • Despite the fog and a lot more traffic than usual, school drop-off went well.

  • I stopped by RaceTrac to redeem a survey reward code for a free caramel salted frosting filled muffin for Youngest Son's after-school snack. The station manager was my cashier and he's always super friendly, which is appreciated.

  • I took advantage of a cool morning to open the windows downstairs. I'm still not opening the sliding door since the kittens damaged the screen, so I'm opening the curtains and the large window in the exercise room instead.  There is a window seat there and a clear view of the bird feeder so the kitties like that spot.  Our high today will be 82F/27.7C.  Woah, I just looked at the weather app's prediction for the next 10 days and the high 80s temps have disappeared and now we're looking at temperatures in the 70s and low 80s for the next 10 days, woohoo!

  • I'm running some Swagbucks videos. My 1st goal is 90 SB. Af of 8 a.m., I'm at 1569 SB so I only need about 700 more to qualify for a $25 gift card. You can do it, Nathalie!  The January bonuses should be released soon but I don't think I'll get much.

  • I earned the daily Microsoft Rewards credits (Edge bonus!) and entered my weight into Walgreens' Balance Rewards for Healthy Choices (20 BR points).

  • I folded the laundry while watching episode 3 of "Spy in the Wild" on PBS and, as usual, the kittens "helped".

  • Tabby Kitty was particularly interested in the "Spy in the Wild" show.

  • I've identified a new state park that I'd like to go visit, since Greg leaves me in charge of organizing our visits. We've visited pretty much most of the closest state parks so now we're going to have to venture a little further. This one is an hour and 20 minutes away, in Hillsborough County, Alafia River State Park.  It promises very interesting terrain since it used to be a phosphate mine, especially for mountain bikers.  The maps posted on the site didn't make it very clear which trails were suitable for hikers so I called the Ranger Station. Yes, I, Nathalie, made a phone call. It's almost unheard of, these days!  The ranger was very friendly and advised me to stop by the Ranger Station when we go and the ranger on duty will be happy to point out which trails are more suitable for hiking.

  • Yesterday, I asked Greg whether he still wanted to go back to Hillsborough River State Park this weekend to go fishing because we'd have to leave very early (he wants to fish "early" in the morning and the park opens at 8 a.m.) but he said we might buy the kayaks and then go practice first.  By that, he means practicing fishing from the kayaks as he's not sure how he would maneuver the fishing rod and equipment while sitting in a kayak without falling over.  So we might do that on Saturday and then go fishing on Sunday, I guess, in which case we wouldn't go to Alafia River State Park until a couple of weeks from now since next weekend he wanted to go back to Fort Cooper for the Second Seminole War Skirmish Reenactment.

  • I was starved at 11 a.m. (PBJs for breakfast have too many calories but they do allow me to wait until noon to have lunch!) so I had... carbs: the leftover spaghetti from 2 nights ago with the rest of the free jar of Barilla pesto, and the last 2 slices of free garlic bread. So it was a very frugal, if not healthy, meal.  I don't care, my period should have started by now and I want carbs all the darn time.  Arrgh.

  • The McDonald's coupon for a free McCafĂ© item with any purchase is back in my app but expiring in 3 days so I guess we'll be getting Greg another free Shamrock Shake on Saturday and I'll get a Diet Coke :)

  • The UPS package was delivered today as UPS seems to have miraculously decided that they can find my house, after all.

  • I didn't put on a timer but did several domestic chores back to back as I had a surge of energy. I still haven't done the dishes, though.

  • I printed a couple of coupons that Betty Crocker emailed me.

  • I found 3 cents on Greg's dresser to I added them to my 2017 Spare Change jar.

  • For dinner, I precooked chipotle chicken sausages and corn on the cob. It's not a great dinner but Greg and my daughter will only have to reheat it.  I think I'll take my son out after the competition, probably drive-through though.

  • My son won 3rd place at the Oratorical contest tonight! Granted, there were only 3 participants, but this is why I pushed him to do it, lol. He won $100 and got tons of great compliments from people who couldn't believe he is only a freshman. The other 2 candidates were seniors (both female). Everybody encouraged him to return next year.   I sat next to an older lady who was wonderfully nice and we had a good time chatting in between performances. She had just moved this past year from Oregon with her husband, who, unfortunately, was just diagnosed with a terminal form of cancer :(

  • We were encouraged to take some cake home so my son bought a couple of pieces in the car with him.  

  • For dinner he didn't want to go to a sit-down restaurant and we couldn't find a fast-food place, so we stopped by Publix and got yourselves a couple of sandwiches and drinks. My OOP was about $10 and I charged it to Amex for 3% back in Rewards.
This was a nice Publix. And it was also empty. We were pretty much the only customers there!
  • I got 211 SB as my February bonus. I'll take it!

  • Gas:
    • to drive my son to school
    • and tolls for Greg to commute
    • for my daughter to attend her college classes
    • and tolls to drive my son to The Villages and back for the oratorical contest

  • I went back indoors at 1:30 p.m. and had to turn the AC on because it was 78F in the house.

  • Dinner from Publix for my son and myself

  • I really confused SavingStar by submitting my Aldi receipt when I had selected a Publix rebate and now they keep on asking me to resubmit it and I do and every time they reject it. Arrgh. It looks like I'm going to miss out on the $1.50 off the bar soap after all, which pisses me off because I wouldn't have bought it without the rebate.  I need to see if I can email them without going through their system that doesn't let me attach a picture AND explanations.

  • I had to throw away this morning's paper plastic sleeve without using it to clean a litter box because, ironically, it smelled very strongly of animal pee and I didn't need to clean up any litter boxes.

  • It's only a failure because I had hoped that I could replant my hyacinths for next year,  and indeed you can... if you live in an area that experiences winter!  As for Florida, here is what I found about this issue on the Farmer's Almanac website: "There is no guarantee that it will bloom again, but you can cut off the dead foliage and plant the bulb about 6 inches deep and see what, if anything, happens next spring. BTW, if you do not live in an area that experiences winter, nothing will happen; hyacinths need a cold spell to bloom. So it’s best to enjoy it now…and buy a new plant when it passes." So that settles it, I'll be composting the old plants...

  • Wow.  Blogger is screwing up with our pictures again!  I was re-reading posts from March 2016 and several posts are missing pictures here and there. Obviously I uploaded them to Blogger so they should be there. I didn't change the settings of the blog or anything. That really pisses me off .

  • Publix: $10-ish (I don't have my receipt in front of me)

  • A muffin from RaceTrac, with redemption of survey reward code
  • I received a coupon for a free whey Powerbar

  • My son won $100!

  • Made my bed
  • Fed the kittens
  • Packed a lunch for Greg
  • Prepped his breakfast
  • Drove my son to school
  • Stopped by RaceTrac to get him a snack
  • Aired out the downstairs
  • Chased the kittens off the kitchen table... twice!
  • Replied to my younger brother's email
  • Programmed GPS for tonight
  • Folded the laundry while watching Spy in the Wild
  • Cuddled with kittens
  • Researched our next state park
  • Called the ranger station to get info on hiking trails
  • Sat on the patio to visit with the birds
  • Put the laundry away
  • Cleaned the downstairs bathroom
  • Spot cleaned the kitchen floor
  • Washed the top of the kitchen trashcan
  • Made Greg's bed
  • Checked to see if I needed to clean the upstairs litter box
  • Dusted the Cat room, breezeway, exercise room, hallway, living room, Greg's room, upstairs landing
  • Read some blogs
  • Made a copy of my son's passport for tonight's competition
  • Did last night's dishes
  • Precooked dinner for Greg and my daughter
  • Drove my son to the Optimist Club Competition and back
  • For being able to spend time on my patio today!
  • For my son winning $100 at the oratorical contest
  • For meeting extremely nice people at the contest tonight


  • This is for Pixel: if we ever make it to Africa, we need to try to photograph a mongoose on a warthog!

  • At close to 10 a.m. I could hear birds singing around the backyard (i.e. in the neighbors' backyard because they don't seem to be in mine!) so I grabbed my camera and laptop and went to settle myself on the patio. Yes I have dishes to do and lots of other chores to work on, but the weather is nice and cool and there's a breeze and honestly, I don't care about the chores all that much! But as soon as I got settled, the clouds came back and now the birds have stopped singing. Argh..... aaaaaand the neighbors have just let their dogs out so of course they're just barking nonstop.  Ah never mind, this neighbor must be nicer than the others because he or she got the dog to go back inside and stop barking almost as soon as I typed this sentence :) And the birds started singing again!  I wish I could recognize their calls, darn it, but I'm too forgetful. I can tell however, when there's a cardinal nearby because they just squeak nonstop. There's a very skittish one coming to the feeder right now but every time I raise my camera, he gets spooked and flies off :(  But a few minutes later, I saw several cardinals.

  • And then another bird showed up that I hadn't seen at my feeder before!  I'll have to look it up in my book. It stayed there for a long time! I hope my pictures come out clearly, I can't tell when the sun is shining if I'm focusing properly or not. I tried the autofocus and the manual focus.

  • The potted plant were very parched so I reused rainwater collected in my rain barrel to water them.

  • And then I walked around the backyard and practiced taking pictures with my new camera. Since it was high noon, it was the worst lighting conditions, I suppose. Oh well.

A few of the pineapples' flowers are starting to bloom

Lemon flower

I'll have jasmine blooms soon!

I've been thinking about several bloggers who haven't been around for a while: Susan, Tara, Jess. I hope you're all doing well, ladies, and I miss reading about your days.


  1. Congratulations to your son! I'm sure he's very happy you pushed him into taking part! You might just want to plant that hyacinth bulb and see what happens. I've planted hyacinths in my garden and they've come up a couple of years in a row (but eventually died out; same with daffodils and tulips).

    1. Thank you! I think he's happier than it's over, lol. He's not motivated by money. However, I think hearing the other kids present their speeches and essays and getting feedback from everyone, I think he has become a little more inspired to improve next year (as I have already told him that he's participating again next year!) because he is somewhat competitive. All in all, it was a very positive experience.

      It's too late for the hyacinths as I already composted them (and poured more kitchen scraps and rotten leaves on top of them since) but it's interesting that they did regrow for you. We never did very cold temps this year and I didn't want to have to keep them in the fridge for many months so I figured I'd just buy new ones from Aldi next year.

  2. Congrats yo your son! I wonder if they have contests like this around here- my older GS doesn't have a shy bone in him so that would be up his alley. Yesterday was long for me but the information (Day 2 today) was good- all on applied behavior analysis- and lunch was awesome. I didn't pig out though and had salad, a small 1/2 cup of broccoli/cheese soup, 1 wrap and water. I noticed most of the attendees took 2 wraps, a bag of chips and 2 or 3 desserts haha. Daughter got all of our arrangements for the NYC trip- flight, hotel and tickets to Dear Evan. She's my always tardy/late child but she is also extremely organized. We have all just learned she won't be on time for any family gathering so let it go.... OK I need to write a few notes and get ready to leave. I meet another support coordinator at 7 AM. I'm looking forward to the weekend.

    1. Thanks, Nan! Yes there are Optimist Clubs throughout the world. I think you told me you were in St Augustine? Here is the information for your local club.

      The oratorical and essay contest is a yearly contest so he wouldn't be able to participate this year, but should contact them at the end of the year, which is when they release the topics of the following year's speeches and essays. Also, our club allows the kids to compete in both the oratorical contest and the essay contest. He should ask if yours does that too. My daughter wasn't aware of it the first year she competed but she did it the next year (last year) and ended up winning both competitions! Since it's an international competition, there are several levels for the winner to progress to, each time with an increasing amount of money to win. I think that at the regional level, the first prize was $2,500. My daughter didn't win that one, though. It's very inspiring to hear those kids deliver their speeches and read their essays.

      Wow, you have lots of good things planned: WDW, New York trip... when are you going to NYC?

      Well done avoiding stuffing your face with FREE food, lol! I should have been reasonable when I went to Publix last night, especially since they print the calories right on the wrapper of the sandwich, but I was starved and that Italian sandwich on French bread really looked delicious so I had that. But I did have a diet iced tea and I skipped the cake.

      I hope you have a great day today!

    2. Thanks for the info about Optimist club. We're going to NYC in hot July. Oh well we're used to it right? My son wants me to visit him in Alexandria too- I've never seen his apartment but he's such a traveler. He's going to Italy next week! I swear he has more vacation than anyone I know but I guess because his job is stressful, he gets a lot of time off. He says he lives frugally- food is biggest expense- he can afford to go on trips and visit his GF often. She works in Oxford. He's meeting her in Italy.

  3. You and your new camera are doing great with your nature pictures. The yellow bird at your feeder is a gold finch. As far as the missing pictures in Blogger, I find that happens sometimes with pictures that I import from other places. I'm not sure, but it seems like they have an expiration date.

    1. Thank you! I'm very pleased with the camera. I took tons of pictures yesterday (over 200!) and the ones where I zoomed in on the birds with the autofocus, from the other side of the yard, came out super sharp! However, when I try to use a more manual mode and autofocus, it's hit and miss, which is frustrating because to me the pictures look focused on the camera screen (which is only 3" but my son tells me that's the largest size available in cameras) but then they're not focused properly when I pull them up on my laptop. However, I do anticipate that by taking tons of pictures with different settings so I don't end up with 200 blurry photos, hahaha.

      Thanks for the identification of the bird! I was so tired last night, I couldn't muster up the energy to look it up. I will update the post immediately :)

      The picture problem is frustrating. When I looked at which pictures were missing, most of them seemed to be pictures that I had saved from other sources, you're right, not pictures that I had taken myself, although a couple were screenshots. Maybe there is such thing as an expiration date... I'll keep reading older posts and take note of what else is missing. I had that same problem with another diary blog I was keeping (but privately) several years ago and all of a sudden a whole year's worth of pictures was missing and no one could figure out why. I ended up re-creating my diary in Powerpoint by copying and pasting the text and reinserting the missing pictures as, at least, I was able to see the file names of the missing pictures, but it was a major project... and I just realized that I don't think I ever finished it?! I'll need to go back and check.

      Part of me wants to just get my own website and host it myself, but then it'd be more headaches trying to fix things that break... and it wouldn't be free (I do pay Google $5 a year for a legacy storage plan to insure I don't run out of space since I post so many pictures).

    2. Well, well, well, I was looking for some of the posts with missing pictures so I could refer to them when I asked a question on the Blogger Help Forum, but in the one post I did find, the picture is back on this morning! So maybe it was a just a glitch yesterday? I didn't turn off my laptop between yesterday and today so it's not like suddenly I have more memory to display pictures... Well at least the problem seems to have been fixed :)

  4. I'm late to the show but, sincere congratulations to your son! I'm really liking your photographs...remember, practice makes perfect!

    1. Thanks Judy! I'm taking lots of pictures when I can, and it's getting a little easier to remember what my settings should be for a couple of situations.

  5. Congratulations to your son!

    I love cardinals. There was a very noisy one on the trail the other day -- he didn't want us to get too close, but he sure didn't mind letting us know he was there!

    1. Thanks Laura! I love cardinals, they're so showy and perky! I'm glad you saw one too!

  6. I'm alive and well. Still read yours and everyone else's blog, just not been in a writing mood.

    Congrats to your son :) Reminds me of my year at university. They had a "thinking man" competition set up and whoever sat there in that pose the longest won $500. Only one person even showed up to it. Easy half a grand for him.

    1. Dang! Don't you wish you had entered it too?

      I'm glad you're alive AND well! I have been thinking about you and Bubbie.

  7. Hahaha...mongoose on a warthog definitely wins over egret on cow!

    Congratulations to your son!

    1. Thanks! It was a good experience for him, I think, even outside the monetary gain :)


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