Sunday, April 30, 2017

Recap: April Goals Vs. Accomplishments

I'm checking in to see how I did on my April Goals.

Analysis: There's no sugar coating this:  I have failed miserable in April! This is why I'm taking a break from being online all the time, my favorite "time waster", so I can regroup and try to regain control.

I know some of you would have pointed out that I have completed some goals and some are partly completed and it's true. But my list of failures is much longer and I have no excuse for most of them save for being unmotivated and lazy.  There is really no other excuse for not having met them.

  • Read at least one book - Read two fiction books and one non-fiction book 
  • Turn the compost bin at least once - done on 4/3
  • Purge the plastic containers in the kitchen - done on 4/3
  • Schedule outing with Daughter - Biking the West Orange Trail and lunch on 4/12
  • Get pollinator flowers in pots for the garden (spend no more than $50) DONE but spent $100
  • Go kayaking at least once DONE on 4/9 with Youngest Son
  • Water the garden once a week when it hasn't rained It poured on 4/4 and 4/5.  Watered on 4/13 and then twice a week since I got the new flowers.
  • Go on a walk every weekend with Greg DONE West Orange Trail on 4/8; Bulow Plantation Ruins State Park on 4/15, Van Fleet Trail on  4/22, Lake Minneola Trail and Revel's Pond on 4/29
    In Progress/Partly Accomplished
    • Schedule lunch with Middle Son - in progress, he said he would sign me in to Disney but I don't know when he'll get his pass
    • Call my mom - left her a VM on 4/10
    • Visit at least 2 new state parks, with or without Greg  Visited just one: Bulow Plantation Ruins History State Park on 4/15
    • Have lunch or visit with each of my two IRL friends  Only visited with Jodie on 4/14
    • Vacuum or sweep the rest of the house once a week vacuumed once, did sweep a couple of times
    • Mop/fake mop the kitchen once a week fake mopped on 4/3 only
    • Purge the top drawer of the file cabinet in progress

    Failed/Didn't Do
    • Schedule outing with Youngest Son I gave up on D&D this month. The drive is too long, the games are too long, it's too loud, and I think the Dungeon Master is terrible. I need to find something else to do with him this summer.
    • Lose 2 lbs (weight goal: 218.6 lbs)  I'm back to 226 lbs
    • If/when we go out to eat, drink only water and order salads and other low-calorie meals NOPE
    • Drink at least 32 oz of water a day NOPE
    • Exercise on my recumbent bike every week night for at least 35 minutes NOPE
    • Input all my food intake in MyFitnessPal NOPE
    • No screens past 11 p.m. NOPE
    • Do the dishes every night after dinner NOPE
    • Wipe old laptop of confidential/personal information NOPE
    • Schedule dermatologist appointment for Youngest Son NOPE
    • Have Greg start giving our son driving lessons on the Focus He said he would start in the Fall. Why? because my daughter won't be driving the car anymore then. Not sure I follow the logic.
    • Send a quick email to my French BFF to see how she is doing Didn't do and have realized that she never replied to my last 3 emails so I'm giving up on that.
    • Inventory the pantry Didn't do because I didn't want to have to maintain the inventory.
    • Inventory the freezer Ditto.
    • Purge the dresser in the upstairs hallway NOPE
    • File all the pending documents NOPE
    • Write a letter or card to my great aunt, or call her NOPE
    • Wash living room windows NOPE
    • Use brush on fridge coils (last done on 2/28) NOPE
    • Back up the external drive to its own external drive NOPE

    • Earn one $5 gift cards in Microsoft Rewards - Earned two.
    • Calculate our Net Worth on 4/1 - DONE
    • Earn one $25 gift card in Swagbucks - DONE
    • Continue to track all expenses in my spreadsheets - DONE
    • Continue tracking Greg's paystubs in my spreadsheets - DONE
    • Continue tracking all of our expenses - DONE
    • Continue passing on items and coupons to my BFF - Saved her coupons on 4/5, got the free cat treats from Petco for her and saved her a sample of cat food too.
    • Add $166.66 to our Emergency Fund DONE

    In Progress/Partly Accomplished
    • Report all expenses on the blog, daily - Mostly. I stopped blogging before the month's end. However, reporting how much we spent doesn't seem to help reigning in the expenses so I might not do that again as I already input each expense at least twice in my spreadsheets so it's not like I'm not aware of what is being spent on what.
    • Continue to try to purchase as many items from the thrift store as possible - I did purchase some stuff from the thrift stores but I didn't make it a priority.
    Failed/Didn't Do
    • Continue to try to spend only $50 on average, per week for groceries FAILED  I spent an average of $83 per week on groceries.  
    • 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. MAJOR FAILURE. Our eating out/ordering in expenses were extremely high this month (close to $500 as of 4/28) and way too much of it was due to laziness on my part.  
    • When eating out/ordering in drink water and order low-cost, healthier foods Didn't happen at all!
    • Buy fewer snacks. Nope. I spent 10 times the amount that I had spent in January!!!  Did I mention that my weight has ballooned as well?!
    • Continue avoiding food waste as much as possible and reporting on Food Waste every Friday Didn't do it most of the month and did waste food.
    • Stay on top of RaceTrac surveys I didn't take surveys every day and I have  a huge back-up of them. However, I didn't stop by RaceTrac every day either.
    • Discuss with Greg having him call Vanguard to roll his previous employer's 401(k) into an IRA. NOPE.
    • Find out when Greg can work from home and schedule maintenance appointment for my SUV NOPE
    • Read the latest issue of Kiplinger Magazine I NOW HAVE 2 ISSUES TO READ

    Thursday, April 27, 2017

    Blogging Break Extended

    I know (and I'm flattered) that some of you will be disappointed that they can't read my nonsense over their morning cup of joe or tea, but I've decided to extend my blogging break.

    The truth is I love blogging... a little too much.  Even as I said I wouldn't blog this week, I still kept track of my thoughts and what I did (well, mostly what I didn't do and herein lies the problem), I just haven't posted it yet.

    But I reflected on this week and on this past month and on the past 3 months too, and I've come to the conclusion that I'm using my love of blogging to get on the laptop (and stay on the laptop), where I end up wasting a lot of time (because I lack self-control!) and the result is that I'm neglecting too many things.

    So... I'm going to attempt cutting the cord for a while. I don't know how long that will be. I don't really know yet if I'll still comment on other blogs, but I'll probably read them, like you, over my morning cup of joe.  And then, I have got to learn to turn off the laptop, put away the phone, and make some progress on my goals.  I might still post pictures, I don't know. Maybe I'll post a Day Book on Mondays, maybe not.

    Right now I'm thinking I probably should just not post at all and then ease back into it.  I've attempted that before and failed. The only time I really stopped blogging completely for a long time was when I was seriously depressed a couple of summers ago. I'm not depressed now, I just need something to change!

    So this might sound very presumptuous of me, but I thought some of you might want to know why I'm not posting or commenting.

    See you later!

    Monday, April 24, 2017

    Day Book: Monday 4/24/17

    Outside my window... it's 7:20 a.m. It doesn't smell like smoke this morning, it's already 70F/21.1C.  Someone's already using either a chainsaw or a leaf blower... something that makes a lot of noise, I can hear it through the closed windows. Arrgh.

    I am thinking... that I'm going to take a break from posting every day this week.  I'll probably just do a big recap post later on this week.

    I am thankful for... Greg getting on his plane this morning. He just texted me that he had the worst airport experience ever and that he barely made it to the plane. He's flying United so I told him to hold off on volunteering his seat until they offer at least $1,000, lol.

    From the learning rooms... My daughter is done with her classes!  Well, she still has some finals to turn in this week.  She will be honored at a luncheon later this week along with the rest of the top 3% scholars of our county and her dad and I will attend as her guests.  Youngest Son doesn't have anything going on this week, but he has his Geometry End of Course exam early next week so he'll be cramming.  I'm assuming that Middle Son is in the middle of finals as well, but I haven't talked to him in about a week.

    From the kitchen... I didn't cook this weekend so there really are very few dishes. They'll keep until I'm in the mood to wash them. With Greg gone most of the week, I don't feel as pressured to know in advance what to cook. The kids and I will probably have breakfast for dinner once and then we'll see.

    I am wearing... black and turquoise yoga pants, my grey and turquoise walking shoes and a dark grey V-neck Tshirt.  My comfy uniform!

    I am going... nowhere today!

    I am reading... I'm in between books, I'm probably going to read one of the thrillers I downloaded from the library yesterday.

    I am hoping... that Greg's trip goes well!  He hates air travel.

    I am hearing... the air conditioner is running, whatever power tool is being used somewhere, the cats are plotting something in the kitchen, I'm better go check.

    Around the house... My daughter is asleep.  I have been very remiss in vacuuming and sweeping so the dust bunnies have multiplied. I'm hoping that by trying to limit my blogging this week, I'll actually accomplish something.

    One of my favorite things... Eh, I don't know. I'm running out of favorite things!  I guess I could say that right now I'm addicted to the generic saltines from Aldi ($0.75 a box). They're surprisingly delicious.

    A few plans for the rest of the week... well, my PLANS are to do chores and finish some projects, but don't be surprise if I report that I did nothing but catch up on TV shows and books, lol.  Aside from that, I'll try to bike to the library to return a book and see if they have any coupon inserts, I have grocery shopping/errands day, and the luncheon for my daughter.  She'll be attending Grad Bash at Universal Studios on Saturday so I'll have to follow up on my plan to not sleep much on Friday night so I can fall asleep super early on Saturday and get some sleep in order to be picking her up at 3 a.m.  So I think that means I won't go hiking on Saturday.

    Here's the picture I'm sharing...

    Gah!  I got nothing. I've already shared all my pictures in other posts!  So I'm posting a picture taken on April 24, 2009: the first encounter between Male Cat and Mean Kitty.  She was so tiny and cute back then!  We didn't know she'd turn into a very cranky, very large female!

    Oh now I want another little kitten!

    Have a good week!

    Sunday, April 23, 2017

    World Book Day ~ Sunday 4/23/17

    Note to Self: drinking fully caffeinated Diet Coke in the evenings will help you stay up until your kid comes home from Prom (or wherever) but will also help you stay up past that time, and then wake you up once an hour to go pee after that.  Don't plan on going kayaking the next morning because then you'll spend the night wondering if you should go downstairs and leave a note on Greg's chair to warn him you're sleeping in and NOT going kayaking, or if you should just stay in bed because if you do go downstairs and do all that, you'll never get back to sleep after that. Rinse and repeat.

    So... I didn't go kayaking today.  Neither did Greg, after all.  Had I known that,  I wouldn't have gotten up at 8:30 a.m. to tell him to go ahead and go without me!

    I opened the sliding door briefly this morning. A whiff of forest fire smoke convinced me that I shouldn't go drink my coffee on the patio. Poop.  I checked the Florida Forest Service site to see if there was a fire close to my house.  Not that close, but looking at the map, the smell of smoke wasn't all that surprising.

    I ran out of my mild coffee and the only coffee I have in the pantry is one bag of decaf and several cans of pretty darn old Maxwell House and Walmart brand coffee.  I selected the small can of Maxwell House "Dark Roast". Sell-by date?  2012.  It's vacuum-sealed so I'm not sure why there's even a sell-by date.  So I guess I'll be drinking those for the next few months. Ugh. I don't like the taste. I really wanted donuts or croissants, but Greg refused to go get any and once again claimed that he has never liked donuts. So this time, I grabbed my phone, had him repeat that and taped him so next time he claims that I'm crazy and he never said that, I'll be able to replay it for him.  I didn't feel like getting dressed to go buy donuts, so for my breakfast I scrambled 2 eggs, toasted 2 slices of bread, and nuked a box of breakfast turkey links.  I only had two. My son will have the rest, probably.

    Today is the first round of the presidential elections in France. I never got to vote in French presidential elections.  I hope that crazy and nasty Le Pen doesn't get elected, but I fear that she will be.  Update: well, she'll be in the run-off, as I suspected she would be.  Ugh.

    In frugal news, I printed a few coupons via Swagbucks, including a pet coupon that I'll add to the envelope that I'm donating to the South Lake Animal League thrift store, uploaded digital store coupons to my CVS app, uploaded digital manufacturer coupons to my Publix digital wallet.

    I also worked on my Rewards programs: I ran automatic videos on Swagbucks to meet my 1st goal of 30 SB for the day and it was met by 9:30 a.m.

    And I earned the maximum daily credits on Microsoft Rewards.

    Also, Zinio emailed me that new issues of 2 magazines that I occasionally read were available to read for free online via my library system. I don't need any new recipes and I'll be getting my in-print copy of Kiplinger's soon (free subscription) so I'll wait for that.  Which reminds me that I had yet to read the last issue that I've gotten!

    Today is World Book Day!  In honor of this occasion, I downloaded two e-thrillers to my Kindle Fire, borrowed from my library. I think I probably have already read them, but I didn't account for them on my Book Catalog so I shall re-read them and do so.  I guess that's my plan for today: Rest.Eat.And.Dive into a good book :)

    Greg looked restless and put on his socks. I thought he had decided to go kayaking after all but he announced that he was going to wash his truck. That brought cries of protest from yours truly because 1) we're in a severe drought 2) driving the truck into the backyard like this constantly is really tearing up the yard and 3) the spraying handle on the hose is broken anyway. So he said he'd take the truck to car wash, thinking that I would protest because it means he has to drive into Clermont and then pay to get the truck washed. Only, using the carwash is a far more efficient use of water if you have to get the truck washed. Which he doesn't. Grrr.  So I hope he does go to the carwash and waste the damn $6 so he can have a shiny truck sit in the airport parking for a week.  Double grrr.  I suggested he took our son so they can get haircuts on the way home too.  I'm guessing he won't stop to get me donuts, though.

    He installed the outdoor carpet on the kayak rack that he had built so now the kayaks won't get too scratched when we slide them in and out.

    Then he and our son went to get the truck washed, to Lowe's to get some supplies for the front porch project, and to get their hair cut. They're no longer shaggy, yay!  They paid with the prepaid Great Clips gift cards so it only cost us the $4 in tips out of pocket today (and we only spent $9.99 on each haircut with the card, instead of $14 each).

    Meanwhile, I started reading one of my library e-books while listening to Smooth Jazz on Pandora and I fell asleep on the couch!  When I woke up, I ended up flipping through the end of my book as it wasn't very good. The other one, "Mind Prey", I had already read a couple of times. It's very intense and I didn't feel like reading it again, actually, so I returned both books and borrowed 2 more.

    I gave Greg his passport since he's traveling to Canada this week. I hope all goes well.

    It's close to cooking dinner time. I had a very late lunch (3 p.m.) so I'm not hungry at all!  I never feel like cooking when I'm not hungry.  I guess I ought to feed my family, though.  Never mind, Greg is taking the lead!  I'm not sure if this means he'll go pick up food somewhere (probably!) or not.

    I watched an episode of Forensic Files on Netflix. When I opened Netflix today, that "Great British Baking Show: Masterclass" show appeared in my line-up.  I had to do a manual search for "The Secret Life of Pets" and actually type the whole title for it to appear as a choice, which is odd.  Also my version of Netflix still has the stars rating, which I prefer.

    Oof, I feel very tired and I can't stop yawning and it's not even 6:30 p.m.!  It might be an early night for me tonight.

    Saturday, April 22, 2017

    Celebrating Earth Day with a Walk on the Van Fleet Trail ~ Saturday 4/22/17

    Happy Earth Day!  It would have been a great time to go hiking or something, but I didn't feel like it today so I'm spending Earth Day on the couch.  Yep, I'm not even spending it out on the patio. I might change my mind, it's only 9 a.m.  Update: I just got an email from the Florida State Parks encouraging me to go to a state park on Earth Day and detailing all the activities going on in some of the parks today. Well, that settles it, I'm definitely not going!  Who wants to be with a bunch of people?  Not me, not today :)  Maybe Greg will want to go walk on the Van Fleet Trail later on.

    The kids made a run to Walgreens last night as my daughter needed nail polish.  At 8:45 p.m. I found myself falling asleep on the couch, so I texted my son to ask if they would be coming home soon because I dislike being asleep when the kids are out and about.  Thankfully, they were in the driveway.  They came in, we chatted for a minute, and then I fell asleep!  I woke up at 10:30 p.m., said goodnight to Greg, and went to bed where I slept until 8 a.m.. pretty much.

    Greg went fishing on the lake next to our home on his kayak this morning. As he said "so I probably won't catch anything!" but he enjoys being on the water and just reflecting, I guess.  This morning he did cover himself in sunscreen. He had only put it on his face last weekend and got nasty sunburns on his legs that really hurt all week so he wasn't about to repeat that.  I probably should check my stash of sunscreen to make sure I have enough for him.  So far I've only kayaked once!

    Youngest Son is still in bed and so is my daughter. Her prom is tonight. It takes place at one of the Disney Resorts and starts at 7 p.m.  The theme is "Starry Night", a theme that is recycled from previous years, I think as I remember one of our older kids having the same theme.

    She and her BFF are driving there together (my daughter is the one driving). The BFF's mother is a professional photographer so she'll take pictures of the girls before they leave. I hope I get a copy :)  So I'll be staying up late tonight.  I have another box of chocolate covered espresso beans to keep me company :)  Up until I typed this, I was thinking that we might go hiking tomorrow but now I'm realizing that I'll probably be a zombie again tomorrow.  I know I'll be asked again if she's excited about Prom and no, she's not. She's only going because her BFF asked her to go with her and her dad always pressures our kids to go to things like this, insisting that "they'll remember it forever!".   I think that only works if it's an event you're actually looking forward to attending, but if it's not, it's just another evening spent doing something that you didn't want to do. But maybe that's just me projecting :)   I do hope she has fun. She and her BFF have spent the last couple of years taking classes at the college and they're not close to anyone in their graduating class, nor do they especially like the people from their high school.

    Youngest Son (who is a freshman in high school) just got up and I asked him if he was going to ask a girl to go to Prom when it's his time to go and he said "Nope!". LOL.  I'm be shocked if he wanted to attend Prom. Shocked. We'll see what happens.

    My kitchen is full of dirty dishes that I can no longer ignore.  So that's my "project" for the day.  There was leftover salad on the table overnight because I forgot to put it away last night, and Greg reported that the salad was all over the kitchen floor this morning (good thing I never put dressing on it!): the vegetarian kittens had struck again, lol.

    I had an email from my lovely SIL from Paris waiting for me in my inbox this morning so I need to reply to her, and lovely comments from many of you that I need to reply to as well.

    Otherwise... I'll try to be somewhat productive today. (Hmm, re-reading this at the end of the day, I really wasn't!). I have a lot of little projects that really need my attention, like reorganizing the paperwork that spilled from its folders when Explorer jumped on the printer stand and sent everything flying to the floor... and now everything is mixed up together because Greg picked it all up and put it in a big pile, not realizing it was several different folders.  Serves me right for not putting the paperwork away, but it's yet another project that I need to work on and I figured that if I left it out in the open, I'd be nagged into finishing it. Ha!  That doesn't seem to work very often.  You know what would work?  If I lost the internet connection for a day.  I could, technically, restrict the connection to my own devices since I control the Google Wifi router. Hmmm, maybe I should schedule a day when I do that and get a bunch of projects done.  Maybe this summer, when it's too hot for me to escape to the patio?

    "Prioritizing Devices" also means that I can cut off the WiFi connection to a specific device... or two!

    I'm running automatic videos from Swagbucks on my laptop this morning, in a desperate attempt to try and reach 2200 SB soon so I can get another $25 Walmart gc.  I met my 1st daily goal, which admittedly was low (40 SB).

    Well, it's now 10:34 a.m. and I haven't done anything else than puttering on the computer.  Time to hit the shower and then do the darn dishes!

    So I took a short shower. I needed to wash my hair and there was barely any shampoo left in the bottle, so I took off the cap (those bottles of VO5 are hard to uncap though!) and added water to the bottle several times to get the rest of the it.  Then I recycled it.

    I kept on hearing a banging sound against the door while I was showering, so I put my glasses back on and spotted little kitten paws sticking out from under the door. Tabby Kitten doesn't like to be shut out of the bathroom but he couldn't get the door to open!  He barged into the bathtub as soon as I opened the door for him, as I was drying off. He loves jumping into the bathtub and watching the last of the water swirl down the drain, hahaha.  One day, if I do that after I've taken a bath, he'll get a nasty surprise if the tub is still full of water.

    Source: Yahoo Images

    After I got dressed, I managed to put the mattress cover on the mattress all by myself.  I got a waterproof, hypoallergenic mattress cover. I do hope it's waterproof. With my cycle now becoming completely erratic, I'd hate to stain my new mattress. Who wants to wear feminine pads every night?  I know I don't.  I still haven't bought a bed, I quite like having my mattress on the floor, actually. I'm getting used to getting up from the floor so it's not quite as hard, now, maybe I'm in better shape even though I'm putting on weight?

    Then I decided to ride my bike to the lake to check up on Greg and possibly take some pictures of nature for Earth Day. The lake was busy, there were 3 parties fishing (it's a small lake), two of them with 2 guys on the boats, the 3rd party being Greg on his kayak. He hasn't caught anything but seems to be having a good time.  He asked if we were doing anything this afternoon so I suggested walking on the Van Fleet Trail but he didn't look too enthusiastic so perhaps we won't go.  There were kids swimming at the boat launch and birthday parties being organized on the picnic tables.  We have small skate park, basketball court and playground and all were busy so, with all this activity, there really wasn't any fauna to photograph so I just took pictures of Greg and left.

    It wasn't too hot, 79F on my weather app right now at 11:15 a.m. but it's overcast and there was a small breeze. I'm thankful for the gears on my bike that allow me to not have to pedal quite as hard up the small hill back to my house!  Still, my heart was beating pretty hard when I got home, so I'm taking a short break and trying to psych myself up to go do the dishes. Sigh. It's not like they're going anywhere and that they're magically going to wash themselves so I'm just postponing the inevitable!

    Source:Yahoo Images
    I found the three kittens in the living room, playing with their toys.  I love them, they're so entertaining!  This morning I had all three in the bed with me when I woke up, it was lovely.  Wait until they start shedding a lot, though, and I might change my mind. I've started finding cat hair on my keyboard when I open my laptop in the mornings, which is a sign that I need to start vacuuming more often now. Sigh, sigh, sigh. One doesn't think of this downside when looking down at three newborn kittens and deciding that she's going to double her cat household population!  I should just throw all the cat hair outside in the mulch so the birds can use it for their nests.  No, seriously, I should do that! Maybe that would attract more birds to my yard!

    Just a precision that the socks on the floor?  They're all there because Tabby Kitten (the one lying down at the top of the picture) is obsessed with socks. Those are the ones he brought down to the living room just last night!

    I'm having my 3rd cup of coffee to give myself courage and energy! Oh yeah, 3rd cup because I had a cup left over from the pot I brewed yesterday afternoon and then I re-brewed a whole pot (which is 2 cups' worth as I have a small coffee maker). I'm finding that I like cold coffee slightly more than hot coffee.

    Good news, I hope: the weather app now shows some thunderstorms possible tomorrow and also next weekend. I hope they keep the thunder and lightning (we're having a severe drought and are under burning bans and severe fire risk) but that we get some rain, darn it.

    Before I left for the lake, I saw that the impatiens that I had transplanted a couple of days ago looked very bad. Oh no!  I suddenly remembered that my past impatiens had been kept in the shade and had done very well, but those are in full sun, pretty much.  I watered them with a jug of rainwater, hopefully they can be revived, and I might need to try to move the planter back in its old partly sunny spot.

    Both Greg and my son finished a box of cereal this morning so I recycled them but I first clipped the Boxtops for Education label and set it aside to donate to our former elementary school in the Fall.  I saved the inner bags to possibly reuse them as freezer bags, but truth be told I have a big stash of them right now so I might end up throwing those new ones away after all.

    Alright, I've procrastinated enough and now it's time to go do the dishes. I'll watch some "Forensic Files" on the Kindle Fire as I do them, it'll help.

    It's now 1 p.m.  Greg came home while I was doing the dishes. He didn't catch a fish, but found a red cup and a plastic worm. Freebies!  I watched two episodes of Forensic Files while doing the dishes, woohoo!

    Afterwards, I chatted with my daughter for a little bit, and jokingly offered to do her make-up for Prom. I don't wear make-up and she'd end up looking like a clown if I did it so we both laughed.  I inquired as to when she might be home tonight. Prom ends at 11 p.m. (and, come to find out, it's a junior/senior Prom) but she doubts they'll stay that long. I offered to buy them dinner (with my Discover card, which she carries) and told her to buy whatever they wanted, even if it was to eat at Disney. She was excited about that and they're planning on bringing a change of clothes so they won't show up at a restaurant in their prom outfit (it's just not their style!).  We agreed that she or her BFF would text me with an ETA.

    Not my daughter :)
    For lunch, I had chicken nuggets with Thai sweet chili sauce again. I was going to eat the 2nd half of the papaya, but since I had lowered the temperature in the fridge, the papaya is now halfway frozen!  Oh no!  I put the fridge temperature back on the previous setting.

    After lunch, Greg asked if I still wanted to go walking, so we headed to the General Van Fleet Trail, which is 15 minutes away from our home.  Greg's foot was bothering him a little so we didn't take a long walk. We were on the trail for only an hour but walked slowly and stopped to take lots of pictures. I'm not sure how far we walked because I had absolutely no signal on my cell phone so my RunMeter app didn't register the walk at all :(  I think maybe we walked 2 miles, tops.

    When we started, it was very cloudy so I've had to enhance some of the pictures so they don't look washed out, but as we were finishing our walk at 2:45 p.m., the sun came out.  The upside of the cloudiness is that it wasn't blazing hot at all.  Strangely, even though it was Earth Day, we didn't encounter anybody on the trail at all. No walkers, no bikers, no one.  I hope this means they were all participating in the March for Science. I did my part by observing nature :)

    Everything is so dry!

    This dry patch of grass is actually the bottom of a large pond. I'm standing on the bridge that straddles it, looking down.  There is NO water.  

    But there are still some aquatic plants (Pickerelweed). I wonder how long before they die...
    There are ditches that run on each side of the trail and are usually full of water but when we started today, even the little ponds under the bridge near the trailhead were completely dry!  I told Greg "Well, I guess we're not going to see any gators today!".

    Then we took a few more steps. There was a tiny pond and I spotted a turtle and then this small gator and pointed them out to Greg.

    And then I looked to the left and saw this.  How many gators can you spot in this picture?

    Here, I made a key for you.

    Number 1 totally looked like a root, didn't it?
    Here is a close-up of that particular one.

     and some of its siblings...

    They're not as cuddly as kittens.
     So yeah. Good thing I was lamenting that we wouldn't see any gators. Usually, when there is much more water, we're lucky to see one or two. But they're usually also much larger. Which begs the question: where were the parents?! I'm happy to report that we never did find out :)

    First bottlebrush sighting of the year!

    And then a little further down, another tiny pond and two more gators!
    Those look a little more vicious. Especially the one on the right.

    And a turtle hiding its head in the sand, I guess.

    Looks how low the water is. Usually that whole brown area in under several feet of water! It's frightening.

    Notice how Greg is wearing a different shirt for once?  When I put the laundry away this week, I hid his favorite hiking shirt in a different drawer. My trick worked and I finally have a picture that doesn't look like I've photoshopped him in it!


    Ah, that mystery plant that I have yet to identify!

    Large Gopher Tortoise

    Bulls or cows

    Each of them are paired with a cattle egret, that was following its cow wherever it walked. But no egrets jumped on top of any cows, Pixel, you'll be happy to hear :)

    Imagine that!  A squirrel, in the middle of the forest!  We actually saw more squirrels on our walk
    today than we've ever seen in all our walks on this trail.

    Peruvian Primrosewillow

    We were the only ones on the trail. Or I should say, the only humans.

    We wondered if this tree had been hit by lightning.

    It was carbonated at the top, but part of the bark was intact at the bottom. A new vine was starting to climb all over it.

    This flowering airplant seemed to be growing straight out of the ground, which was perplexing as I usually see them growing on tree trunks. Perhaps it was growing on a root hidden under the leaves.

    Most of the vegetation was brown, but there were lots of green ferns growing there.

    Another Pickerelweed lent a splash of  color to an otherwise drab background.

    Look at those plump pods!

    A tree was covered in those flowers, and it smelled pretty darn good too. No butterflies though. Maybe it just wasn't sunny enough?

    A thistle about to bloom

    It wouldn't be a walk with me if I didn't show you a picture of a cardinal!
     As we walked back to the truck, we passed the first small pond with the 4 gators again.  Only this time, we counted... twelve of them. TWELVE. I must have had a camera mishap because I know that I took two pictures of two groups of 6, but when I got home, I only had 1 picture of one group of 6.  Curious... but Greg was there with me and counted them with me and we both got to 12.
    OK so this means that in a few weeks, there will be at least 12 LARGE gators in the area, looking for water.  There is a house not too far from there, with an above the ground pool.  There were kids splashing in it this afternoon. Part of me wanted to go find the entrance to that house so I could go warn the homeowners to make sure to check their pool before the kids jumped in there.  I hope they're aware of that. If you've lived in Florida for a while, I think you know. But wow. TWELVE.  Plus at least the other 2 that we had spotted in the other pond.

    5 on the shore and there's one in the water to the far right.  That's twice the amount of cats that we have. I'd rather have 12 cats than 12 gators.

    I noticed that one section of the bridge had been replaced since we last walked here.

    I guess that explains the homemade "NO VEHICLE" sign that has been posted suddenly!

    The sun came out as we approached the trailhead.

    We got in the truck and Greg said "You know what I could go for right now?!" and I said "ice cream!" at the same time as he said "A shake!" so we drove to McDonald's and we got shakes for him and the kids. I gave him my phone so he could get my app scanned, which earned us a free shake since I needed only 1 more "punch".  Only I didn't read the print first which said "ANY size shake" so we only got mediums. Darn it we could have gotten a free LARGE shake!  Oh well.

    As for me, I don't like shakes, so I got a Strawberry and Cream pie.  I had  never had one. It was like a warm Poptart, only less crunchy.

    So we relaxed by watching some more "Forensic Files". I'm becoming such an expert at analyzing evidence, you guys!  My daughter texted me from her room to ask me to help her zip up her dress so I obliged.  She was beautiful!  She was ready to go pick up her BFF, actually, but I took some pictures of her on the patio and then on the front porch, and texted them to her dad.

    As soon as she left, I realized that I had forgotten to give her some cash, in case she wanted to use the Valet parking at the Coronado Springs resort.  She was wearing heels and she's not used to walking in heels, so I figured the less she walked, the better :)  So I called her and we agreed she and her BFF would stop by on their way to the resort.  So I got to see her BFF too. They were both gorgeous, naturally :)

    I was thinking that I would start reading the Madeleine Albright book and then got sidetracked by Wikipedia because I started to wonder if she was still alive so I looked her up.  I read the article about her, and then got really annoyed because it reminded me that she was the one who had said, during the past election, "there is a special place in hell for women who don't vote for other women" or something along those lines. My vote for Hillary Clinton was more a vote against Trump than a vote for Hillary, who I can't stand either (albeit not on the same scale) and I hated the fact that I was told I should vote for a woman solely based on her sex, as I strongly feel that merit is more important than sex, so I got all steamed up about that again and then decided that it probably wasn't the right time for me to read her book.  I know, I'm weird. Anyhoo...

    Hear, hear!
    I got busy replying to blog comments and then my alarm rang to signify that it was time to cook dinner. Only I made puppy kitty eyes at Greg, who suggested we go eat at the Mexican restaurant. But I couldn't go because I had to wait for my daughter to come get the cash (hmm, I could have just left it on the kitchen table, I didn't even think of that!) but she called me at the same time to say they were coming over then. Since her BFF's house is just two blocks over, she was here a couple of minutes later!  So I gave them the money and they were on their way, at about 6:45 p.m.

    Greg and I got changed, and Youngest Son and we drove to the restaurant. One of these days we'll walk there. It's half a mile from the house!

    It was busy but we got a table right away, although the food took a while to get there. It was good and we had a good time. I didn't take a picture, sorry, Bless!  I had shrimp fajitas, yum.  The waiter asked us if we wanted drinks to go before we left, and I had a large cup of Diet Coke to finish so I asked for a To Go cup. I'm glad he asked about that because I wouldn't have thought to ask.  I did pack the 2 flour tortillas that I hadn't eaten so I could bring them home.

    Back home, I spent more time replying to comments!  I felt so popular, lol. Thanks so much for all the kind comments :)

    My daughter texted me to say they had gotten to the resort safely.  I'm a helicopter parent when it comes to having her text me when she arrives places and when she leaves places to come home (well, not when she drives locally, but when she drives longer distances).  It was about 7:45 p.m.  At about 9:15 p.m. I had just told Greg "Well, I guess they're spending more time at Prom than they had thought they would..." when I got a text from her saying that they were leaving Prom!  They danced to 5 songs but she said most of the music they were playing was stuff they didn't even know.  I had told them I'd buy them dinner if they wanted to grab something to eat afterwards so she asked it it was OK to go to the Cheesecake Factory.  I was hoping they would go to the one that used to be at DisneyQuest but I guess that one closed down, so she said they'd go to the one near Mall of Millenia.  Woah. Wait a minute.  I didn't like that idea at all, as that area isn't safe at night for 2 young girls, in my opinion.  So I agreed for them to drive all the way to Winter Park (north of Orlando, Disney is South of Orlando) instead. It was a 40 minute drive on I-4 on a Saturday night, but I was less worried about that than about them being at Mall of Millenia on a Saturday night. Crazy?  Maybe. Overprotective? Surely.  Earth-friendly on Earth Day?  Totally not.  Oh well.

    So they drove there and she texted me that they arrived safely at 10 p.m. I guess they'll be home around midnight or a little later. Good thing I got that extra Diet Coke from the restaurant to keep me awake :)

    Well, that's about it for today, then. It's 11 p.m. now and I'm wide awake. Yay!  I told Greg earlier that I wanted to go kayaking with him tomorrow morning. He was planning on going kayaking on the Palatlakaha River again, I hope I can keep up with him!