Friday, May 12, 2017

Catching Up In Pictures: Friday 5/5 through Friday 5/12, 2017

Friday 5/5/17

It rained overnight. The Pentas looked happy in the morning.

I needed to iron Greg's business clothes that day. I kept on procrastinating on that task so I put
the ironing board in the living room first thing in the morning so I wouldn't forget. The kittens
were all over it. You'd have thought they had never seen me iron before. Wait...

Later on, a package arrived.  Princess was pretty happy exploring the empty box. What was in it?!

The new kitty bed that I had ordered to replace the boxes of files that she had liked as a bed
earlier in the week!  Tabby Kitten checked out the downstairs while she checked the
upstairs.  I had used Discover Rewards and a Microsoft Rewards gift card to get it for just $3.60.

She tried it...

And gave it her seal of approval!
Yes, the ironing got done: it ended up being only one pair of pants and one shirt, as Greg said he could just reuse his business clothes from the previous week. Hooray for me!

This was the day that my daughter and I started watching Game of Thrones from the very beginning. She had never seen it.  We watched almost all of Season 1 on that day... I'm counting that as "an outing with my daughter", hahaha.

The previous night, my daughter had asked me for help with her laptop that had stopped working properly. Her task bar wouldn't let her right click on most icons, wouldn't launch the "start" button and her laptop wouldn't recognize any Wifi networks at all so she couldn't connect to the internet. I researched the problem, saw that other people had complained about the same problem back in 2015 when they had upgraded to Windows 10, and tried several of the fixes that had been posted by users then. To no avail.  We tried refreshing Windows overnight on Thursday. On Friday morning, the laptop still didn't work.  I tried restoring Window.  That didn't work either.  Finally, I texted Greg to ask for suggestions and if I should try just reinstalling Windows (which would be problematic since she had upgraded from Windows 7 a couple of years ago so we didn't have a disk, and there is no disc drive on her laptop anyway, and she didn't have wifi connection to download a new version!).  He suggested we wait until he got home that evening so he could look into it. I was glad to pass on the problem to him!  He spent the whole evening trying various things.

Saturday 5/6/17

In the morning, the neighborhood cat (I don't know what to call it, it has a collar but no license and it's out all the time and looks kind of scrawny so I don't know if it's a stray or not...) came to visit our cats. He usually leaves when he sees me approaching but that day he was more daring and actually launched itself at the window several times pretty aggressively while Tabby Kitty was just trying to play with him from our side.  I eventually opened the window to shoo him away because Mean Kitty was starting to get stressed.
 Greg got up and wanted to go have breakfast at our favorite breakfast place. The kids were still asleep so off we went on our own for a romantic breakfast date. However it was busy and we got seated in a side room without any windows so it was like sitting in a big walk-in closet and I didn't like that at all. The food and service were great, as usual, but I ate too much and I had a stomachache later on :( I completely forgot to take any pictures, too!  Greg didn't feel like going walking  as it was quite hot that day, so we just went home afterwards.

I'm not complaining but... why is RaceTrac giving me all those free drink coupons when I've
purchased 4 Sodapalooza cups?!  LOL.

It was a playful day for the kittens.

My daughter and I watched more Game of Thrones. In the late afternoon, Greg decided to go fishing
from the kayak. He texted me this triumphant picture. LOL!  Since the bass was so small, he threw
it back. By the time he started turning around (he paddled down a river), he didn't realize that
it was quite so late. It was 7:30 p.m. and he estimated that it would take him about an hour to
get back to his truck. I was panicking a little because it would have meant that he would be
on the water after dark, in alligator-infested waters!  But he ended up being closer than he thought and
got out of the water before it got dark.
Greg also spent most of the day trying to find a solution for my daughter's laptop. In the end, he had to declare what we had suspected: there was something wrong with the laptop's disc itself and no amount of reinstalling Windows would revive it. Ugh.  I have given each child a new laptop for their high school graduation but since my daughter already had one (her dad gave it to her just 2 years ago), I had planned on our June trip being her graduation present instead.  So I told her that if I had to buy her a new laptop, our trip might have to be cancelled. In the meantime, I checked with her dad to make sure that he or his family weren't planning on buying her one themselves!  He said they hadn't discussed it but offered to either contribute toward it or buy the new MS Office license that she would need. I told him I'd do some research and report back. It's nice to be on friendly terms with your ex.

Sunday 5/7/17

I took Greg to the airport in the morning. He was spending the week in Romania for his work, as he
has a couple of direct reports who work from there. It was his first time visiting.  Since the trip is so
long (almost 24 hours, with 2 changes of plane), I insisted on driving him so I could pick him up
on Friday and I wouldn't have to worry about him driving, jetlagged, after a long week and a very
long flight.  I didn't take any pictures save this picture of where I had parked my SUV so I would
be able to find it again!

The airport seemed very busy to me but Greg said it was nothing compared to Monday mornings. Ugh. I really don't like being around so many people, I get so claustrophobic.  Plus everyone looked stressed.  There was a little of "drama" as Greg tried to retrieve his boarding passes from the United Airlines check-in kiosk but the system said it couldn't find his reservation!  He was booked on Austrian Airlines but it doesn't fly out of Orlando International and his flight  to Chicago was actually operated by United.  The reservation confirmation number on his ticket as displayed in his phone wasn't a United Airlines reservation number but an Austrian Airlines reservation number.  He found a United agent who directed him to stand in line at another counter to get that straightened out. In the meantime, I asked him to show me the email confirmation that his travel agency had sent him and pointed out another number that I figured was the correct United Airlines reservation number.  Since we were in line, we decided to wait and ask the agent.  The ladies in front of us were asking to be booked on an earlier flight (they were going to Chicago too but later on in the day like at 5 p.m. It was 11 a.m.) but the agent told them all the flights were full.  I looked at Greg and we figured that if he could make $10,000 by being bumped, he'd just refund the $2,200 that his flight cost to his company and pocket the difference and he'd forego the trip, lol.  But no such luck: the agent (who was very nice, btw), confirmed that the number I had found on the email was indeed their reservation number and issued him his boarding passes and checked in his luggage... and even though the flight was full, it wasn't overbooked so Greg left in time. Well, darn it!

I had brought my euros so we stopped by the change office at the airport to exchange them for dollars. I joked with Greg that
if Macron was elected in France that day, the euro would probably shoot up and I'd kick myself for not waiting until then to
exchange them, but I just wanted to get it done.  I only paid $12 in exchange fees so that wasn't too bad and now I have money that I can use.  I did insist on giving Greg 20 euros for his layover in Vienna, in case he wanted something and they didn't take Amex.  In the end, he had to rush like a mad man in Vienna as he only had 1 hour layover, had to go through Customs and then take a bus to switch terminals, so he didn't get to use the euros at all.
Remember how I took a picture of where I parked the SUV?  Well, level 7 isn't a regular parking level. It's a level is above the Hyatt hotel that's right there in the terminal.  It was so busy that morning that I had to go park there!  Not a huge deal, only I forgot that it's only accessible via a specific elevator that isn't marked on the airport signs and since Greg and I were chatting as we got out of the elevator and I was following him to the United Airlines counter, I didn't really pay attention where the elevator was. It'd been a long time since I'd had to park there so I completely blanked out.  When I went to look for my car and got in the elevator to go to the parking lot, I had to go in a tunnel (and I thought "odd, I don't remember coming through a tunnel just half an hour ago!) and then the next elevator only went to the 4th level!). I was already in the elevator so I went to the 4th floor, realized that was indeed the top floor of the regular parking lot, and had to retrace my steps to the terminal. Once there, I looked and looked at all the elevators that was indicated as leading to the parking lot but none went to any floors higher than the 4th floor!  I felt very stupid!  I couldn't find any airport personnel anywhere and the information station was unmanned. In the meantime, Greg wasn't answering my texts because he was going through Security! Finally, a luggage "carrier" was kind enough to show me where the elevator was tucked (not at all where I was looking!) and finally I made it back to my SUV!  What an adventure... not!

I tried calling my mom via my Bluetooth adapter on my way home, figuring that the 45 minute drive would be perfect to catch up with her, but once again I got her voicemail. The woman is always out!

As I neared Clermont, my daughter called me to say that she was going to drive to Clermont to look for a black dress to wear under her graduation gown, as per (stupid, stupid, stupid) regulation so we agreed that we'd meet in Clermont to have lunch together. She asked Youngest Son if he wanted to join us (as I would drive him home after lunch if he didn't want to go shopping with her) but he declined.  She and I met at Chili's.  She really wanted me to try the queso so we ordered it and I found it overly salty and pretty disgusting, actually.  I had a salad and it was OK.  Since it was Sunday, there weren't any coupons available so the meal cost a pretty penny for what it was. I did log in to my Plenti account so I'd earn double points (a May promotion).  At some point I'll have to go to Winn Dixie to try to redeem Plenti points there.

Our waitress was nice, but before leaving I asked her for a box so we could bring home the rest
of our chips and the queso... and instead, she brought us a new bag of brand new chips!  I didn't
want NEW chips, I just didn't want ours to go to waste!  My daughter and I crammed them into the bag
with the new ones.  She ended up eating them as I don't like their chips.
I drove home and called Youngest Son to ask if he wanted me to pick him up a sandwich from RaceTrac since I was stopping there to get Sodapalooza refills. He gratefully accepted. I used Greg's cup to get him a drink since I hadn't brought his own cup.

Back home, I found a Sunday paper in my driveway.  What?  I'm not sure whether they made a mistake (no one else on my block gets the Sunday paper, though) or if it was a promotion, but I was happy to find 4 coupon inserts in it, plus a Publix store coupon insert.
My daughter found a dress at Ross for just $9.99. Hooray since she'll only wear it for graduation, UNDER her gown. Did I mention that I think it's stupid?  The whole thing is stupid. I despise the whole concept of a graduation ceremony and its associated costs and waste of time.  They even have a rehearsal for 6 hours on Wednesday next week.  What the hell is there to rehearse?!  Those are kids who have been standing in lines  and attending award ceremonies since Kindergarten, you'd think they'd know how to freaking walk in alphabetical order across a stage!  Ugh, ugh, ugh. Needless to say, my daughter isn't happy about that either!

Once she got home, we watched more episodes of Game of Thrones.  My boyfriend was happy to provide moral support while Greg was away:)

He looooves me!  Or my pillows. Probably my pillows.
 In the afternoon, I was relieved to read that French far-right candidate Marine Le Pen had been defeated at the voting booths and that a fascist wouldn't be in power in France, at least not for the next 4 years...
 I slept very poorly that night, as I was worried about Greg missing his flight in Vienna, and since I had asked him to text me every time he landed and took off, there were lots of interruptions.  Also, he hadn't been able to exchange dollars for Romanian currency at the Orlando International Airport (they don't carry it) nor in Chicago (same story) and didn't have time in Vienna.  But he made it to Bucharest just fine and I had texted him the location of a 24-hr change bureau inside the airport. Luckily his co-workers had warned him that he would need to pay cash for the taxi as most don't take credit cards.  But then I spent the rest of the week worrying about him not having enough cash as he only brought $90 with him (I wanted him to give him more cash but he refused. He drives me nuts!) and was planning on taking taxis everywhere. My worries weren't all for naught as his boss met him there and she also didn't have any cash so she was relying on him to pay for all their taxis to and from the office, the restaurants, etc.  Ugh.  Mid-week, I did call our bank to find out if he would be able to get cash from Romanian ATMs with his debit card (he could but there would be a 1% foreign transaction fee) and had them put a travel alert on our account so his debit card/personal credit card wouldn't be declined if he tried to use them.  He ended up having to use a personal credit card to pay for a few things since Amex wasn't widely accepted and he used the Amazon Visa card. Thankfully, we don't incur foreign transaction fees with it. However, Chase never batted an eye at him using his card in Romania when they didn't have any heads-up that he would be there... and we have no history of traveling abroad with that card.  I'm not too happy about it, especially since it's a card that I hold in my own name (he's an authorized user).  But I'm happy that I have set up all our credit cards to send me email alerts each time a charge over a certain amount is authorized. I don't mind all the emails, better safe than sorry.

Monday 5/8/17

In the morning Tabby Kitten and I shared a croissant (discounted, from Aldi) with my morning
coffee :)  Well, he tried to get me to share but I didn't.

Greg was staying in a 5-star hotel in Bucharest and his room ended up being much larger than
he expected. How about that orange carpet, though? LOL.

I went to water the garden. I had to prop up the roses as the various limbs were sagging. Despite the heat, they're flowering a lot since I'm watering them twice a week. They'd be happier to be watered every day but did I mention that we're in a state of almost extreme drought?

The pineapples would also appreciate more water than what they're getting... their leaves are too yellow-ish.  The fruit is quite large on several of them, although much smaller than what you would find in a store. I won't harvest them until August so they still have time to grow and hopefully it'll rain this summer.  

I've also been refilling the self-watering bins... twice a week. In years past, I would refill the bins only every 2 weeks (save for the tomato bins, which I refilled every week).  In the bins were basil is growing, I crushed seed pods to encourage more
basil to grow. I like basil in my cooking (when I do cook!) and the bees and other pollinator love it too.  These are all little
basil baby plants, growing in one of the self-watering bins.  I have several bins where basil is growing, as well as several pots.

I'm still getting tomatoes from some of last year's plants that have survived this long!

I was super surprised (and excited!) to see that one of my two nectarine trees has budding leaves!  That's due to the rain we got last week as I don't water the trees at all.  The other one, however, looks dead.  Without more rain in the forecast, I think this one might not last long either.

I didn't do much on Monday but I did do the laundry and hung most of it outdoors.
My daughter baked cookies. She used one of the mix packets that I had bought on clearance
from Save A Lot. I should have just bought the whole stock of them!

In the afternoon, she and I watched more Game of Thrones episodes. Explorer settled himself on the pillows next to me and Princess decided that she wanted to be there too.  

Here she is, cuddling on my belly :)
 This week again, Youngest Son had driver's ed lessons most afternoons after school until 6 p.m.  I picked him up from school on those days and we stopped by RaceTrac to get Sodapalooza refills for all of us on our way home.  I also stopped by RaceTrac every morning after dropping him off at school and refilled my and Greg's Sodapalooza cups with caffeine free Diet Coke for me, and got a lemonade for my daughter. It's been nice to be able to take advantage of the Sodapalooza free refills without having to make special trips to get them.  Once school is out, it'll be a different story!

I received a coupon for a free bottle of Nestea. I looked for it at CVS later on in the week but they didn't carry it. I'll have to check Publix or Walgreens.

I was able to request a free sample  kit of U by Kotex Fitness pads, via an email that they sent me.

Tuesday 5/9/17

In the morning, I set out to shred all the paperwork that I had purged from my file cabinet.
It was quite a bit so Explorer decided to "help".  I ended up with 2 very full large trash bags.
Good thing it was trash pick-up day. I noticed that my neighbors across the street had put a
full mattress by the curb. Later on, it was gone, so I'll definitely be able to just put my twin
mattress by the curb as well, whenever I remember to do that!  I didn't feel like wrestling with
it this week, plus I thought 2 mattresses might be much and I didn't want to run the risk that
mine would be left there and I'd have to wrestle it back (all dirty and all) back inside the house.
Afterwards, I researched laptops online. My daughter's laptop had a touch screen and she really likes it. I also checked the UF College of Engineering site for laptop minimum requirements to make sure I didn't get an under-powered laptop.  They only required an i3 processor at the minimum, but the laptop she's been using has an i5 and she does need at least an i5 to run PhotoShop and such programs.  Using the various filters on Amazon to find something that met all those criteria, the only laptops I could find cost $700+!  I checked Best Buy's site, found one that would work and was cheaper, but there was a comment by a reviewer that worried me (he claimed the laptop didn't have a removable battery and I couldn't find a picture of the back of the laptop or anything that confirmed or denied that claim) and also they didn't have it in stock anywhere near me. My daughter and I decided to drive to the closest Best Buy anyway to look at what they did have available in person.  On our way, we stopped by Staples in Clermont, just in case. They only had 2 touchscreens, and the one that might have fit our other requirements didn't have a disc drive.  The university requirements included a disc drive. We could buy an external disc reader but decided to keep on looking.

I texted my ex to let him know we were researching laptops, that they were more expensive than I expected and to ask how much he'd be willing to put up. He said he could go as high as $300 and that my daughter could also use some money that he had put aside for her college costs. But I didn't think my daughter should have to pay for any of it since I had originally planned to pay for the whole thing anyway.  I told him I'd let him know what we would do.

At Best Buy, one the Acer laptops (the brand of her "old" laptop) came with a disc drive. Plus, they were expensive!  We did find this HP laptop that had everything that she needed and was much cheaper than I expected ($449.99 for the laptop only) but, of course, it didn't look like they had any in stock.  My daughter had offered to forego the touchscreen to lower the cost, but it's her graduation present so I wanted her to be happy with it!  I looked up that same model number on Amazon and lo and behold, a third-party vendor was offering it at $429 with Prime shipping! Why it didn't come up when I used the filters, I don't know.  So we were at Best Buy for 15 minutes and drove home right after that.  We didn't take any toll roads to get there and back, though, I'm pretty happy about that.

Back home, I looked up the Amazon laptop again and my daughter and I reviewed all the specifications and matched them to our requirements to make sure we weren't making a mistake. The only misgiving that I have is that there is only one review for that model/vendor. But I do trust Amazon to do right by me.  My daughter also asked if she could get a wireless mouse and I wanted to get her a thumb drive.  I was able to order all of those and spend just a little less than $450 so I was pretty happy about it. I told my ex that Greg and I would cover 100% of the costs.  I told my daughter that if we still went on our trip, it'd have to be only a 1-week trip.  She was fine with it.

I'll be getting 5% back of the whole thing in Amazon Rewards since I charged the whole thing to my Amazon Chase Visa card.
 Then we watched more Game of Thrones episodes :)

Greg had dinner at a swanky French restaurant and texted me a picture of the cheese tray.
I was pissed off -- he was having dinner at a French restaurant with another woman (his boss) when he's never
been to a French restaurant with me!  Plus I wanted the cheese!  I told him I'd be buying my
daughter TWO laptops instead of one. He laughed.  

I had enough Microsoft Reward points to redeem for a $5 Amazon gift card so
I placed an order. 

Wednesday  5/10/17

My daughter and I had planned on going to pick blueberries that morning so I had asked her to get up "early" (9:30 a.m.). However, when I checked the new Aldi ad that morning, blueberries were on sale!  It's been so hot, I figured it'd be better (and cheaper, anyway!) to just buy them from Aldi than to spend an hour picking blueberries in the heat (and pay more for them).  I hollered at her at 7 a.m., when I heard her going to the bathroom, that she could sleep in and that we wouldn't go.

The kittens must have had a busy night as they just relaxed in the living room in the morning.

I went to check on the garden.  Lots of roses but they die so fast with this heat!  Still, I smelled almost every one of them.

Look at how bad our "lawn" looks!

I spotted a hawk flying overhead but it was partially hidden by the trees by the time my camera took the picture.

Even though my fuchsia is mostly in the shade and I've been watering it, it's burnt to a crisp. It was pretty in the store but I'll remember to never buy it again, it's way too fragile for me.
 I realized that I'd been missing sitting outside and watching the birdies (I hadn't done that in a while since it's been hot) so I settled myself on the patio.  I lasted one hour before I realized that my nose had gotten all stuffed up and that I was getting a headache. I had just read, earlier on, that allergies had been much worse this year in Florida because of the drought. No kidding!  There must be tons of pollen flying through the air right now. I'm usually not affected like that in the Spring!

Still, I was able to observe my usual visitors:

At 9:40 a.m. my daughter came to find me: she was all ready to go pick blueberries!  She hadn't heard me when I had hollered at her at 7 a.m.  So I had to disappoint her. Later on, I offered to take her out to brunch at our favorite breakfast place to make it up to her.

She had breakfast...

I had a Reuben and sweet potato fries (I remembered how the breakfast had given me a stomachache last Saturday!).  We had a nice time chatting too :)  Afterwards, we went to Walgreens to pick up the order of face wash that I had placed over a week ago and that I had just been notified was waiting for me.

Back home, I used a devil's food chocolate cake mix box bought on clearance at Save A Lot, a stick of butter, and 2 cans of cherry pie filling from the Dollar Tree, to make a "Black Forest Dump Cake". It's yummy. I've decided that next time I go to Dollar Tree and they have either the peach or cherry pie filling, I'm going to load up the cart.

You might be wondering why it was Wednesday and I hadn't been talking about going grocery shopping yet... or even whined about not wanting to go.  Well, it's because that was the day when Youngest Son had his BFLA "banquet" at Golden Corral in Clermont after school (3 p.m.). He had found out it would take about an hour so I had told him I'd go grocery shopping while he was there, and would pick him up afterwards.  So I did that. I had time to go to CVS (got milk), Aldi, Wawa (free coffee with a survey coupon), got gas at RaceTrac (and a free apple fritter with a survey reward code), and then, since he still hadn't told me he was ready to be picked up, I stopped by Goodwill right next door and scored a pair of cargo shorts for myself.

Then I waited for him for a few minutes and took advantage of the downtime to make a list of the rebates that I would be able to redeem with my receipts.

On our way home, we stopped by Save A Lot where I loaded up the cart with 15 gallons of water to use for hurricane season stocking up and some produce.  The water was 79 cents a gallon last year but 99 cents a gallon this year. I hadn't checked the price in advance, oops. By the time I realized it was more expensive than I expected, the cart was loaded so I just bought it.

Then we stopped by the library to pick up my copy of The Millionaire Next Door, that I had put on hold a couple of days earlier.  I'd read it back in 2007 or 2008, but I wanted to read it again for inspiration.  I recently calculated our Net Worth and recalculated our mortgage repayment plan (we might be able to pay off the house by February or March this year if Greg has a good bonus next month, we'll have to see!) and researched my Disney pension, our Social Security earnings (not that we'd get anything from Social Security by the time we're old enough, but one can dream) and, even though we are saving a lot compared to other people, we still won't have enough to retire comfortably, I don't think, especially if the stock market tanks again.  So I need inspiration on finding other ways to grow our wealth that aren't scams. Plus, I've run out of frugal inspiration lately.  I've fallen off the wagon in many ways and I need to find my way back.

I pointed out to my son and daughter that it had a sticker that said "High School Summer Reading"
but neither of them seemed interested to read it :(

In the mail, I found a coupon for a free full-size Signature item at Bath & Body Works with no purchase required. I guess I'll get more shower gel for my daughter to give her at Christmas.
 After I put everything away, I submitted my receipts for the rebates that I had identified. It wasn't much but it's something.  I haven't found the inspiration to go to Walmart to use my Swagbucks gift cards. I really need to!

In the evening, my daughter and I watched more episodes of "Game of Thrones."  The kittens found her lap really comfortable. I'm quite jealous that Tabby Kitten slept on her, as he never wants to have anything to do with me. Arrgh. I spent so much time worrying about him and his poop when he was a tiny kitten and this is how he repays me!

And she had Princess too!

Thursday 5/11/17

Another morning when I had to water the garden.  The basil baby plants are plentiful, I hope I get lots of basil!

A couple of blossoms on the Ichiban eggplant.  We'll see if they become eggplants. We don't like to eat them, though, so it they don't, it's OK.

The serrano pepper plant is loving the heat... and the watering. Lots of peppers and blooms!

The Vaseline is melting too fast in this heat and the ants are very aggressively "attacking" my hummingbird feeders.
These didn't think their strategy very strategically as they are now trapped inside of the feeder!

I baked chocolate chip oatmeal cookies by using another bag of discounted cookie mix from Save A Lot.  The kids don't like those as much as the chocolate/chocolate chip cookies so they tend to last much longer, haha.
 Thursday was a frustrating day for me:

When I input the details of my receipts into my spreadsheets, I realized that someone had dropped a box of organic strawberries with the regular strawberries at Aldi... and I had picked it up by mistake. The label is a very pale green, compared to a white label for the regular strawberries so it wasn't obvious.  I was pissed off to realize that I paid $2.99 for those, when the regular strawberries were just $1.49!  I don't know how I missed that on my receipt when I looked it over before leaving the store!  Ugh, They were very good though, so that made up for it.

Swagbucks.... UGH.  They announced cosmetic changes to their site (the ledger area) but they still neglect to fix the real problems!  Case in point: that day, I had this Sponsored Videos offer.  Well, it only credited 1 SB, not 2!  I emailed them, got a bot answer telling me stuff that didn't apply to my situation so I replied to that because that updates the ticket and pointed out that their bot didn't know what it was talking about and that I expected them to credit me with the missing SB and fix their system.  Well it's now Friday and they never replied nor did I get the credit. I stopped running the videos after that. Regular nGage videos will only credit 3 or 4 times and then will stop credited altogether even though they're still running... plus loads of other problems. I'm so sick of them. And I'm not even going to Walmart.  Is 2017 the year when I'll stop using Swagbucks altogether?  It might just be.

And then, I realized that I had never received the $5 Amazon gift card that I had ordered from Microsoft Rewards a couple of days earlier, but they had indeed deducted the 5,250 points from my account!  Grrrr. So I emailed them and demanded an answer.  In the afternoon, I noticed that the points had been added back to my account but my goal had been reset (as in the $5 Amazon gift card wasn't a goal anymore!) and when I tried to set a goal again, it wouldn't work as I got a picture of a dog telling me they were having technical difficulties.  I emailed one of my readers, Bonnie, to let her know, as she has been unable to order Amazon gift cards at all for the past several months (she doesn't see it as an option as all when she looks at the rewards available, although I have been able to order several of them in the same time!).  I emailed them again, asking for an explanation since there wasn't a notice posted on the main page so I wasn't sure if the problem was with my specific account or across the board.  I received an answer in the afternoon, letting me know that they were having technical problems, were working hard to resolve the issues and asking me to be patient.

But Thursday was also a rewarding day for me as I witnessed my daughter becoming an adult by handling her own high school/state college issues by making and attending an appointment with the proper coordinator (to her credit, she's been doing that for several years already as she is someone who's always liked to do things on her own), stopping by the pediatrician's office to get her shot records for UF and making an appointment for her annual check-up since she needed one but since she's 18 now, it's her show.  And then making her own dentist appointment for her clean-up and going there by herself when they told her they had an immediate opening! It was nice to see her do some "adulting" as they call it nowadays. She asked me questions via text, mostly about our insurance plans, which is something new to her, and we discussed how she should handle medical and dental situations when she's away at school. However, it's making the fact that she'll be moving away soon even more real, and it's definitely not helping my mood as I have been feeling anxious and possibly slightly depressed.  Ugh.

In the evening, she and I watched more episodes of Game of Thrones.  We finished Season 4.

Explorer helped me watch Game of Thrones :) Wook at my wittle baby!
Back on Wednesday, my daughter heard from her Guidance Counselor that they had been notified that she had earned her A.A. by the state college and that she would be honored, along with another student who also earned her A.A. (but wasn't at the Top Scholars luncheon, I'm not sure how that happens?) at graduation next week by being called on stage right after the Salutatorian speech.  I'm not attending graduation. Not only do I despise the whole process, but I have anxiety issues that would make the whole experience very unpleasant so I never attend.  But I did email the principal to ask whether it would be streamed.  It was, back in 2010, when Oldest Son graduated, and I had the best seat in the house as the camera was right there by the stage.  They didn't stream it for Middle Son's graduation, though. I didn't see anything about it being streamed this year either but I kept on forgetting to ask about it.  He replied on Thursday afternoon that when the school year started, he had wanted to stream it but was told that there wasn't a demand for it (this was his first year as principal of this high school)  but that he thought it was a great idea so he had asked the TV Production teacher if either he or one of the younger students would be up for setting it up and that he would let everyone know if it worked out.  I thanked him and told him that I was puzzled by the "no demand" aspect of it since parents had never been polled, and I thought that providing a stream would allow extended families and friend, including people who were too sick to travel, couldn't afford it, were overseas (such as relatives or parents enrolled in the armed forces) to share in the celebration.  So I hope they set it up as, despite all my issues with graduation itself, I would like to see her being recognized for her accomplishment. It's the first time in 7 years that anyone from our high school earns their A.A. at the same time as their high school diploma!

Greg was leaving his hotel super early on Tuesday morning to catch his first flight to Vienna. He texted me at 10:45 p.m... so odd that he was just starting his day when I was just about to go to bed, you know?  LOL. He texted me from the plane and then again from Vienna when he landed and when he took off on his flight to Washington DC. So I didn't sleep great again last night but at least I knew where he was, which is comforting to me :)

Friday 5/12/17

Today was a big day: Youngest Son took the AP Human Geography exam. I hope he did well so he can earn the college credit!

Earlier in the morning, I received a text from Greg that his flight to DC had to land in Ireland for a medical emergency!  The Austrian Airlines app is horrible and didn't change the estimated arrival time in DC at all (it's several hours later and they still haven't updated the flight info on the app!) but I had gone on FlightAware's website and seen that it would definitely be late. As of 11:30 a.m., his flight will be supposedly 2.5 hours late arriving in to DC!  Good thing he has a long layover planned, for once.  I hope he has enough time to switch planes since now he's down to just 1 hour in DC and he'll need to go through Customs and passport control.  The next flight to Orlando (even if there is space on it!) is not only 10:30 p.m., 5 hours later, and would get it at almost 1 a.m. here. Which doesn't matter to me but he would be truly exhausted.  Plus there's no guarantee that he'd be able to get on it, the way United has been running lately.  So we'll see.

But I guess even FlightAware isn't accurate...

As of 1 p.m. his arrival time in DC is predicted to be 3:32 p.m. by FlightAware. Austrian Airlines's app still shows them landing at their original time of 1:40 p.m. Unbelievable. Is this the 21st century?  I had already given them the lowest rating in the app store and the developer had emailed me to apologize and assure me they had big changes coming up, not that it matters because it doesn't help us today AND hopefully Greg won't be flying back to Romania any time soon now!

Good news (for me), though: this was in my inbox this morning AND it's back as a goal on my Microsoft Rewards dashboard. I let Bonnie know and in the process researched a possible reason why she couldn't find it as a reward in hers, and came up with a Bing forum where a lot of people are complaining about the same thing. Apparently, without rhyme or reason that they care to explain, Microsoft is not offering the same rewards to everyone!  I had kind of noticed that when I noticed that Greg needed to redeem more points to order the same gift card, but I figured it was because he was only Level 1. But now I think he's Level 2, so I'll have to ask him what he sees in his account. Honestly, if I couldn't get the $5 Amazon gift card, I might not bother with MS Rewards, unless I could get gc for something that would benefit Greg (like Xbox Live gift cards, for instance).
 This picture makes me laugh: Princess had nested herself on the pillows against my left thigh earlier this morning when I decided to go get a cup of coffee.  When I came back, she was in this position.  Half her body had slid off the pillows so she was head down, on the futon, waiting for me to return so I could put her back in the proper position!  Only she always freaks out when someone wants to hold her so when I lifted her up to put her back against my thigh, she was unhappy and decided to leave altogether. She's so moody!

My daughter's new laptop came in. There was no reason to wait to give it to her.  I had bought a gift bag a couple of weeks ago to put trinkets in it (I still have to find trinkets to put in there, though, LOL!)  but it was too small. So I just gave her the plain box.  I uninstalled the McAfee trial, enabled Windows Defender, and downloaded the latest Windows updates that include the critical Windows Defender patch that was released earlier this week.  Then she'll install her programs.  We found out earlier that she'll be able to download MS Office for free through UF.

As usual, an empty box proved itself irresistible to the kitties!

When Greg landed in Washington, DC, he found out that he no longer had access to cellular data on his business phone. He could still text so he texted me. I asked him if he had made sure the phone coordinator at work knew that he was traveling internationally and he said yes. I had him check a couple of other things, reboot his phone, and he still didn't have service. So he texted work and found out that... they hadn't enabled his phone for international roaming.  So... this means that his phone was roaming every minute that he was in Canada and over the Atlantic/in Europe, which is gonna cost them beaucoup bucks. Luckily for him, he has proof of his conversations with them (texts and/or emails).  The coordinator contacted AT&T and he regained his data access, but too late to download the Customs app that he had just heard would make going through Customs easier. But in the end it still was pretty smooth.

Our son actually declined to go to the airport with me to pick up Greg tonight so I went on my own. I had to park on Level 6 as the lower levels were all full, but I made careful note of where the elevator was this time :) Greg's plane actually arrived 25 minutes early, which was nice.   He was craving a hamburger so we  got his luggage and went back to the food court to have dinner at McDonald's. Greg said he would expense it, woohoo!  I tried one of those new Signature sandwiches, the Dijon Maple Bacon crispy chicken one. It was OK.  Looked good, though.

Walking back to the SUV, we saw the most incredible sunset sky over Orlando... too bad that I only had my phone with me.  For a phone that took an incredible picture of the sunrise over the lake just a few months ago, I'm incredibly disappointed with the quality of the pictures I take with it these days, though.  I wish I had had my good camera with me!

It always feel like a long drive home when we drive from the airport. It's about 45 minutes to an hour to our house, depending on traffic. Greg said he wasn't tired but he was anxious to get home. We chatted about Romania and his trip.  Back home, he had some presents for us: the kids got Vlad the Impaler pens and I got... a box of French macaroons from Romania!  Woohoo!  I'm not sharing, though :)  It's so good to have him back home again.  Tomorrow, we're all sleeping in.


  1. I enjoyed your week in pictures--especially those kittens.

    1. Thanks, and I'm glad you enjoyed them! I was thinking, as I was uploading pictures, that it was a pretty cat-intensive post... it seems that those were most of the pictures I took this past week! I've turned into one of those people who never have enough cat pictures, ha. Have a great weekend and Happy Mother's Day!

  2. I love the looks of the macaroons! Too funny that Greg got to eat French cheeses...

    1. So I ate all the macaroons yesterday. The first few, that I ate after drinking coffee, didn't taste like anything but sweetness. It was disappointing. But I ate the rest in the afternoon and suddenly, they were bursting with different flavors! So I guess the coffee I'm drinking is even stronger than I thought. Lesson learned. Next time, I'll wait until mid-day to eat them! There's a bakery in Mount Dora that makes delicious macaroons, I might just have to take my daughter there again soon.

  3. Lovely to catch up on your week! Enjoyed all the pictures. Your roses are blooming like crazy! Too bad it is so hot and they are all getting burnt. Happens here, too, every year. Your lawn is starting to resemble mine! Enjoy those tasty looking goodies Greg brought you! Happy Mother's Day, Nathalie. And have a lovely week.

    1. Happy Mother's Day to you Bless!

      Yes, it sure feels like California these days, it's not even humid. However, it rained (a lot) for 4 hours yesterday afternoon, hooray! My rain barrel is almost full. It's far from being enough, though. Reports are that April was the wettest on record for the USA, but it rained everywhere but here. I don't think it rained once in the whole month of April, at my house.

  4. Happy Mother's Day! My daughter, soninlaw, and GD left yesterday so quiet here this morning. I don't feel too sad- I think it is because DD and GD might be back here in late July or August. GD is so cute and smart. She just turned 3. She told me yesterday people don't fly but airplanes do LOL when I said she would be flying soon. I'm going to be busy the next week and that will be good too! I get ya on the graduation ceremonies. DD just asked me to go to grandson's honor assembly Wednesday morning. She gets perturbed because they are always during the day and she works full-time and can't take off. He's just a seventh grader so probably nothing but name read for straight A's. Older GS had banquets for band and chorus but I got out of those hehe. Yes, I enjoyed your photos too. I got a new phone but unlikely I use the camera much- I stink as a photographer. I went with the SE-$400- which was way too $$ in my mind but that is what they can charge and get away with. I paid for it but most folks just pay monthly and really never own the phone. Soninlaw got a new 7- $600. Do you ever travel with Greg? I might have asked you that before. I loved to go with my husband but he didn't travel as much in later years. I did go to LA and New Orleans with him a couple of times- never out of the country. Have a nice Mother's Day.

    1. I'm glad you had a great time with your family this past week :)

      Our middle school has award ceremonies every quarter. At some point I had kids in elementary, middle and high school AND I was homeschooling my youngest. He and I had to go to so many award ceremonies (always during the day), concerts, banquets, etc. It was insane. I always felt bad for the parents who couldn't make it because, once again, their kid got an award and once again, it fell right in the middle of the day. I almost lost my job once because my boss felt that I was asking for too much lenience to volunteer 1 hour a week at my kids' elementary magnet school (mandatory) and then to go to all the award ceremonies for the stepdaughters (Greg couldn't go at all).

      Phones are so expensive. They're mini computers but I have to say that they are more expensive than my laptop, which I use far more than my phone. I only use mine to text, take pictures on the go (although I prefer using my regular camera) and redeem freebies or rebates via some apps. I'm thinking that perhaps I just need a regular phone. Nokia is bringing back their "old" Nokia phones (although improved) and I want to look into those when my iPhone dies. I did buy my iPhone 5S used on Amazon, it was $289, I think.

      Yes, you did ask me about traveling with Greg a couple of weeks ago :) No, we don't travel together. My grandmother wanted to travel too but my grandfather had health issues so she traveled by herself, usually with tours. She went to a bunch of places and had a great time, after she retired. Sometimes she brought one of us along too, if she could afford it. She brought my cop brother and myself to the Baleares islands in the Meditteranean (I was 9), and my little brother a couple of years later. My mom has done the same with my nephews, as my stepdad doesn't like to travel at all. I like the idea of traveling but in reality it stresses me and I'd rather stay home. I traveled when I was younger and got it out of my system, I think.

      Happy Mother's Day to you too!

  5. Glad all went well with Greg's travels. Congrats to your Daughter.

    1. Thanks so much. Happy Mother's Day, Sandie!

  6. That is an amazing photo that Greg took from the kayak. Your photos are always great, so I like these weekly updates in pictures.

    You got some wonderful deals on major purchases this week. Firstly, that new bed for the cats is awesome. What cat wouldn't love that set of bunk beds? It is like getting a box to sleep in, or if you are so inclined, a basket on top to curl up in. Great price for the laptop for daughter. And wasn't the timing perfect? It lasted her through her school year finals, but conked out before she has to leave for college. What a great opportunity for a graduation gift. Did you ever make a memory book for her??
    Does Greg always bring back gifts for the family when he goes away on business trips? What a lovely surprise.

    1. Sorry for the late reply, I haven't been feeling very social, perhaps you can relate to that!

      Thank you, Susan. Would you believe that after the initial bliss of the new cat bed, NONE of the cats are using it? Princess is now using my footrest as her bed. So I think I'll use the cat bed as a footrest and perhaps she'll move back there...

      As for the laptop, I'm happy it didn't happen when she was in school (or in the middle of finals, as you mentioned!) but I would have preferred not to have to buy her a laptop since hers was only 2.5 years old! Also, now that I've done a little more researched (and my own laptop started behaving like hers a couple of days ago but thankfully it went away after I rebooted it), I think the problem was actually caused by the Windows 10 Creator update, so it might have been a problem caused by a buggy update from Microsoft, NOT the laptop itself, which makes me super angry as we don't have the choice of when to update anymore.

      No, Greg doesn't always bring back gifts, but he usually does when he goes to a new location. I do have to say that he usually tries to (or asks if he can) bring me back some chocolates from Vancouver, but the place where he goes is super expensive and I don't get anymore enjoyment from the chocolates than I do from the much cheaper ones from Aldi, lol. So I usually tell him not to bother.


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