Don’t Pay Your Bills!

I know this advice may seem out of character from someone who just a few months ago encouraged you to Make a Minute for Money, but here we go again…another incident requiring vigilance.

I’m sure you’re getting tired of me warning you about fraud on your charge accounts, but since we’ve been hit again. I feel another reminder is in order. Here’s the message from Discover when I sign on to my account online:

We’re sorry that your account experienced fraudulent activity. We’re working quickly to get everything back to normal. For your added security, certain features may not be available online at this time. You might still see unauthorized activity and inaccurate information until we remove the fraud from your account.

Remember, you are never responsible for unauthorized purchases on your Discover card.

Saturday, we received a call from the Fraud Division at Discover to verify some purchases they deemed suspicious. Over $3400 in charges at Tractor Supply in Orlando, $110 at Hess in Winter Park, and over four hundred dollars at PepBoy in Apopka.

Trans. Date Description Amount
06/28/14 TRACTOR SUPPLY #560 $117.13
06/28/14 TRACTOR SUPPLY #560 $3,301.49
06/28/14 HESS 09525 $110.11
06/28/14 PEPBOYS STORE # 544 $407.67
TOTAL $3,936.40

No, we didn’t make any of those purchases, and I’m impressed that Discover called before 8:00pm on Saturday to check on almost $4000 in suspicious purchases less than 24 hours after they were made.

No, our cards were not stolen. They’re both in our possession. I guess we’re the victim of some type of card skimming device.

Of course, we’ll cut up two more credit cards. We’ll be issued new cards and account numbers. A hassle, but not as bad as the problems caused by the fraud at Target six months ago. At least Discover caught this early.

So, today I’m reminding you to be alert for fraud on your accounts. I’m glad we used a credit card instead of a debit card when we filled the tank with gas. Our bank account couldn’t have taken a $3900 hit, and debit cards don’t have the same protection as credit cards. I’d much rather have Discover fighting this battle than me personally trying to have almost $4000 credited back to my bank account. That would be a nightmare!

DON’T PAY YOUR BILLS – at least not until you’ve carefully checked and verified each purchase, then, and only then, pay the bill. And since it’s Monday, it’s a good day to Make a Minute for Money as well!

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Mom

Triathlon Time

Our definition of a triathlon just requires three activities: one on the bike, one on the water, and one on foot. It does not require training, competition, or a registration fee.

It February, we completed the Tamiami Triathlon in the Everglades. This month we completed what we call the OleMilltucknee.

For the first leg we biked from Ft. White to O’Leno State Park, a round trip distance of about 14 miles.

Next, we plunged into the cool waters of Ichetucknee Springs and snorkeled in the crystal clear water.

Finally, we hiked the 220 steps to the bottom of the sink at Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park.

The park ranger in the Everglades presented us with a bumper sticker for the completion of the Tamiami Triathlon, but since the OleMilltucknee isn’t sanctioned by the park service, I guess we’ll need to design our own award.

June Pound Cake of the Month: Lemonade

One of my goals for 2014 is to bake a different pound cake each month of the year.

Lemonade Pound Cake. What could be more perfect for a summer pound cake recipe! After all, lemonade and summer are a match made in heaven.

I found several recipes for pink lemonade pound cake and finally decided to try one that uses a box cake as the base. This worked well for the Red Velvet Pound Cake I made in April so I decided to give it a go.

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The recipe called for lemon cake mix, lemon pudding mix, and the special ingredient: pink lemonade frozen concentrate.

After removing the cake from the oven, I poked holes in the bottom of the cake before removing it from the pan and poured the thawed lemonade concentrate mixed with sugar over the cake.  According to recipe this not only adds flavor but makes for a moist cake.

It did make a moist cake, but it was not a dense cake like you’d expect from a pound cake.

I found three frosting/glaze recipes, and obviously I didn’t choose the best one since it had to be microwaved to thin enough to pour over the cake. Worst of all, the flavor was just ok.

I ate one slice of the Lemonade Pound Cake, but it wasn’t worth the calories for a second. Definitely a disappointment, but this is the first of the six pound cakes I’ve made this year that’s been a disappointment. Not too bad.

I’ve included the recipe, but I’d suggest the Lemon Lime Pound Cake or Lemon Blueberry Pound Cake as better alternatives to a yummy summer cake.

Ingredients:

  • 1 box lemon pound cake mix
  • 1 small box lemon instant pudding mix (I used sugar free since that’s all I could find.)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup frozen pink lemonade concentrate
  • red food color (about 15 drops to get desired pink color)
  • 1 cup frozen pink lemonade concentrate mixed with 1/2 cup granulated sugar (set aside until after cake is baked)
  • Reserve remaining lemonade concentrate for frosting/glaze.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° and spray 10 cup bundt pan with no stick baking spray.
  2. Combine cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, oil, milk, and lemonade concentrate until smooth.
  3. Pour batter in prepared pan and bake for 45-60 minutes. (The original recipe called from 50 minutes and that was too long for my oven.)
  4. Let cool for about five minutes and then poke holes throughout the cake with a skewer and pour or spoon the lemonade/sugar mixture over the cake. (DO NOT REMOVE CAKE FROM PAN. YOU WILL POKE HOLES ON WHAT WILL BE THE BOTTOM OF THE CAKE.)
  5. Remove cake from pan after about 20 minutes and then frost when completely cooled.

Frosting/Glaze Directions:

  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2-3 Tablespoons lemonade concentrate
  • red food coloring

Mix 1 stick of softened butter with 2 cups of powdered sugar until smooth. Add 2-3 Tablespoons of lemonade concentrate and 5 or 6 drops of red food coloring. Add an additional cup of powdered sugar.

I had to heat in microwave so I could spoon glaze over cake. Next time, I’d melt the butter first and then add powdered sugar and lemonade or look for a different recipe.

But to be honest, this isn’t a cake I’ll bake again. I’m sharing only because it’s part of my goal of baking a new pound cake every month this year, and it seems reasonable to share the failure as well as the success.

If you’ve baked this cake with success, please share your secret in the comment section below. Maybe you can convince me to try your recipe!

 

 

 

 

TBT: Lesson #7

Two more graduations were celebrated this spring. My niece and nephew graduated from high school. Since 2002, we’ve had one or more high school or college graduations every spring and many years there have been more than one graduate to celebrate.

In this picture from 1991, Emily’s wearing her graduation cap as she ends her preschool career ready to take the next step in life: kindergarten.

I’ve never been a big fan of preschool, kindergarten, or elementary graduation and have thought it silly that parents made a big deal about these events; but look at the smile on Emily’s face. She obviously enjoyed the recognition.IMG_5060

Today’s Throwback Thursday Lesson: Celebrate the little things.

MMM New Look

I need your help! After 18 months of writing Mom’s Monday Memo, I changed the appearance last weekend, and I need your feedback.

When I began writing I chose a design with color in an effort to give readers something more visually appealing than just words on a page, but over the past year and a half I started added more images to my posts and felt the green background, yellow titles with red emphasis and brown border was becoming a distraction.

Screen Shot 2014-06-21 at 8.50.15 AMIn addition, I wondered if the white font on a colored background should be changed to give the blog a more professional look. Do readers prefer dark print on a white or light background?

Screen Shot 2014-06-21 at 8.54.00 AMSo I’m asking for your input. What do you think? Which background to you prefer? How do you feel about the color of the font? This is your chance to offer suggestions, and I’m listening!

Please leave a comment below in the box “Leave a Reply” so I can determine if I should go back to the original look, keep the new one, or look for another alternative. I’m anxious to read your suggestions.

Juniper Springs Do Over

Early morning thunderstorms during last week’s trip to Juniper Springs prevented us from enjoying canoeing or swimming, but a week later we had better luck. We arrived a little after 9:00 and by 9:45 had rented a canoe, carried it to the water and were ready to shove off.

During the rental process we signed papers promising to follow a whole list of rules. We agreed to carry no disposable containers on the river, to remain in the canoe at all times, and to leave the wildlife alone.

The paperwork stressed that this was not a beginner’s run and that we should expect to paddle 3-4 hours to cover the 7.3 mile distance to the take out point just past Hwy. 19; and while the current kept the canoe moving with little effort, this section of the river could be called an obstacle course rather than a run.

We maneuvered through tight turns and around and under trees and were surprised by a short section of faster moving water creating “rapids”. Not a difficult trip but one that requires both paddlers to work together.

A variety of flowers and plants lined the run.

And while we heard birds throughout the trip, we saw few. Of course, the turtles lazed on the trees from start to finish.

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We even spied a couple of gators standing watch.

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As predicted, we reached the take out spot nearly three hours later and had just enough time to eat our lunch along the river before the first shuttle of the day arrived to take us back to the park.

We even took a quick dip in the spring before heading back home. Success! A spring visit with good weather.

We’re already planning a trip to Ichetucknee Springs.

Enjoy Your Backyard

Summer invites us to look for ways to have some fun, but who needs to go away when you can make your own fun in your backyard. Take advantage of this space at your house to enjoy a mini-vacation any day of the week.

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Breakfast on the back porch. Dinner hot off the grill. It’s easy to make every day special just by using the outdoor space at home.

Here are a few ideas of how you can have some backyard fun at least once or twice a week.

Decorate with tiki torches. Nothing says vacation like tiki torches or other special lights – an inexpensive way to create a little atmosphere.

Star gaze. While you can do this any day of the week (at least any clear day), check out this Astronomical Calendar for the dates of the full moon and this summer’s meteor showers.

Roast marshmallows or make s’mores in a fire pit. Or if you’re looking for something a little different, click here for more campfire desserts.

fire

Cook hamburgers, hot dogs, or splurge on a steak on the grill. Invite friends for a covered dish cookout.

Relax in a hammock or lounge chair with a good book.

Play games – bocce ball, cornhole, croquet or make your own backyard game. Find directions for 32 DIY backyard games at Listotic.

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Set up a movie theater, make some popcorn, and watch a favorite summer movie.

Go camping. Did you know Saturday, June 28th is the Great American Backyard Campout? Sign the pledge to join the campout and raise money for the National Wildlife Foundation’s wildlife conservation work. (You can sign the pledge to camp anytime, anywhere this summer to help in the fundraising efforts; but you must sign the pledge no later than June 28th.)

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It’s officially summer! Time to have some fun. Why not enjoy your backyard!

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Mom

 

Dedication #99

The Volusia County Habitat for Humanity dedicated house #99 on Saturday, June 21st. Sponsored by McDonalds and with the help of numerous volunteers, my nephew Madison and his son Zachary accepted the keys following the dedication.

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Habitat officers and board members led friends and relatives in prayer and then presented Madison with a Bible to add to the bookshelf in his new home.

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Tours of the house were followed by a group moving effort with furniture in place, beds made, the first load of dishes in the dishwasher in little more than an hour.

A barbeque lunch concluded the housewarming party with an excited Zachary thanking everyone for his new house.

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From Madison’s Facebook page:

I just wanted to give a shout out to all those who have helped with the habitat program. I am able to own an amazing beautiful home for Zachary and I because of this. We are so grateful to everyone that participated. Thank you so much for all your help! #this is a true hand up and not hand out!

 

 

Road Trip: I Dream of Jeannie Park

Barbara, my college roommate from Western Carolina University, and I took our first road trip nearly 40 years ago. In our freshman year, we took trips to Atlanta to shop and New Orleans for Mardi Gras. And of course, we had to come to Florida for Spring Break…Barbara’s first trip to the Sunshine State.

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This week our newest adventure took us to I Dream of Jeannie Park in Cocoa Beach. Well, actually, Lori Wilson Park located on I Dream of Jeanine Lane. Now that Barbara’s a Florida resident, it was her turn to introduce me to one of her favorite beaches. Lori Wilson Park, a Brevard County treasure, is a slice of paradise tucked in between the hotels to the north and south of the park. No buildings towering over beachgoers, just sand dunes, sea oats, and soft sugar-like sand.

Lori Wilson Park provides free parking, clean restrooms, two pavilions, a dog park, a playground, and a boardwalk that weaves through the hammock bordering the beach. Lifeguards are even stationed on the beach to watch over swimmers and surfers.

Fortunately, the daily thunderstorms stayed away permitting us to swim, enjoy the water and hang out on the beach for about three hours. Of course, we found a way to add some laughs to the trip as we battled a disagreeable sun umbrella, but I’m proud to say the two of us with the help of a pocket knife came out victorious.

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We concluded our Cocoa Beach road trip at Mambos, a beach side restaurant that borders the park, dining on Mahi Mahi sitting on the outside deck in the salt air.

Before leaving, Barbara was taking note of the surf board rentals and surfing lessons offered at Mambos since surfing’s on her bucket list.

I’ll pass on surfing, but I’m game for another road trip.

 

Grouper Time

After spending the day on the water at Crystal River, it was time to satisfy our seafood craving. We motored over to Crackers Bar and Grill, located on King’s Bay, where we sat on the deck at one of the picnic tables under a grass umbrella to soak in a little more of the view while we ate lunch.

We rarely order appetizers at lunch, but there’s no way we could pass up the potato skins. It’s hard to call them skins since there’s plenty of potato on the skin which is smothered in cheese, and then topped with bacon and onions. These are by far the best potato skins.

 

photo 4 After loading up on an appetizer, we split the grouper sandwich with cole slaw…didn’t need any more potatoes so passed on the french fries. Plenty of food to split and very tasty. Not as good as the grouper sandwich at Sanibel Grill, but about three hours closer!

photo 2Good food. Waterfront dining. Great way to end a trip to Crystal River.