Use Gas Prepaid Cards

It seems like I get a call every month from a credit card company informing me that my account has been compromised. I should know the routine by now:

  1. Receive a text asking that I verify a purchase.
  2. When I respond no, I did not make the purchase, a second text asks me to call at my earliest convenience.
  3. The call again inquires about a suspicious purchase.
  4. Result: card cancelled and a new card issued to be received in about ten days.
  5. Finally, changes to any automatic payments made on the card.

The credit card company never reveals where the card was compromised, but in most cases the most recent legitimate purchase was made at a gas pump; and it seems every week or so another story about a skimming device being found at a gas station is reported.

Of course the easiest way to avoid this problem is to pay cash, but this is such a pain. Go inside. Wait in line. And make one of two less than desirable choices: either pay more than the gas will cost and then return to wait in another line to get change or pay less than you know you’ll need and leave without a full tank. Neither good choices.

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Another solution to this problem: purchase gas prepaid cards when you buy your groceries and then use these cards when you fill your tank. I started doing this when Publix offers $50 gas cards for only $40 with a purchase of $50 of groceries – a great deal, as well as a way to avoid credit card fraud.

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I admit I haven’t made a complete switch to paying using this method, but I know it’s a smart move. Let’s start using prepaid gas cards.

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Mom

Even if you decide not to use the prepaid gas card option, remember your debit card does not offer protection from fraud like your credit card.

Enjoying Junk Mail

For some reason email from my daughter is no longer being delivered to my inbox. A scavenger hunt is required In order to find messages from Meghan.

While this is irritating, it has also resulted in some laughs while searching my Junk Mail. Apparently, I’ve missed many get rich opportunities. I found messages about inheritances, settlements and wire transfers.

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Many emails express concern about my health with offers to reverse diabetes, whiten my teeth and regrow hair.

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But the ones causing the most laughs ask if I want to hook up, warn about infedelity and include potential matches from Match.com.

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It even looks like Donald Trump wants to share his secrets to financial success with me.

I’m not sure how all these messages find their way in my email, but I’m glad the junk mail filter keeps them out of my inbox. I just wish it would allow me to receive email from my daughter.

WARNING: If you decide to look for laughs in your Junk Mail, DO NOT click on the messages and risk infecting your computer with a virus – the title and preview provide enough for a laugh.

Columbia’s Competition

When it comes to eating we’re creatures of habit, or maybe we just can’t pass up a guaranteed delicious meal. That’s why a trip to St. Augustine always includes a meal at the Columbia restaurant.  You really can’t go wrong with any of their dishes.

However, apparently the week after Christmas requires advance planning to dine at the Columbia. We stopped by the restaurant a couple of hours before we planned to eat to make a reservation only to be told they were completely booked for the night. Time to come up with Plan B.

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As we walked through the streets reading posted menus, I searched Yelp reviews looking for more options. With a 4.5 star rating and reviews that read:

LOVED LOVED LOVED this place.

Unique menu. Florida fare with a southern twist.

An amazing oasis in a sea of mediocrity. The Floridian breaks the mold.

We decided to give The Floridian a try. This proved a good decision resulting in four pleased diners.

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One order of shrimp and grits, one shrimp and sausage autumn risotto and a burrito. All delicious!

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But by far, the best meal was Sarah’s, Fresh Catch Floridian with roasted potatoes and veggies. I can’t remember when I’ve seen her eat so much.

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The one downside of our visit: John’s meal was delivered almost ten minutes after the others, but they made up for this by offering us four free desserts. Therefore, we ordered dessert, something that happens rarely and enjoyed every bite of the chocolate cheesecake and chocolate pie.

On our next trip to St. Augustine we’ll have a hard time deciding where we’ll eat.

 

TBT Lesson #84

This week we purchased airline tickets for a spring trip which will include camping in Iceland for a few days. We’re excited about an adventure in a foreign country  without the assistance of tour guides or buses packed with sightseers, but to be honest I’m a little nervous about sleeping in a van in a country with the word ice in its name. Are we going to be able to handle being outside exploring the natural wonders of this country 24 hours a day?

Just when I convinced myself the answer to this question is, yes we can; I find this picture of John wearing a down jacket taken on a winter day in Florida back in the ’80s. Good thing we got new down jackets for Christmas!

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TBT Lesson #84: Don’t let the weather prevent you from enjoying time outdoors.

Kick the Sugar Habit

Sugar made headlines last week with the release of new nutrition guidelines. The big news: sugar should only be 10% of daily caloric intake. As my mom would say, “That’s about as clear as mud.”

What’s meant by this 10% news? Based on a 2000 calorie diet, sugar intake should be limited to 50 grams or about 12 teaspoons. That’s a little more helpful, but then when I read that one soda contains about 10 teaspoons of sugar, I really got the picture.

I’ve cut way back on soda, but knowing that one soda contains enough sugar for an entire day makes me think about those unlimited soda refills at restaurants. That sounds dangerous for someone like me who is a self diagnosed sugar addict. I love sugar…not only in soda, but in cookies, cake, brownies, ice cream and candy. Cereal for breakfast is just another excuse for some added sugar, and when you consider things like syrup and jelly, not to mention the sugar hidden in dressings and other processed foods, I’m in trouble.

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Walking through Target yesterday, I saw a super-sized box of Lemonheads, and I wanted to buy it badly. I tried to remember of the last time I’d eaten a Lemonhead and kept thinking about how I like the soft super sour outer layer as well as the sweet inner core. I’m proud to say I did not succumb to the temptation and left the store empty handed.

A diet limited to only 50g of sugar is going to be tough considering the information I found on the following containers in the refrigerator and cabinet:

  • can of soda – 39g
  • box of apple juice – 22g
  • fat free yogurt – 13g
  • ketchup – 4g
  • lite dressing – 4g
  • strawberry preserves – 12g
  • pancake syrup – 33g
  • M&Ms – 31g

Looks like I’m in trouble, but I’m committed to cutting back on sugar. Not sure if I can reduce to only 50g, but I’m going to work on it. Hope you’ll join me in an effort to kick the sugar habit.

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Mom

 

 

16 in 16

For the fourth year, John and I sat down on New Year’s Day to develop our list of sixteen things we want to accomplish in 2016. However, this year’s list is significantly different from those developed in previous years. Different because it’s not written in stone.

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Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade 2013

In both 2013 and 2014 we made our list a priority, and it served us well. It guaranteed we got and did something at least once a month. The list was responsible for regular biking and fishing and established watching the sunrise over the Atlantic and set over the Gulf in a single day as an annual event.

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Emily and Brian’s wedding in 2013 made the 13 in 13 list.
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Last year Sarah and Daniel’s wedding was part of 15 in 15.

But retirement has meant many more opportunities to camp, bike, hike, fish and travel; and without the constraints of a daily work schedule, spontenaity interrupted the fifteen items included on our New Year’s list last year. Therefore, we’ve created a list of more than three dozen things we’re looking forward to doing in the coming years…not just 2016.

Swimming, snorkeling and paddling in Florida's springs were a highlight in 2014.
Swimming, snorkeling and paddling in Florida’s springs were a highlight in 2014.

We’ll still check off each event as it’s accomplished with the goal of completing at least sixteen adventures in 2016. Some of the things we’re looking forward to:

  • our annual family weekend
  • a bike trip in The Netherlands
  • spending time in several National Parks celebrating their 100th anniversary
  • baseball games
  • a McCollum triathlon
  • another sunrise sunset day
  • a concert
  • art events
  • fishing, boating and time at the beach
15 in 15 included lots of lighthouse & a trip to the Pacific Northwest.
15 in 15 included lots of lighthouse & a trip to the Pacific Northwest.

A first day hike, two bike rides and an art trail, we’re off to a good start in 2016 and looking forward to completing the first official adventure of the year.

2016 off to a good start!
2016 off to a good start!

TBT Lesson #83

Career Day was a staple at most elementary schools in the ’80s and ’90s. Each year a variety of people shared information about their jobs, the skills required and education or special training needed. Career Day included a hairdresser who washed, cut and styled hair while she spoke, a photo restoration expert who tore a photo and then did her magic, and a restaurant owner who cooked and served students Chinese food as part of her presentation. Of course, these were always popular with students since it changed up the school routine.

One year students and teachers were encouraged to dress to represent an occupation. Never ones to pass up an opportunity to dress casually, Connie came as a Publix employee while I dressed as a referee. The 1990s were a good time to be a teacher.

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TBT Lesson #83: Teaching is as much about sharing experiences as taking and preparing for tests.

(And don’t forget to look up in a photo to avoid the double chin effect.)

Obelisk Love

Obelisk:  a tall, four-sided, narrow tapering monument which ends in a pyramid-like shape at the top

Twenty-five obelisks, painted by local artists, adorn the streets of St. Augustine as part of the city’s 450th anniversary celebration.

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The piece located at the base of the Bridge of Lions included some of St. Augustine’s most recognizable symbols.

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Replicas of the 30-foot Monumento de la Constitución, the art is on display throughout the historic district in St. Augustine.

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While on a scavenger hunt for the art, I realized I’d overlooked the many obelisks that have always been a part of St. Augustine.

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In fact, I even found one in the cemetery.

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Standing 8 1/2 feet tall, the obelisks are done in a variety of styles.
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Painted, covered in mirrors even obelisks displayed upside down.

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The artwork represents the values found on the constitution monument: democracy, human rights, freedom and compassion.

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Sometimes these values are in written form and on other pieces they’re represented visually.

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Created by YarnBombJax.com covered an obelisk in yarn to recognize the involvement of Kat Twine in St. Augustine’s Civil Rights movement. Their description of their work:

Intertwined across our obelisk are reminders that our FREEDOM is not free; that our HUMAN RIGHTS are a privilege; that our COMPASSION is synonymous with servitude; and that our DEMOCRACY is divided by house. Using unexpected colors, textures, and patterns we have elevated these four values and imbued then with a sense of surrealism.

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My favorite was located at The Cathedral Bascilica of St. Augustine. As the artist, Kevin Curry says about this obelisk:

That which we hold in the palm of our hand can have monumental consequences.

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This public art will be on display through the end of the month so it’s not too late to make a trip to the nation’s oldest city or at least click here to see all 25 obelisks.

 

Be Flexible

I preach organization, planning, goal-setting and list making but not to the exclusion of being flexible. You may have noticed that on the last day of 2015, I posted 13 Down, 2 To Go. That’s right on the final day of 2015, we had completed only 13 of the 15 adventures we set as goals for 2015. We didn’t watch a boat parade during the holiday season, and I didn’t catch a redfish.

Meghan caught my redfish.
Meghan caught my redfish.

Sure, it was possible to complete these two, but things changed. A 90th birthday celebration and a memorial service for a loved one took priority. Squeezing in a parade and a fishing trip just to check them off a list would have taken away the joy and caused a busy November and December to be filled with stress.

What’s the purpose of the 15 in 15 list? It’s an attempt to make sure we get out and do things we enjoy. When we started the list in 2013 we were still working and relied on the list to make the most of our weekends and time away from work. Retiring in May, the list took on a different meaning. We no longer need to plan how to use precious days off. Instead, our 15 in 15 list served as a resource in planning our new found freedom.

An unscheduled trip to Miami, sailing and biking, took priority over a redfish trip planned in August. We can go fishing later, right?

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A camping trip in the Panhandle morphed into a camping trip up the east coast just because we had more time.

Trying to accomplish an unrealistic goal just because it’s on a list causes unnecessary stress. Lack of flexibility may also result in missed opportunities. Sometimes our plans are not in our own best interests so it’s important to adapt to changes to be successful. Being flexible also makes it possible for you to effectively face challenges. You haven’t failed when you change the plan. Instead, you’ve learned the original plan failed to meet your needs.

You’ve probably heard John Lennon’s famous quote: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

Replacing an air conditioner with the money saved for a down payment on a car…that’s life.

Twisting your ankle the week before cross country camp…that’s life.

An accident that sidelines you from your daily routine…that’s life.

Babies that arrive earlier than expected…that’s life.

Hurricanes, floods, blizzards and so many other natural events that interrupt schedules or even change lives forever…again, that’s life.

And life isn’t something that gets in the way of our plans. It reminds us that our plans aren’t always a priority.

I’m not going to stop planning, and I hope you won’t either. Being organized, setting goals and making lists are all worthwhile activities, but it’s just as important to be flexible.

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Mom

 

Pencils, Paper and Pocketknives

How could wanting to write with a pencil be so difficult? I simply wanted a pencil so I could make notes in a book I’m reading.

I felt certain I’d find one in the pouch I keep in my purse. Instead, I found seven pens, one highlighter and a pair of earbuds. That just wouldn’t do. I wanted a pencil.

No problem. When we prepared for our move last Spring, I organized the desk drawer with dividers and boxes making it easy to find office supplies in the limited space available; and I’m proud to say that the drawer remains a picture of organization.

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The drawer didn’t fail, seven pencils, but none of them sharpened. Then I found a box of pencils, all sharpened but colored pencils. Not acceptable. I wanted a regular No. 2 lead pencil.

I suddenly had a flashback to when we first moved in this house in 1979. Today we live in the same house in which we resided in 1979 as newlyweds, and in those days it wasn’t pencils but paper that was the problem. My father-in-law, an English professor, was not content talking to us on the phone. He loved the written word and regularly wrote letters. When we didn’t respond with a card, note or letter, he asked when he could expect to get something from us in the mail. Our pitiful answer…pitiful, but true…we didn’t have any paper. I remember his response. No paper? And you’re both teachers?

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That’s right. Teachers with no paper. Sure we had plenty of paper at work, just not at home. But we came up with a creative way to solve the problem. We used the backs of envelopes to answer his letters. So maybe it was lazy instead of creative. I guess he decided we were hopeless and just started communicating exclusively by phone.

I think he’d be pleased to know we have plenty of paper, envelopes, notecards, pens and even stamps today. And finally I resorted to my grandmother’s solution to sharpening pencils. I used a knife to whittle away the wood until I’d scratched away enough to expose the lead so I could write.

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With the other writing basics covered, I’ve added a pencil sharpener to my shopping list so I don’t lose a finger sharpening a pencil.