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Entries from January 2014

App-Happy Ways To Earn Easy Money

[Note: All, or at least most, links are my referral links. I'd appreciate you using them, but feel free not to do so! I'll never know... ;) ]

I've been asked a trillion times for referrals and tips for earning easy, free money. You can check out my not-quite-updated mystery shopping post here, and always stay on top of reading Hip2Save, because Collin Morgan is the best money-saving blogger I know! Aside from that, here are my favorite apps that I use regularly on my iPhone; feel free to add more that I haven't mentioned in the comments but please don't post your referral links for the same apps I have here.

If you're not using Swagbucks yet, you should be. Of course, there's an app for that, but I use it nearly exclusively on my desktop. The best value is to cash in 450 SBs for a $5 gift card, which I do consistently twice a month. The potential is there, if you want to put more time into it, to earn waaaaay more than that per month, but I rarely have the time anymore to do it.

How can you earn money on Swagbucks? Let me count the ways:

1. Searches - you won't "win" every time, but you can win 6++ SBs at least hourly.

2. You'll get 1 SB daily for having the toolbar installed, and I have never had a problem with malware.

3.You'll get 1 SB (sometimes 2) for taking the daily poll.

4. You'll get 2 SBs (sometimes 4) for doing the daily NOSOs (No Obligation Special Offers) - just click through until the end, where you'll need to put in a captcha to get the SBs.

5. Surveys - BIG potential here!

6. Watching videos

7. Shopping kickbacks

8. Printing, and using, coupons from the site

9. Playing games

10. PLUS LOTS MORE, so sign up on Swagbucks and get started already, will ya?!

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MyPoints has been around forever, and I've been a member almost as long. I've gotten hundreds of dollars in gift cards for Amazon, CVS, Walgreens, REI, different restaurants, and lots more. You can earn money MyPoints by signing up for the click-thru emails (all of them), and just clicking on the button at the bottom. That's the easiest way, but there are also coupon-printing and online-shopping kickbacks, surveys, games, and tons more. Check it out!

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With the CheckPoints app, you can earn rewards like Amazon GCs and other prizes by scanning products with your smartphone in various stores. The app will populate a list of stores that participate, like CVS, Walgreens, Target and Wal-Mart. You get CPs and, sometimes, coins for game-playing, for scanning each product, checking in a la Foursquare, playing games to bet on winning bigger pointage (I often do), and more. It's fun and easy to do while you're shopping, and the scans reset every day.

Use my bonus code: smellyann when signing up!

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shopkick is an app a lot like CheckPoints, wherein you earn prizes and gift certificates for scanning. They update the app quite frequently (too much so for my comfort, really), so I haven't learned the latest edition of ways to get "kicks" but I'm sure there are more. Oh, and you get HUGE kicks for walking in to stores like Old Navy, Target, and Best Buy when you have the app open on your phone near the designated transmitter thingamajobber.

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The ibotta app is another favorite of mine. You connect your PayPal account or can get gift cards to places like Starbucks, Redbox, and iTunes, and when you have the required amount (varies from $2-10 right now), they zip you your prize immediately!

To cash in, you need to load the list of offers and do various tasks like post to Facebook or Twitter, take little polls, and learn tidbits of information to add money to your bank for various grocery and HBA items. Then, when you purchase an item you've banked, you scan your receipt with your phone, scan the item, and submit. Within 24 hours, usually, you'll have the money added to your balance, which grows until you're ready to cash out for a reward. It's awesome, especially lately when they've been doing tons of offers for any brand gallon of milk, any brand of a carton of eggs, a loaf of bread, and so on. They even give cash back for going to the movies and visiting concessions, so look into it!

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Checkout 51 is similar to ibotta. You purchase the designated items, scan your receipt, and tick off the items you bought on the app. When you reach $20 banked, you cash out. Simple, right? I have only been a member for a week and have $3, but I haven't shopped too much in that week, so it's pretty great.

Not sure of my referral code, but use my email if it asks:

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Plink is used by connecting your credit or debit card to the app (can also be used without a smartphone) and shopping and eating out at more than 75,000 locations. When you click on my link, you'll get 300 points for joining. I used to use it a ton with my old PayPal account card, but it doesn't seem to work with PayPal anymore, and our regular bank card keeps blocking the app. Bummer, because I made a load of Amazon money from this app when we still lived in Virginia!

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Ride is an iPhone app you get just for being on-the-go with your phone in tow! (Hey, I'm a poet...) There are other, similar apps, but I only use Ride. Basically, it counts up the miles when your phone is moving, and rewards you for going places. Cool, right? Rewards include Amazon GCs, Papa John's, Starbucks, and more. 

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The Panel app is another one, connected to Ride, that "knows" where you are and gives you rewards for just being out and about, and also for taking surveys. It's simple and easy, and I can get an Amazon gift card every month or so. 

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The Wrapp app is pretty cool, in that you can give free gifts - and get them back - to others who have the app. Sometimes I'll get a $5 gift card to, say, Office Depot or some such, and it works like a dream. This is a really great app for giving little gifts that cost you nothing to send!

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And then there was Viggle. This app pays you rewards for watching TV and listening to the radio! How awesome is that?? You just check in by tapping on the big button when you're logged into the app, and it listens to what you're watching or hearing. You rack up points and cash in for cool rewards. Love!

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Zapiddy is an app that pays you for doing tasks like snapping pictures of sampling displays in store and stuff like that... I confess I haven't done any of their tasks or earned any cash yet, but that's because I keep forgetting to check the app! Right now there are no jobs in my area, which stinks, but maybe you'll have better luck?

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What are your favorite apps and ways to earn a little extra money by hardly doing a thing?




Saturday 9: I Will Always Love You

Hey, Party People! Link up here if you are, like me, ON TIME for S9 for once! Woohoo...

1) The Bodyguard is the best-selling movie soundtrack ever, and this is the song most often associated with Whitney Houston. Is it on your iPod/mp3 player?

Really, better than the Waiting to Exhale soundtrack? That one kicked ass. But no, I don't have IWALY on my iPod because all my damn music got deleted from iTunes, and I've no clue how to get it back! Anyone? Anyone?? (Yes, this has caused me much consternation.)

 2) In the movie, Rachel (Whitney) sings "I Will Always Love You" after she realizes she can never see Frank (Kevin Costner) again. What song reminds you of a past love?

I used to sing "When I See You Smile," by Bad English, to my high school boyfriend Ben on the phone. It's one of our songs. When I hear it now, it's usually on store muzak, and it always brings a nostalgic smile to my lips.

3) Despite the movie's and the song's overwhelming popularity, Whitney Houston was awarded a Razzie Award as the worst actress of 1992. What's the most recent criticism you received?

My friend Erica called me a lush and said I'm drinking a lot lately. I don't feel like I am - though I am drinking a lot more than usual - and it's really NOT a problem (I know, I know, they always say that), but it's true. I don't have an addictive personality and, hey, I can stop anytime I want! ;) (Please, I'm not making fun of alcoholics, so don't get your panties in a wad.)

4) On the bright side, share the last compliment you received.

My husband tells me I'm beautiful on the regular. It would be nice if I could accept the compliment, but I can't. Oh, and my friend Carlos, with whom I spoke on the phone last night for really the first time, told me I had a nice voice. Maybe it's the first time he paid attention to it?
5) In the 1980s, when Whitney first burst onto the scene, a trendy woman wore big hair, big bows and big shoulder pads. Can you think of anything you wore that was fashionable at the time, but looking back, makes you cringe? (An embarrassing photo to accompany your answer would be nice!)

High hair, with the front bang curling downward over the forehead and the rest of the bangs hairsprayed sky-high behind them, was all the rage in my middle school years. I don't have a picture of me like this, which is complete bullshit because of course I do, but I'm too lazy to get up and find that photo album right now!

6) When this song was popular, cell phones were uncommon and Facebook was unheard of. Which has had a bigger impact on your life -- smart phones or social networking? 

Oh, absolutely, it's my iPhone. I adore it. Of all my material possessions, it's my most important. Between that and my ubiquitous crossbody satchel, my whole life is in there. Please don't steal it!!

7) Whitney's marriage to Bobby Brown left many people shaking their heads. Whitney and Bobby's daughter recently married the young man who was raised as her brother. Have you ever been in a relationship your friends/family didn't approve of?

Pfft. Yeah, more than one. My first fiancé was black, as was my second. (I married the third, to my father's utmost relief.) My dad, on the other hand, thoroughly racist. It wouldn't shock me to find a white hood in his closet, if you're picking up what I'm putting down. When he first found out about my particular predilections in this regard, well, he hit the roof and made a LOT of threats. Guess what? It changed nothing. I'm still color-blind in matters of the heart.

8) Whitney Houston's grave marker reads, "I Will Always Love You," so obviously her family is very proud of the success of this recording. How would you like to be remembered?

If my children can look back over their childhoods and say to themselves, "Yeah, I had a good mom, and my upbringing was a happy one," I'll be ecstatic. If the rest of the world can say I made it a better place for having been in it, that will be icing on the cake.

9) Whitney was born in Newark, the largest city in New Jersey. It's a major air, rail and shipping hub, and it's in the Eastern Time zone. Have you ever been to Newark ... or any town in New Jersey? 

Oh, hells yes. My grandparents lived in Leonia, NJ, and I flew in and out of Newark - usually from Syracuse, where I lived - countless times to visit them. Other than New York and Florida, I probably spent most of my time in the Garden State. My mother and her parents are buried there, so I'll be back. I'll be back...


Upchucking Puppies And Other Odd Schtuff


So remember Pepper got butchered neutered on January 11th, and it didn't go well? You can read more about that here

Welp, between getting the cat fixed and necessary car repairs, we didn't have the money to take him to an *ahem* real vet to get looked at, once the almost-obvious infection set in just two days later, on Monday, 13 January. I was chatting online with a friend about my concerns, and that friend - y'all, I have some amazing, terrific, wonderful friends - sent me the money immediately to get Pepper seen.
So we took him to a vet uptown, and we waited, like, no lie, five hours in the waiting room.
We made a lot of buddies in the waiting room, like this fellow, Chiquito, who licked the crap out of Sophia's face. Friendly little guy, mangy, but super cute just the same!
Then there was this little adorable Pomeranian puppy, Melody, who I wanted desperately to steal and take home with us, but alas, I don't t'ief me some puppies. Is she not the cutest thing EVAR?!
This quartet of pups, just a couple days old, had to go home without their mommy. They broke her pelvis coming out, poor thing. The dude had to go pay the vet bill and asked me if I would mind dog-sitting them for a few minutes. Would I mind?! Um, no, not hardly, sir. (I'm a dog person. We have five cats, and I'm a dog person. I was in animal-lover heaven over there, y'all.)
At last, it was our turn, after visiting with every other animal in the waiting room, and even after I went to the Publix nearby and shopped for a quick meal of bananas, granola bars, Babybel cheeses, and flavored waters. We kind of got the stink eye from other waiting room patients, but you know what? I did not care. MY babies were hungry, and I shared with the toddler-sized owner of Melody. So bite me, stink-eyers!
So anyway... Chloë and I went into the exam room with Pepper, and there we met the vet tech, whom I'll call Chuck. Chuck was super-smiley, and friendly, and caring. The vet, a woman (woohoo!), came in, and Chuck held Pepper down while she examined his poor, sore bally-sac (technical term there, ya know). Then she left, after giving me the spiel about what he needed (antibiotics) and what, thank the good Lord above, he did not need (a re-neutering, basically). 
So Chuck, who was fresh from Cuba, overheard me talking to Chloë in Spanish, and we had the following conversation in that language:
Chuck, to me, about Chloë: "Oh, does she speak Spanish, too?"
Me: "No..."
C: "But... you do...?"
M: "I've forgotten a lot, but I'm working on it."
C: "Are you from here?"
M, thinking he meant Miami, "No. I'm from New York."
C: "You're from the United States?!!?!"
M: "Yes...?"
And then he switched to English, excitedly, as if he had just made some amazing discovery: "But your accent, and your grammar, were perfect! I thought you were Latina! I didn't know what country you were from, but I thought South or Central America!" blah-zay-blah... 
Long story short, I was immensely flattered, and my head blew up to 490 times its normal size. He told me he was looking to improve his English, and we exchanged celly numbers to talk down the road and help each other out. I was pretty damn excited.
Oh, and Chuck? Actually a vet in Cuba, who had recently taken his boards to become licensed in the U.S. For whatever that's worth to ya.
The next day was a cold one. We stayed in, did school, and looked after Pepper and Rob. I say Rob, because he's had his share of medical drama lately, too. He had his MRI the same day I met Chuck, and we went to the neurosurgeon on Wednesday morning. 
As far as that goes, it turns out that he still has the TUMOR. What the what?! Rob has been going in to see Dr. Neuro by himself, while I sit out in the parking garage with the Littles, so I haven't been privy to their conversations, but... Just exactly how muddled does your thinking have to be that you can't remember the doctor telling you that you still have a TUMOR in your BRAIN? And, in fact, remember him saying that it's gone? Really, now. Pretty dang muddled, apparently. (So, for those of you who have been asking yourselves, like my dear father did recently, if Rob is all better and is ready to "hit the ground running in the new year and get a job and/or go to school," the answer to that is a big fat hell-to-the-NO.)
So he can't work, can't go to school, can't drive, can barely walk, rarely functions, sleeps 34 hours a day, and yeah. Fun times for Rob. :(
The good(ish) news is that he was ordered to start stepping down off his horrible horrible meds, but the downside to that is he feels like total crap. Crap, crap, and more crap. Bear with me while I say it once more: CRAP!
We went to Cyberknife that afternoon, per Dr. Neuro's orders, to get another consult with the Radiation Oncologist. No-way, no-how did he want to do another Cyberknife, but he and Dr. Neuro are at odds on that score. So... we're going with the Rad-Onc's wishes, but we'll be seeking a second opinion soon. He did agree about stepping off the meds, so that's what my babe is doing. Miserably, but somewhat happily so.
That Friday, I audited a grocery store down the road. It took over two hours, and you know what? After staring at food for 135 minutes, I was pretty damned hungry. I went home and whipped up my former signature mashed potatoes: along with the regular butter and milk, I added sautéed onions and garlic, corn, shredded Cheddar cheese, and maybe, after taking this Insta-pic, I added a small dollop of sour cream. So delicious. I have no business eating that many carbs, but I'm careful to eat just a tad and then pass the rest of my bowl to Rob...
Saturday, I ran up to Hialeah - a good hour's drive from home - and did a bunch of home improvement store shops. Not one of them panned out the way they were supposed to. I try to remember that it really doesn't matter, because I'm just there to report what DID happen and not really care whether what was SUPPOSED to happen did, in fact, happen, but I came home rather annoyed. When that happens, I take a nice break and calm down, so that I can report objectively. I sat outside in our beautiful, sunny Miami weather and surveyed my surroundings. And my feet. I know. I have ugly feet and minuscule toenails. In college, my friend Jorge Alarcon (Are you OUT THERE, Jorge?!!) asked me once, seeing my painted toenails, "Are you trying to show off what you DON'T have?!" Hilarious.
Sunday, I did more grocery store and home improvement audits around our hometown, and then I went off to visit my new friend Chuck. I had intended to bring him home with me, for reasons I won't go into just yet, but that didn't work out as planned, so I stayed there and practiced my Spanish while he worked on his English. We talked for, like, two - maybe three? - hours, animatedly, sometimes stiltedly, about a wide variety of rather intense topics. It was pretty great. Pretty, pretty great.
Inspired by my renewed zest for all things Spanish, I cleaned the kitchen on Monday and cooked with Mojo Criollo. Of course, I told Chuck about it, and he was all "guau!" which is, duh, "Wow!" in English.
Along with a pork loin in Mojo, I made rice and, because I didn't soak the red beans for long enough, green beans. Then I completely forgot about the red beans soaking in a pot until two days later when, in Rob's words, they turned into "a hagfish." Seriously, gross. I had to throw out the whole freakin' pot. Ugh. Good thing that was a cheap bag of beans, but I absolutely abhor waste of any kind.
While the kids hung out upside-down on Tuesday morning, I went down to the Upper Keys to do a couple more grocery store audits. Those managers weren't too happy when I showed up after a holiday weekend in the Florida Keys, as all their stock was wiped out, but I had no choice. It's lovely, always, to go into Monroe County. I love it.
What I also loved on Tuesday was that I went to work rockin' my first ponytail since buzzing off all my hair over a year before! Woot woot! It was long enough to all go in and, more importantly, stay in! Hey, I'll take any kind of victories I can get.
I worked all day Wednesday, in between giving assignments to the kids, and then I came home, took a bath, and sported a mud mask. See? Muddy, muddy mask. My face is sooo soft now! Wanna feel? Here, rub the screen.
I've got nothing else inane to report for the mo', so I'll sign off. I have to head to my glaucoma appointment in an hour anyhoo, so have a splendid day!

Music Monday: Todo Bien

Music on World off

Welcome aboard our 177th week of “Monday’s Music Moves 


X-Mas Dolly is the Conductor on this Musical trip.  Co-conductors are Callie of JAmerican Spice, Stacy of Stacy Uncorked, Cathy of  Curious as a Cathy, NAILA MOON of Just the Stuff You Know and Honorary co-conductor this month will be our Becca from Every Day Life  due to the fact that co-conductor Stacy will be taking a hiatus for a few weeks because she’s moving.  Yep our gal bought a beautiful house.  If you stop by her place you can take a peek!   NOW LET’S ROCK THIS PLACE & get this TRAIN rollin’!

STEPS:  You Tube,  lock & load!  Grab “Monday’s Music Moves Me” Button.  SIGN LINKY, Follow US, & leave a Rockin’ comment! Finally, Boogie down to your Fellow Rockin’ Bloggers & bring some back with you to join us!  As you may have noticed any link that you see with NO MUSIC you don’t  have to visit if you don’t want too. It’s for your convenience... and away we go!


Don’t forget to follow everyone! Now let’s ROCK!  
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MOODYMedia's theme for this week is: 
Nada. It's a freebie. ;) LOL...
So since I'm heavily immersed in augmenting my Spanish lessons right now, I'm constantly singing in Spanish, speaking, thinking, eating, writing, and breathing that language. All of my songs today will be in the beautiful Spanish language, peeps. Let's see if I can find a few that I have been singing for ya!
While I was in college a la Universidad de Miami, my Mexican/Colombian friend Victor gave me a tape of Timbiriche, and this song was on it. After I learned the female parts to "Muriendo Lento" (or "Dying Slowly"), the two of us would hang out in my dorm room and sing it at the top of our lungs, full of feeling and heart. Haha! We probably drove my neighbors nuts. Victor was an unrequited love, alas, and we have since ended the friendship over our political differences, but the song - if you can get past the cheesy dancing - is a good one. Give it a listen.
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"La Rana" (or, "The Frog") is a totes magotes adorbs song that I learned in my AP Spanish class, back in high school 20 years ago! I've never forgotten it. Basically, it's a cute kids' song where the frog starts singing, and a fly comes along and makes him shut up. Then a spider comes along when the fly starts singing, and makes him shut up. Then a rat to the spider, a cat to the rat, a dog to the cat, and a man to the dog, each in turn shutting the one below it up as it starts to sing. Finally, when the mother-in-law comes along and starts to sing, not even the devil could shut her up! jajajaja
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That's all I can find, because I don't know the titles of the others I've been singing and don't feel like going on a lyric hunt! Maybe next freebie day I'll be a little less lazy. ;)
As an aside, it's really irritating to me that the YouTube page keeps telling me the page is in Spanish and asks if I want it translated to English. NO! I don't need that, thanks!
Reminds me of the old joke:
Q: What do you call someone who speaks three languages?
A: Tri-lingual (or multi-lingual)
Q: What do you call someone who speaks two languages?
A: Bi-lingual
Q: And what do you call someone who speaks one language?
Gah. iNo puedo soportar mas!
(I know I'm missing accent marks there, too, but my brain doesn't remember which ALT code that is at present, and again, I'm lazeeeeee.)
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Now go! Listen and enjoy, and visit and stuff. See ya...

Sunday Stealing: The Last Night Meme


Link up here if you're playing along yesterday! haha!

The Last Night Meme

 From By The Way Sunday, a now defunct meme blog.  

Did anyone call you last night?  

Yeah, my sister called while I was at my friend/Spanish teacher's house. I was supposed to call her back but never did. Thanks for the reminder!

How late were you on the computer last night?  

I really wasn't. I turned in early last night and slept late this morning. I've been sleeping a lot more lately. I'm not sure that's a good thing?

What did you have to eat last night?  

I had my mashed potatoes concoction: I add corn, sautéed garlic and onions, cheese, and of course, butter, milk, salt & pepper. Except I can't find the S&P so none of that. I topped it off with sour cream. I should really be ashamed of myself for eating that - but I only have a little bit!

Did you watch any good TV shows or movies last night?  

Nope, no screen time for me except this one.

Did any news items stand out to you last night? 

The only news of which I was made aware was that Sherman from the Seattle Seahawks was really thuggish in an interview he gave after they won.

Did you go out last night?  

I did. I spent probably way too long for my husband's liking at my friend Carlos' house. We had a pretty deep conversation, in both English and Spanish, and I feel like I'm learning a lot. I thoroughly enjoy his company.

What was the weather like last night?  

It was chilly! I was cold when I came home. Probably only in the 50s or 60s, but that's brisk for here.

What was the last thing you said last night?  

I don't know. I remember saying, "Chao" to Carlos when I left, but I'm not sure what I said to Rob, who fell asleep before me last night. He had a headache, which is not good at all in his condition.

What time did you go to bed last night?

It was in the 10-11 PM hour, so really early for me. I figured I'd get up early and get a jump on the day, but it was almost noon by the time I rolled out! 


Saturday 9: Best Song Ever


Link up here if you're playing along today!

Saturday 9: Best Song Ever


Unfamiliar with this week's song? Hear it here. (This is their official video and it begins with a skit; music starts at 2:25.)

1) Dancing all night to the best song ever would be good for the cardiovascular system. When is the last time you exercised?

I confess, I exercise my mind more than my body. I'm getting there, though, slooooowly.

2) The girl in this song is the daughter of a dentist. "Dentophobia" is fear of dentists. How do you feel about going to the dentist?

It has never bothered me to go to the dentist. I've never had a fear of that.

3) One Direction performed this on Good Morning, America. Do you watch morning TV? If so, which show?

I don't watch any TV, none at all. We don't have service. I decided last night that that was probably a good thing. I don't need another time suck!

4) Listening to upbeat pop songs like this one makes Sam feel young. When is the last time you participated in an activity commonly connected to childen (like swinging on a swing, drinking chocolate milk, playing a board game, etc.)?  

I honestly can't remember the last time I did something like that. That makes me a touch sad; I'll have to work on that!

5) One of the boys, Louis Tomlinson, was an actor before joining the band. How many different professions have you tried? What were they?  

I've been a mama the longest, and a homeschooler the last, what, four years now? Before that, I was a marine biologist, and before that, a legal secretary. Other than mommying, though, I was a cashier the longest, and I truly enjoyed it. It gave me great pleasure. Oh! And I forgot mystery shopping, der. I've been doing that a long time, too.

6) The fans that have made One Direction millionaires are also the target audience for series like The Hunger Games, Harry Potter and Wimpy Kid. Do you read Young Adult literature?

No, not really, but I looooove The Hunger Games movies, so I plan to read the book. Maybe I'll hit up the library later.

7) If this is the "best song ever," what song do you consider the worst? Tell us which song just sets your teeth on edge.

"Rihanna" drives me crazy. I can't stand Stevie Nicks' voice! I love Sting, but I also can't stand "Roxanne" - it just drives me crazy.

8) One Direction performed at the Royal Variety Show for Queen Elizabeth. If you found yourself presented to Her Majesty, what would you say?

"What's up, bitches?!!" Just kidding. I don't know. I only hope that I would comport myself well. I don't always, you know...

9) Right now, is your life moving in the right direction or are you feeling a bit aimless?

A little bit of both, I think. We're kind of in limbo waiting for Rob's brain tumor to decide to hit the road, so until he's feeling fine, we're just kind of scooting through life. It doesn't bother me, though. I can roll with it.



I Haz The Sads

IMG_7209Lucky having a nap in the bathoom sink - his favorite spot

It's no secret that we're animal lovers, I think. So yeah, we have five cats and maybe that's a little much, but we're down from a high of eight, and it looks like that's where we're going to stay right now.


Of course, we don't want to contribute to the kitty overpopulation problem, and yeah, we're a bit behind, so Saturday was supposed to be the day for all three of our male furbabies to be neutered. We had checked prices all over the place and finally settled on taking them to the Meow Mobile set up by The Cat Network here in Miami-Dade County. The price was, according to their website, only $15 if the cat was from certain zones, and we did. So when I got the confirmation email on Friday saying that it would be $50 per cat, I was quite chagrined. I changed our reservations to include only Pepper, who had been isolated to the master bathroom because he wanted to pee outside the box everywhere. The little two guys had to wait. Chloë and I got up early Saturday morning, tucked him into his carrier, and drove down the road to meet the Meow Mobile.


We waited in line for our turn to deliver Pepper to the busy volunteers at The Cat Network's Meow Mobile at our local YMCA. When it was our turn, the intake vet tech was rushed and distracted, shoving the cash I gave her into her scrubs pocket without even counting it. I have a tendency to "mystery shop" everywhere I go, everything I see, and I was starting to have misgivings as we drove away after dropping off our Pepper.

We had no way to call and check on him, as the volunteers don't answer the phone line on the site and rarely return calls. They only call pet owners when they have a problem with a surgery, on their own personal cell phones, so when my phone rang with a local number an hour before he was due to be picked up, I freaked a little inside. I knew it was about Pepper, but what?

Thankfully, it was just a call that he was ready... so off Chloë and I went to go get him.


When we got there, two people were in line ahead of us, so I was able to observe and evaluate some more. I took sad note of the fact that when the newly-spayed and neutered cats were taken out of the truck, their carriers were tossed or dropped onto the ground, rather than placed gently for the inhabitants' comfort. Cue the alarm bells.

When Pepper was brought out, I tried to nab the carrier from the handler before he, too, could be dropped, but I didn't get there in time. Plunk!

He was active in his kennel, which we took as a good sign. I was given paperwork for the rabies vax for which I had paid that morning, but nothing was said to me about his care. Not a word, no instructions given, and I had never neutered a male animal before. Something would have have been nice...!


All the way home, Chloë kept insisting that he must have had a bath, because he was soaking wet, but  told her that no, I was sure he hadn't. It was clear when we got him out that he was covered in urine, and when I say "covered," I mean thoroughly drenched, sopping wet and dripping. It's not unusual for Pepper to tinkle a little when he's in his cage, but this was absurd IMO.

We told Chloë to gently, lightly, carefully bathe him with a minimal amount of water to get the urine off him. I knew it wasn't the best idea to bathe him right after surgery, but (a) he reeked, (b) he was literally that gross, and (c) I hadn't been instructed, well, not to, so...

I knew she would be careful. Chloë babies Pepper like he's the most fragile, delicate creature on the planet. They are over the moon about each oher and have a strong, unbreakable bond. She gingerly washed away the pee and carrie him out to the couch, wrapped lightly in a towel, supporting his backside.

It was then that I gave Pepper a little exam of my own. Of course, as a Maine Coon, he had needed to be shaved; no surprise there as all cats would need that, surely. But fur from outside the shaved area was glued down to the wounds, and obviously I didn't want to go yanking it off, so I didn't get to see the wound on his belly too well. For some reason I didn't understand, it was tinged blue. Maybe that was the surgical glue? I don't know.

Then I examined his boy bits and discovered, to my shock and horror, at least a centimeter-long open wound on the right side of his scrotum. I could see right inside, into the red-lined cavity; it wasn't closed at all. There was no trace of glue, so while I'm willing to give the Cat Network the benefit of the doubt in that maybe it was washed away when Chloë cleaned him up, I have this niggling doubt about that.

He didn't seem too uncomfortable, but then, Pepper is a quiet, stoic cat who rarely expresses himself, other than his chirping mewling when he was lonely and wanted company in the bathroom. So to say I was concerned would be an understatement. I took to Facebook to express that concern, and opinions varied from surprise and outrage to letting me know what awesome healers cats are (I'm a dog person who learns more about cats daily) and that he was fine.


I called the emergency after-hours vet for advice. They said he may have been too active after surgery and popped the glue there, and told me what to watch for in case of an infection. They also said we could attempt to close the gash, so we did. Steri-strips wouldn't stick, so we used Krazy glue, applied very carefully.

After a while in Chloë's arms, I brought him a little food in my hand, and Pepper chowed down like a champ. We decided to put him down and let him get some on his own. He ate like a starving person at a buffet, drank a lot of water, and ate some more. Good!

When it became clear he wanted to bother with his boo-boos, Jack and I ran down to Petco to get him a surgical collar. He's not too happy with that, but it works, obviously. We'll keep it for the next round of neutering next month, but you can be sure it won't be through the Cat Network! I'll explore more options.

So the boy is fine, but let me tell ya, the Meow Mobile did not "pass" my evaluation. I would not recommend them in a million, trillion years. Call me overprotective, but as a pet mommy, that's my job. I'm disappointed in so many ways, yet thankful Pepper is all right.

And that's what matters most.


Sunday Stealing: The Fast Dozen Meme

I'm not feeling well (food poisoning, I'm quite sure, so I'm doing my first post from my iPhone. Apologies for any weird formatting!)

1. What is the last book that you passed on to someone else to read?

The Hunger Games, before I read it, sadly. I didn't know how into it I was going to be!

2. The one song you secretly (or not) want to sing at karaoke?

I've never done karaoke. It's on my bucket list to get drunk and belt out "What's up?" by The Four Non-Blondes

3. If you had to pick a new name for yourself, what would it be?

I like Melanie, but Ann is boring. I need something more colorful, like moi. Maybe Melanie Penelope Wilhelmina Caliope Gutierrez???

4. What do you wish your boss would notice?

I am my own boss, so I wish she would notice how hard I work and give me some slack!

5. What is your biggest pet peeve?

In driving, it's being behind someone taking the sloooooooowest right turn ever. In a crowded mall, it's people with their baby stroller who stop and bend over to check on the tot in the middle of the walkway. Really?? Move to the side! In general, it's smokers smoking around doorways (of restaurants, hospitals, whatever I'm passing through) and children. Get a clue. No one wants your stank-ass air-cancer.

6. What holds you back from pursuing your biggest dream?

A combo of fear and lack of funds

7. Why do you think you are a lovable person?

Oh gosh. That's actually a hard one for me. I struggle with that. I guess I have to say that it's simply in the wanting to be, and the trying to be.

8. If every day had an extra hour in it, what would you do with it?

More of the same shit I do now, I guess! I'm not limited by time much right now.

9. What was the last song you turned up in your car or house?

Car - Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody"

House - Nikki Williams' "Glowing"

10. What is your secret talent?

I'm a good kisser, and I can balance a spoon on my nose.

11. What's your favorite thing to do outside when it's not too cold in Winter?

I live in Miami, so I love to go to the beach and thumb my nose at the calendar!

12. How do you respond if someone asks you an inappropriate or nosy question?

In theory, I make like Ann Landers and ask, "Why do you need to know that?" But in practice, I usually stammer my way through a real answer.


Sunday Stealing: The Fast Dozen Meme

There Was A Little Girl Who Had A (Thousand) Little Curl(s)...



Yesterday was super-fun for Chloë and me. We had gone bowling a couple days prior, and we spent the entire day together, just the two of us, on Thursday, too.


Of course, it was all for a mystery shop. I don't move unless I'm getting paid for it anymore. Ha! I kid - but not by much.

This time, we had to take a bus tour around Miami and surrounding cities, including Miami Beach, Coral Gables and Coconut Grove, and Little Havana. Thankfully, it did not rain and was not freezing, like it had been on Tuesday when we went bowling, so we were able to sit on top of the double-deckers we rode. That meant a ton of wind through our hair, especially on the expressways, and low-hanging branches hitting us in the face when we forgot to duck, when in the neighborhoods!


The bus tour was such that one could hop off and hop back on at dozens of spots, so when we hit Coral Gables, we decided to see if we could find an old college of professor of mine. I'd unsuccessfully tried to find him a time or two since we moved here, but I was bound and determined this time. Here we are on the famous Miracle Mile of Coral Gables, where shops upon shops lure passers-by to separate from their funds.


I've passed by the famous Biltmore Hotel many times in my life, but it wasn't until the narrated tour that I learned a lot of interesting facts about it - all of which forgotten now, I'm sure. My mind is like a sieve these days.


To get to the University of Miami, Chloë and I had to leave the bus, hop the trolley to the Metro, take that train down to the University station, and then walk all the way through campus to get to the Cox Science Building where I spent the vast majority of my college learning days. She was exhausted, having been up much of the night before, but she didn't complain, not even once!


I knew where Dr. Dan DiResta's office should have been located, but then I found the entire Marine Science department under renovations, and his name was not on any of the nearby plaques. Rats. But I took a chance, and knocked on a female Ph.D.'s office to ask if she knew of him. She did, and he was right upstairs, and she took us there!

Dr. D. made my entire day - no my WEEK - by turning around when I knocked on his door and called, "Hellooo!" and, after taking one look at me, exclaiming, "Melanie!!" I thought I'd have to explain who I was, since I first met him 20 years ago next month, but he knew me immediately!! And then he went on to say that I looked exactly as I had those 20 years ago when he first met me. What a nice, decent guy to say that, especially now that I'm approaching 40 and was 17 when we first met. I glowed the entire rest of the day.

Dan is a tall fella with at least a foot on me, so he was hunching down a lot to take this "selfie" on which I insisted. I wanted to take him to lunch, but it was 1:30 PM by that point, he'd already eaten, and he was on his way to a meeting with another former prof of mine. So we spent about 15 minutes catching up over the past 17 years (I graduated in '97), with promises to grab that lunch the next time I was going to be in the area.

Can you believe he remembered me so clearly, so instantly, after hundreds upon hundreds of students have filtered in through his door? He's not just a professor, after all, but a student advisor, and many years have passes since our last face-to-face encounter. Of course, I was one of his top students and became a student mentor for incoming marine science students myself, so we worked together a little bit, but like I said: YEARS. What a huge thrill.


After I hugged Dr. Dan about five times and said good-bye, Chloë and I went over to the student union, AKA the "UC," to get her some food. We passed by this giant |__| that wasn't there when I was matriculating at the school, and that made for a good photo-op. Curls decided that she wanted to go to college at UM, too, which made me gulp more than a few times. As Florida's most prestigious private university, it comes with a stiff price that I'm still struggling to pay off myself, even with my hefty scholarship! Eek. But it's a great school, where 15,000 students a year flock to enroll at all levels from around the world, so if she can get in, it would definitely be worth it to have her join my legacy there.


After a quick bite to eat, we headed back to the Metro station, where Romero Britto left yet another one of his marks. They even talked about Britto on our bus tour, which was cool, because I was able to share a few things the guide didn't mention. Namely, that we have a Britto in our living room, heh heh. Kidding, I didn't really mention that, but maaaan I want to meet that guy!


After we took the train to the trolley, and the trolley back to our bus, the next stop was in Little Havana. We stopped right next to this really cool Domino Club in a local park and watched the old-timers play dominoes. It struck me as being very authentically Miami-ish, and I enjoyed the scene playing out before us.


Hopping back on the expressway, we made our way back downtown to switch to the South Beach route. I mentioned two posts previous that I love the city, love the view, love it all... and I do! When it opens up before you, even on the highway, it takes your breath away. I admit, I am absolutely a city girl at heart. The hustle and bustle, the always something new to do... it's right up my alley.


This was approximately 2.5 seconds before a palm frond whacked me in the face. Ouch! Oh well, at least my phone didn't get knocked out of my hands!


Here's our view on the causeway over to Miami Beach. Lovely. I learned a few things on this trip, too, but mostly I just petted Chloë's sleeping head on my lap. She was sooo tired by this point.


Our tour bus guide for this leg of the trip was trés entertaining, and I laughed a whole lot. I felt like his jokes were for me, since most people didn't speak much English and I was sitting right next to him, and I know he enjoyed my appreciation! He had an accent, so I thought maybe he was from South/Central America or maybe even Italy - check out those hairy arms! - but after he polled the top of the bus for everyone's origins, I asked and discovered he's originally from right here in Miami. He found it quite surprising that we live here, too, so I had to come up with a little scenario about us "playing tourists" for the day! Really nice guy and really entertaining; I enjoyed this leg the most.


I've been to SoBe dozens of times, and I never tire of it. The Art Deco is just the style of art that I really like, partly because it's so geometric, partly because it's so functional, and partly because of all the bright pops of color everywhere. Yes, just my style.

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We had free drink coupons for The Clevelander from our bus tour, so we hopped back off the bus and made our way over to that fine hotel. I don't know what I drank, but it was fruity, and cold - and strong! Chloë had water, even though I'd been promised they had non-alcoholic concoctions for the young'uns, because the server said nope!


"Take me home and I'll rock your world" - did I write that?! ;)

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I wish I could claim she got those Shirley Temple ringlets from me, but those are ALL Rob. Beautiful, beautiful hair on this gorgeous little girl. I'm not biased, am I? Ever since she made her way into this world over 12 years ago, I've thought Chloë the most stunning child ever. Okay, maybe a little biased... ;)


Since we arrived at Happy Hour, we decided to have a snack. Chloë had the pretzel bites, which were long like cigars but much fatter, like a... well, never mind. But bites? I think not.


The server recommended the fried calamari to me over the coconut shrimp, so I went ahead and took he advice. Delicious! Total bill for our food and alcohol, including the tip? $13. Not too shabby!

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We still had time before the next bus was due to arrive, so we decided to run down the beach and stick our feet in the water, just to say we'd been to the ocean in January. It was way more empty than the last time we'd come to this beach, in August, with my pal Kellee. Not warm at all, but warm for the Northerners who were surely all over the place, I figured it would be a little more populated, at least. Maybe they were all indulging in Happy Hour, too?

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Even the lifeguard shacks on South Beach are Art Deco-y!

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Chloë decided it was too chilly, after all, to stick her feet in the water, but I was not so easily discouraged. I had a skirt on, so I tiptoed right in and whoo! Cold! I watched the waves swallow up some seaweed, and then we made our way back up toward the bus pick-up area.


As we passed the Fountainblue, with it's risky-for-its-time sculpture, I made a mental note to come back soon. South Beach is about an hour's drive from home, like most places around here, but I've got so many good memories of the place.

And another free drink coupon to use, too.


Saturday 9: That's My Kind Of Night



Link up here if you want to be famous! Er, whatevs.

Weird formatting aside, because Typepad and Explorer don't mix well, here we go!

Saturday 9: That's My Kind of Night


Unfamiliar with this week's song? Hear it here.


1) In this song, our hero offers to take his girl down to the river to catch a catfish dinner. What is your favorite seafood?

I'm more of a crustacean kind of girl. I like my shrimp and crab almost MORE than I like lobster, too. But I'm trying to quit all of it and go full vegetarian. I've been saying that for a long time, though; you probably no longer listen!

2) Luke Bryan went to Georgia State University, home of the Panthers. What was your school mascot?

High school - the B'ville Bees

College - the Miami Hurricanes

Grad School - the USF Bulls or something, I believe. Didn't pay much attention; I'm a 'Canes girl!

3) Have you ever tried acupuncture?

I have, in my intensive therapy after losing my son, to help me with anxiety, PTSD, etc. It worked but not long-term. If insurance would pay for it, I'd go nonstop.

4) Just last night, Crazy Sam threw away a jar of Miracle Whip because it expired in September 2013. Is your refrigerator neat and organized? Or is it a disaster area, like Sam's?

Right now it's full of mostly condiments and take-out since we've been on the go a lot. There is fresh milk, and there are plenty of eggs, but that's about it. It's messy, though. I'm forever railing about people cleanin up after themselves in there!

5) Which is more important to you -- saving time or saving money?

Saving money. I'm always on the hunt for the best deal!

6) Sam's next door neighbor is named Jim. He's retired, smokes a pipe and drives a red Corolla. Tell us about one of your neighbors.

Our neighbor across the street is our gate security guard supervisor. He calls me "Cutie" every time he sees me, and asks me how my twins are. Since one of my twins isn't living, he's obviously talking about two of the other three kids - but which two?! And does that mean I'm not really cute, since his vision mus not be that great? Dang. (He doesn't recognize me when I'm wearing my glasses, so I think I have my answer.)

7) What's the most recent magazine you flipped through?

Something mom-oriented, like Woman's World or something. It was all about getting organized for the new year, which is pretty unoriginal if you ask me. I didn't find any tips I hadn't already thought of myself or read before, but I did discover if I want to become a dog walker. And I might, since I'm a total dog lover and we have five cats!

8)  Could your vehicle use a trip to the car wash right now?

Yes it could; I was just saying I needed to find a mystery shop for that to Hubs a few days ago. The recent rain helped, but it's still pretty grungy.

9) Did you hit the snooze button this morning?

Nope, I woke up at the butt crack of noon today. I'm not feeling well this week and needed my rest.


The Concrete Jungle


There is a lot of highway mileage covered when you're traveling in and around Miami, whether it be for mystery shopping or any other reason. It's a really beautiful city, as cities go, with the highways and bi-ways lined with palm trees, crystal-blue waters, and all kinds of orange and green (two of my favorite colors, and not just because I'm a 'Canes girl.) (Okay, maybe it is.)

There is this place, when you're heading south on the Turnpike from northwest Miami, that, when you turn the corner, it changes up from the beautiful scenery mentioned above to a vast interlocking labyrinth of overpasses, exits, highway turns and more. Everything is cement gray. It's kind of cool in an ugly way, and ugly in a cool way. That is my least favorite place in Miami, because you can't see ANYTHING orange or green, just the gray, but it's also really interesting because it only lasts for a moment (if traffic is actually moving), yet it has a huge impact on your eyes. We only hit that not-so-sweet spot once or twice a month, because every time we head out, it's on a different stretch of road, but it kind of takes my breath away each time I do see it. And I think, This. This is what Charlie Stross and all the rest of those guys mean by 'The Concrete Jungle.' 

And just like that, you've zipped past that bland, dingy vista and are deposited back onto your road with the beautiful trees and blue skies reflected in bluer water, and you remember why you moved to Miami in the first place.

* * * * *

Speaking of Miami, we found ourselves in Neverland this past weekend. Oh, my gosh, y'all.

The thing about mystery shopping is, you have a lot of training to read before you go, a lot of observations to make while you're there, and a lot to write about when you get home. It's not a 'cake' job; it's not the 'fluff' people assume it is. Most folks hear "mystery shopping" and thing, oh, dumb job for dumb people who like to shop. Not so, mon frer, not so.

It's work. It's a real job for those of us who take it seriously, and it's not easy for anyone who knows how to do the job properly. I'm as highly trained as they come for the work I do, and I have years of experience. I've done almost everything under the sun when it comes to evaluating businesses, and I have loads of anecdotes for anyone who wants to know ... if I were free to share them. But I'm not.

Anyway, the point is, there is a certain level of unspoken promise between my companies and me, the independent contractor, that they will prepare me properly for each job I have to do. They tell me exactly what to expect and to do to get the job done right, and on my end, I have to follow through with that or I won't get paid my fees and reimbursements.

So imagine when that promise is broken, and what could happen. Let me paint a little picture for you of what happened to us this past weekend:

I was supposed to do a couple of valet parking shops, to assess the level of service provided by the valets at each of two locations. No big deal. I thought I knew where I was going, near a popular marketplace in Miami, and therefore I felt I did not have to dress up too much. Since all five members of Team Odette are feeling slightly bedraggled lately, I decided to slum it and went out in my U of Miami sweats and a semi-matching tank top. Nothing fancy, nothing upscale, but dressed enough to hit up a mall. Y'know?

Except, wrong. Not a mall. Not slum-worthy.

We ended up in Miami's Financial District, and I made a wrong turn at Albuquerque while looking for the first valet stand. I drove into a parking garage, thinking I could just turn around and head back out. But, uh, no. Denied! We were there in our run-down 2004 Chevy, surrounded by the latest models of Porsche, Maserati, Ferrari, you name it... all sleek, all shiny, all expensive. We were thoroughly out of place.

And I could not get OUT! One had to have the special clicker doohickey to even open the "out" gate. I drove up to a guy washing his black convertible something-fancy-or-other, blasting his music, wearing his expensive (even for car-washing) threads, with his slicked-back hair, and begged him to let me out. I expected airs and eye-rolling, but he could not have been less conceited. He motioned down the guard to let me out, and out we went. Rob and I had a hearty laugh over that mistake.

And then what happened?

I drove up to the first valet stand, having realized my initial wrong turn mistake, and found the restaurant I was supposed to visit boarded up, under construction. The valet I was evaluating ran over, informing me that it was closed. Clearly, we were at least $2 Million too broke to be anywhere near this place, so I had to think fast. I had to play it totaly cool. I had to park, after all, to fully do my job. 

"Can you park the car for me?" I asked. "Where are you going?" he asked, suspiciously, since he had already told me my intended destination was not currently open for business, and the rest of the building was residents-only-please-and-thank-you.

"I... uh, I need to run a couple of errands." "Like what?" he persisted. "Well, really, we just want to look around," I stammered. "No... I don't think so. It's for residents only. I need a name." "Uh... well... okay. Thank you." 

Pfft. Cool, my butt. That's the last word anyone would ever use to describe this girl, and while I did my best to get in that building, I couldn't think quickly enough on my feet to get 'er done.

And then what happened?

We drove around the block to the second valet stand I had to evaluate. The valet, who looked just like a Hispanic John Mayer, took one look at our loud, growling dump of a car and raised quizzical eyebrows at me. He was nothing but pleasant, but I could tell he was thinking, "Who invited these people?"

I told him where we wanted to go, another restaurant, and asked if he could park the car. He was happy to do so, but he remained puzzled. I could just tell. The "What in the world?!" look on his face was exacerbated by three little kids getting out of the back and my decidedly un-fancy attire.

Oh, great, I thought. I prepared myself to be mortified. At least I had thrown on a bra that morning, whew!

So we walked into the restaurant, which had an obscure-sounding, esoteric name that left no clues as to what kind of establishment it was. I didn't even know if it was a restaurant until we walked in the door. And walked right back out to regroup and re-plan.

"Follow me," I told Rob and the kiddos, after deciding what to do. And that was, go in there and act like we belonged, despite the fact that it was painfully obvious to everyone in that place that we did not.

I had to sit in the bar and order drinks. I had three kids with me. Do you see the problem? So I spoke to the hostess, who said we could sit in the lounge area and make sure they didn't, you know, drink the alcohol. That much I could handle, y'all. I don't make it a habit of letting my 8-year-old toss back a few shots.

So we sat down in a cozy area, with ostrich skin-covered couches and calfskin rugs. My vegetarian self cringed at the thought of it, but I rolled with it. We ordered our drinks and some appetizers, used the fancy restrooms equipped with tooth-flossing stations (weird much?), and sat there for the required half-hour like we had every right to be there.

And you know what? We may not be among the super-rich, we may not be the elite, but we're people, too. Or so I kept telling myself, amidst all the curious stares from the Beautiful People.

And then, after the shops were over, I went home and told my mystery shopping company that they had better do a better job of prepping the next people to do this or any other shop, because, yeah. If I can't perform well, they don't get a decent report, and what's the point then?

It was a learning experience. And don't get me wrong - I've done many an upscale shop where I had to play the part of the rich lady who lunches or whatevs - but I've always known from Jump Street that I had to assume that role. It's not my favorite role, because I'm more the casual girl-next-door type, but I can certainly do it if I know about it in advance.

Ah, well. It was worth a few good laughs after we got back in our old Trailblazer and zipped, er rather, chugged away!




Sunday Stealing: The Generic Meme


Link up here if you're playing along today!

Smelly Note: Just in case we're not friends on Facebook and you don't read here regularly, Hubs is having issues with his brain tumor stuff again and I haven't had much time to POST on this blog let alone visit others. I'm really sorry about that, but I want you to know I read and love and appreciate all of you who take the time to visit this one. I'll be back around as soon as I can!


The Generic Meme

1. What did you want to be when you were little? 

I wanted to be a teacher and a librarian. In some ways, I am! (We homeschool.)

2. Would you prefer to have a large group of friends, or a small group of friends? Why? 

I love what I have: A small group of really CLOSE friends, and a large group of really GREAT friends.

3. What is your fashion “style”? Or what type of clothes do you wear on a daily basis? 

My style is evolving. When I was big, it was "whatever fits and is comfortable." I wear a lot of skirts and dresses now. I think I'd be edgy but preppy if I had the budget to buy a lot of nice clothes, though.

4. If you could live anywhere where would you live? 

I'm happy right where I am, and I have no intention of moving anytime soon. (Miami)

5. What is your biggest hope for the next year? 

I hope that my husband's brain tumor issues will be resolved, and he will get back to feeling, looking, and enjoying his regular ol' self again.

6. When you pass by reflective surfaces do you check yourself out? 

Yeah, but I'm usually glowering at the shape (and bulges) of my body, rather than enjoying the view.

7. Favorite genre of movie as well as TV show

Comedy all the way. I was born to laugh!

8. Top favorite books? (limit of 5) 

My favorite book is Evergreen by Belva Plain. I read it for the first time in high school, and it has stuck with me all these years. I related to the main character so strongly.

9. Have you ever taken a cooking class? 

I haven't, but it would be fun. My kids have, though, at Young Chef's Academy or whatever it's called, in Va Beach, and they always loved it.

10. What three words would you use to describe yourself? 

Smart, funny, kooky

11. Favorite animal? 

Land: elephants

Sea: sharks

Air: ibis

12. What is your dream job? 

Honestly, I love what I do. I'm a wife first, a mom second, and I really do love mystery shopping. It keeps us hopping and we get to do so many fun things that we otherwise wouldn't be able to experience. I have a good life, and I love it. (Not gonna lie, though - I miss being a scientist almost every day.)

13. If you could go back in history to any moment that you did not live, what would it be and why? 

I'd go to a 50s sock hop, because how fun would that be?! 

14. If you could have any superpower, what would it be? Why? 

I would be able to fly. I'm always dreaming of myself flying around, and it's a combination of elation and terror that is so exciting and real when I wake up. I'd love to be able to experience soaring above everything, up, up, higher and higher, into the sky.

15. What is your favorite movie? 


16. What is your best childhood memory? 

My mom was alive, so I had to be very young, maybe 3 or 4, and she would play house with my older sister and me. She would always be the baby, crawling around sucking her thumb, and I used to think she was so funny! I remember one time getting really close in her face and examining her crooked teeth. I thought my mother was so beautiful. Really, though, every memory I have of my mother is so meaningful to me, and I cherish each one. There are so few.

17. What is your favorite part about blogging? 

I love just being able to express myself. I'm not the best speaker, but I'm a decent writer, and I feel much more well-understood in written form.

18. What is your favorite quote? 

I'm not much of a quote person, so I'll just quote my Facebook tagline: "I like cheese." (And I mean that in every sense of the word!)

19. What song do you feel describes your life the best? Why? 

Maybe it should be R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly," based on that previous answer, but I kid. I think "Trees" by Marty... ugh, I can't remember his name right now, and my whole iTunes got deleted. I'll get back to you.

20. Would you describe yourself as shy or outgoing?

Many people who "read" me online don't believe this, but I'm super-shy. I always have been. I remember hiding behind my mother's legs, and my dad chastising me, "Mellie-Ann, don't be so bashful!" I'll probably never grow out of it.


Wine Me, Dine Me...


Christmas lights in Miami's South Beach, 23 December

It's been a whirlwind, the last week for Team Odette! Phew! Let's see:

  • Dozens of mystery shops to complete, and the matching reports to write
  • Our 13th anniversary on Thursday
  • Same night relapse (maybe??) for Rob's brain tumor issues, with successive trip back to the neurosurgeon and the wait for another MRI while the local machine is down
  • Trips from Fort Lauderdale to Key West

Yeah. We keep busy here, and it's not about to let up anytime soon! Here are a few things we've done, which involves a lot of eating and drinking. Sirrusly, if I get chubby again, blame the job!


On Boxing Day, we went up to Fort Lauderdale to visit our friends, Erica, Kevin and their daughter Kira. The four of us grown-ups chatted away for hours, and the kids played in Kira's room. I fell asleep for a couple hours at one point! So rude, but so needed. Jack and Chloë zonked out on Kira's bed, too! Sleepy time for us, I guess.


Selfie with Chloë, 27 December


Two days after Christmas, we visited The Cheesecake Factory with a large gift card I had received. I had a lovely salad, here, and...


... a way spicy bowl of bean and rice something or other to eat. And, oh, yes, there was cheesecake! 


The kids shared this slice, and Rob and I took home a Kahlua slice for later. I didn't like it much, though, so I stopped after a couple of bites. He didn't much mind.


We still have tons of unpacking to do, so we decided to plunge in before the new year and dig the kids out of their rooms. Rob and Jack worked on the boy's room, and I spent an evening, all night, and the entire next day working on the girls' room. Of course, they helped me when they were awake, and this is the result. I wish I had taken a 'before' picture, because there was a tremendous difference! They are SO happy to have a nice room now!


Jack's room remains a work in progress, but they're almost finished. I love this photo of Jack peeking out of one of the giant moving boxes!


Selfie with Jack, 29 December


On 30 December, we headed back to Key West, about a 7-hour round-trip from our home, for four back-to-back high-end mystery shops. Here is the obligatory chicken picture. We stop at the same Circle K outside of Key West every time we go down there, and each time, I am possessed to take a chicken picture. I can't explain why.


We had major babysitter issues in the Keys for that trip, since I had two bar shops to do and couldn't have the children with us, but eventually we worked it out. I even called Stephanie up and asked for her input, and she telephone-interviewed a couple of folks for me, which is fantastically helpful! I wish I had gone with her final choice instead of what I did, which was call the nanny service recommended by the concierge of a top hotel in the area. The sitter we ended up with was nice enough, but a bit brain-dead, overpriced, and well, I just don't think we'll use her again. So we sat and had a Corona for Rob and a piña colada for me - okay, two each, while the kids ran around Duval Street with the dim-witted nanny.


We had to eat there, too, so Rob had wings, and I had a delicious quesadilla. I made it festive for, you know, the holidays and such. Silly me.


Rob posed for me next to the beautiful pool, at the tiki bar I evaluated in Key West. Looks delightful, huh?


On our way to the second bar shop, we passed a yacht or two. We'll call this shot our pipe dream...


Selfie with Rob in Key West, 30 December


We were supposed to have two more mystery shops in Key West that day, and another in Key Largo, but none of the three panned out. One of those was for a dinner at a world-class restaurant, but I had needed to make reservations about a month in advance. My shop didn't allow for that, though, so I was out of luck, no matter what I tried. I spoke to the manager of the hotel, who gave me his business card and told me to call him personally the next time I was going to be in town, and he'd get me a table there. Then he told us that Stevie Nicks had been there recently, and I had to hide my disdain. Ask Rob: I am not a fan! Here, Rob posed for me next to a classic car (I forget what kind) in the garage on the way out of that experience.


On New Year's Eve day, the five of us headed up to Coral Gables, toward Miami proper, for a fancy lunch shop. I had a Cosmo with my lunch, because a drink was expected of me. It was delish, which is more than I can say for my lunch:

123113 Coral Gables Neiman Marcus Mariposa Appetizer 1

Don't get me wrong, my crabcake appetizer was delicious, and second only to Uncle Chuck's crab cakes (he of the famous Virginia Beach Farmer's Market), in my not-so-humble opinion.

123113 Coral Gables Neiman Marcus Mariposa Appetizer 2

Rob loved his tuna tartare appetizer, as well as...

123113 Coral Gables Neiman Marcus Mariposa Entrée 2

... his yummy lobster ravioli. Mmm, lobster. On the other hand, I lost out of my lunch.

123113 Coral Gables Neiman Marcus Mariposa Entrée 1a

See, the scallops I ordered looked beautiful, right? But what's that in the risotto? Oh, it's pancetta. I don't eat meat, other than certain sea creatures and only on occasion. The pancetta wasn't in the menu description, so as requested by my shop requirements, I sent it back to the kitchen.

123113 Coral Gables Neiman Marcus Mariposa Entrée 1b

When it came back, it looked like this! Full of red pepper sauce. I don't do spicy - I just can't handle it - so I didn't have a bite. Not one single taste. Ugh. I was so looking forward to it, too!

123113 Coral Gables Neiman Marcus Mariposa Dessert 1

We ordered creme brulee for dessert, and that was tasty. I was still semi-grumpy about my scallops, though.

123113 Coral Gables Neiman Marcus Mariposa Dessert 2

We also ordered chocolate lava cake for dessert. Hey, two desserts spread amongst five people is not outrageous, right? I didn't have any, but it was devoured by the rest of the fam.


I had to visit the ladies' room there, and check out the foyer before the actual restroom. The ladies' room was almost bigger than our house. Man...!


We ran the kids home, got our babysitter and changed clothes before heading out for a New Year's Eve bar shop at a tapas restaurant, again up in Coral Gables. I had a rum runner or something, but the drink was not as memorable as that enormous slice of lime!


Rob had some prosciutto or some other thinly-sliced cured meat, and I had Caprese Tomate tapas, which were, in a word, incredible. I can still taste them; I crave them, and I will definitely order those again!


Still hungry, we shared some bread with cheese and fruit tapas after that. Delicioso!


Selfie with Sophia, 31 December


"Happy New Year!" selfie, taken around 2300 before the year changed to 2014. By midnight, I was asleep. I think it was the first New Year I didn't ring in since I was a baby. Am I getting old on me?!


On New Year's Day, we went to the fair down the road from home. Oh, my word, you guys. I got hit on a hundred times, more or less, by the carnies working there. Rob was standing right next to me half the time!! And the carnies, of course, shared three teeth among the bunch of them. One guy was completely drunk and would not leave me alone to go operate the ride we were on, and I was with the girls. Gross. Another carnie winked at me and told me I was cute. He and a third guy, who stunk horribly, told me to come back and visit him alone that night... crazy hilarious. As if!!


Aside from that mess, though, the kids had a fantastic time at the fair, as did their parents. That's what matters the most. I took a lot more pictures, but I'll just stick with these two from the fair for now.


The next morning, January 2nd, was our 13th anniversary. However, it was Chloë I took with me for breakfast in Key Largo, as promised. We had a mystery shop there, and boy... it did not go too well. But my mommy-and-daughter time with Curls was worth the trip.


That day, I took Jack to get some pet fish, as we'd discussed the previous night. They're in their aquarium now, but I haven't taken photos of that yet, like I know you're anticipating. Meet Taco and Rocko! He's super excited about his pets - and the girls were, too. So much so that they pooled their saved allowance money and bought themselves an aquarium set-up and each a fish, too. No pictures yet of Wiggles and Multi, but those will come down the pike sooner or later, unless the cats eat them first. Ha!

010314 BJs drink

Rob had his episode that night, so we had to abort our dinner shop for that night right after we got there. We're still waiting to get him in to the imaging department at the local hospital for another MRI, so in the meantime, we did a lunchtime shop at a brewery yesterday. I had a weak Mai Tai to drink, and I think my report was so scathing that the bartender will get severely reprimanded, if not fired. I'm trying not to feel bad about it, remembering that if he did his job well, my job wouldn't have hurt him.

010314 BJs food

We had the calamari for an appetizer, and that was the one good thing that happened on that shop!

On that note, I have to go see about getting ready for more evaluations today and tomorrow. I have a bunch lined up, and as long as Rob's brain wants to behave, I better go do them. TTFN, folks!


Saturday 9: Believe

Link up here if you're playing along today!

Welcome to the first Saturday 9 of 2014! 


1) In 1998, Cher became the oldest woman to top the Billboard Hot 100 with "Believe." She was 52 at the time. At what age do you think you did hit/will hit your prime?

I don't know. I thought it would be 30, but I'm not there yet at 37. Maybe my 40s? Maybe later? I'm waiting for that extra boost of confidence that I don't yet have.

2) Cher is as well known for her outrageous outfits as for her singing. What's the latest piece of clothing you added to your wardrobe?

It's a tangerine-colored maxi dress that I absolutely love, but I'm about 6" too short for it. I've tried eleventy different ways to wear it, from heels to cinching it up, but I think I'm just going to have to take it to get altered.

3) Cher credits her unique looks to her diverse ethnicity. Her father was Armenian and her mom is English/German/Cherokee. From where did your ancestors come?

I'm about a third Hungarian and English and 2/3 Pennsylvania Dutch/German. My grandfather on my dad's side came from Germany via the little-known Caribbean island of Saba, where a lot of my ancestors settled. They're all sea captains, and my dad's aunt - that grandfather's sister - wrote a book about them.

4) When she was a little girl, Cher produced and starred in a schoolyard production ofOklahoma. Were you involved in drama or theater in school?

I was. I acted in several musicals in my younger years, but I was too chicken to sing for an audition later on. My good friend Shana convinced me to join the drama club with her in our senior year, and I struggled with confidence then, too. I backed out of a performance on our opening night. Pretty lame.

5) Cher is open about her plastic surgery, speaking freely about having had her breasts 'done', her nose bobbed and her teeth straightened. If you could change one physical feature about yourself, which would it be? And what would you never change, under any circumstances?

I used to say I would get a chin, because I lack one with my tiny jaw, but I think I would leave my face alone. My husband thinks I'm pretty cute, so that is good enough for me. I'd totally get a boob job and a tummy tuck, though! Having four kids in fewer years than that, and nursing three of them for over a year, does a number on a woman's body!

6) There's a stubborn rumor, often denied, that Cher had a rib removed so that she could maintain her long and lean silhouette. What's the most outrageous thing anyone has said of you?

Oh, probably something my stepmother said about me when I was a child, but I don't want to explore that right now. I'm in my happy place!

7) When she was a kid, Cher practiced her autograph. Do you have a clear, legible signature? Or is it more of a scrawl?

I've recently changed my signature, within the past year. I don't know why; call it laziness, perhaps. It used to be much more legible, but now it's quite abbreviated and flourish-y.

8) Cher asks, "Do you believe in life after love?" Crazy Sam's question is easier and less profound: Do you believe in luck?

I don't think that's so unprofound. I don't, really. I believe it's all according to God's plan. I think it's all already laid out. I guess you could fit 'luck' into that description, but I don't.

9) Did you make any resolutions for 2014?

Not really. It's probably the first time in my life. I may still, but I haven't yet.