Caraval – Book Review

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission (at no cost to you). I only recommend books and products that I genuinely use, read, and love!

Last year there was a lot of buzz about the 2017 release of Caraval by Stephanie Garber. I put it on my list of books to read this year. It took me a while to get to it but I’m so glad I did!

Caraval is an intriguing game in which the audience participates. The game takes place once a year and the events that occur within the game are just as mysterious as Legend, the mastermind behind the Caraval games. Scarlett and her sister Tella long to attend the Caraval games for years but knew that their abusive father would never let them go. Finally, as Scarlett is preparing to marry and give up her dreams of attending Caraval, Legend sends a personal invitation to the sisters.When the girls arrive at Caraval they are told to be careful to avoid getting caught up in the game. The must remember that it is only a game no matter how real it seems. Caraval forces the sisters to question reality as well as their own relationship with each other.

I’m so happy that I finally got around to reading this book. Garber paints such an imaginative picture of the Caraval world. Her descriptive writing kept me engaged through the entire book. It proved to be a quick read for me.  The characters and the imagery were the two things that appealed to me most.  If you are a fan of The Night Circus, I really think you will enjoy Caraval as well.

Caraval is also the first in a series.  I have heard that the second book will be released in 2018 and I honestly can’t wait!  I rated this book a four out of five stars! If you like fantasy, great imagery, and mysterious stories, Caraval is one you should definitely check out!

4 Star Rating

 

 

The French Lemon Received the Liebster Award

The Liebster Award

You guys, I have some really exciting news!  The French Lemon was recently nominated to receive the Liebster Award.  The Liebster Award is an award that recognizes new bloggers!  Blogging isn’t always that easy so it was so nice to receive a little bit of recognition.  Thank you so much Claira at A Little Peace of Home for nominating me! I am so flattered and really appreciate it!

Question Time

Part of the Liebster Award is answering questions posed by the blogger who nominated you, so here are my answers to Claira’s questions!

1. Why did you start blogging?

I started blogging for a number of reasons.  First and foremost, blogging is a great way to document my life with my kids and husband.  It is also an excellent way to share what is going on in our lives with our family and friends.

Another reason that I started blogging is that I need a creative outlet. I love to write and people are constantly asking me how I handle different aspects of raising five kids.  Blogging lets me get my creative juices flowing and lets me share ideas and advice with others.

2. What is your favorite dessert?

Oh man! This is a hard question. I have the worst sweet tooth!  I’m not sure that I can even pick a favorite dessert but brownies and cheesecake ranks pretty high!

3. Do you prefer breakfast or dinner?

Dinner definitely!  I’ve never really been a breakfast person.  I have learned to appreciate breakfast foods more as I’ve gotten older but they still aren’t my favorite.

4. What is something that everyone should experience at least once in their lives?

I think everyone should travel internationally at least once in their lives.  I think the U.S. is a wonderful country but I think it is so beneficial to visit another country and experience another culture.  Travelling internationally forces you to see the world as other’s see it and at times, it can be a wonderful lesson in thinking critically and problem solving, especially in a country where you don’t speak the native language.

5. Where is your favorite vacation spot and why?

My favorite vacation spot right now is Paris. I love the city so much!  It has such a wonderful atmosphere and culture!  There are a lot of places I want to visit on my bucket list but I’m not sure I will ever fall out of love with Paris.

Passing on the Liebster Award

The second part of accepting the Liebster Award is to pass it on to other new bloggers that I think you should check out.  I’m passing the award on to the following bloggers:

Saidy at Simply Saidy

Savannah at Savannah Yost

Catarina at Dear Amelie

Allie at Bohemian Nation

Mallory at Plaid Shirt Yoga Pants

Casey at Hunting for Rubies

Nadia at Blonde the Road

Hev at Average Joe Adventures

My questions for these bloggers:
  1. If you could travel anywhere in the world where would it be?
  2. What is your favorite book and why?
  3. What is your favorite food?
  4. Why did you start blogging?
  5. What is the one piece of advice you would give to bloggers just getting started?

Thanks again to Claira for the recognition!

Fresh Donuts and Our Summer Cooking Plans

Donuts are one of my favorite treats.  There isn’t much that beats a fresh, warm glazed donut and a hot cup of coffee in the morning.  My children share my love of donuts and they often beg to hit up the local donut shop before school in the mornings. A couple years ago, I began to wonder how hard it would be to make our own donuts at home.  I set out to find a good recipe and replicate our favorite donuts. We experimented with a few cookbooks and recipes and finally found a donut recipe that we love.

My children declared this the summer of cooking with mom.  Every day one of them has asked to make something with me. They have decided that they want to spend this summer taking turns cooking with me.  Most of the time they each want to cook with me one-on-one but occasionally they pick a treat that requires a significant amount of work and they all pitch in to help.  This past Wednesday was one of those days. They decided they wanted to make homemade donuts.  Donuts aren’t a treat that we make often because they do take several hours to make.

We had absolutely nothing to do and nowhere to be on Wednesday so we all hustled into the kitchen. It took several hours but by the time Daniel got home from work we had two batches of donuts made. We had blast hanging out together all afternoon!

When I started my quest to find a yummy donut recipe for homemade donuts, I purchased several donut cookbooks.  My favorite one is Doughnuts: Simple and Delicious Recipes to Make at Home. I love this cookbook because the recipes and ingredients are simple.  The author, Lara Ferroni, includes recipes for basic glazed donuts as well as more elaborate recipes like strawberry shortcake donuts. There are recipes for both raised donuts and cake donuts as well as a variety of  frostings, glazes, and fillings.

To help make your donut endeavors successful, I do recommend these products.  They aren’t all necessary, depending on the recipe that you are using, but they are often helpful.

Basic Glazed Donuts

For the donuts:

  • 3 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 1 cup of whole milk
  • 2 to 2 1/2 cups of bread flour
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup of unsalted butter, melted
  • Vegetable oil for frying

For the glaze:

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons of milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Directions:
  1. Begin by heating the milk to roughly 115 degrees. In a medium mixing bowl, dissolve 2 tablespoons of the yeast into 3/4 cup of the warm milk.  Add 3/4 cup of the bread flour and stir to create a paste. Cover and let the mixture rest in a warm spot for roughly 30 minutes.
  2. Combine the remaining warm milk and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer.  With the paddle attachment on, add the rested flour, milk, and yeast mixture to the mixing bowl.  Add the sugar, salt, vanilla, and egg yolks. Mix until smooth. Remove the paddle attachment and use a dough hook to slowly alternate adding the rest of the bread flour and the unsalted butter until the dough pulls completely away from the sides of the bowl and is smooth and not too sticky. The dough should be very soft and moist but not so sticky that it is impossible to roll it out.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour but not more than 12 hours.
  3. Remove dough from the refrigerator. Line a baking sheet with a lightly floured non-terry dish towel. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface until it is roughly 1/2 inch think.  Use a donut cutter, to cut out the donuts.  If you would like these donuts to be filled, then do not cut the hole out.  A biscuit cutter works great for filled donuts.
  4. Place the donuts on the towel lined baking sheet at least 1 inch apart. Cover them with plastic wrap and allow them to sit in a warm spot to proof until they are double in size.  This usually takes about 5 to 20 minutes.  To test whether the dough is ready, tough it lightly.  If it springs back immediately then the dough needs more time.  If it springs back slowly, then the dough is ready. If it doesn’t spring back at all then the dough has overproofed.  Punch that dough down and roll it out again.
  5. For the glaze, mix the powdered sugar, milk and vanilla with a hand mixer on medium speed. You want a smooth, pourable glaze.  If the glaze is too runny, add a bit more powdered sugar.  If it is too thick, add a bit more milk.
  6. While the donuts are proofing, heat a heavy-bottomed pot with at least 2 inches of vegetable oil until a deep fat thermometer registers 360 degrees.  Once the donuts have proofed, use a metal spatula to careful lower the donuts into the hot oil. Fry for 1 to 2 minutes per side or until the dough turns a light golden brown.  Use a slotted spoon to carefully remove the donuts from the oil.  Place on a wire rack over a paper towel to drain the excess oil.
  7. After the donuts have cooled slightly, glaze them.  You can pour the glaze directly over them if you prefer.  I prefer to dip the donut in the glaze so that the glaze only covers about half the donut.

Source

This recipe and techniques are adapted from Doughnuts: Simple and Delicious Recipes to Make at Home by Lara Ferroni


Disclaimer

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission (at no cost to you). I only recommend books and products that I genuinely use, read, and love!

Reflecting On 30 and 40 Before 40

I turned thirty in April.  Since my birthday, I have been reflecting on this whole aging thing quite a bit. I don’t really have a problem with getting older and I certainly  do not feel different than I did at 29. However, as I reflect on the first 30 years of my life, particularly my twenties, I do wish I had done some things differently. Don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of things about my twenties that I wouldn’t change.  That decade gave me ten beautiful years of marriage to my best friend, five amazing children, two college degrees, and a lifetime of memories. However, if I could change anything in my twenties, I would have traveled more. I would have spent more quality time with my husband pouring into our relationship. I would have held my children a bit closer and a bit longer. I would have saved more money and spent less.

Turning thirty makes me feel as if I have a brand new start ahead of me.  I have a new clean and fresh decade to devote more time to the things that I neglected during my twenties.  That feels both exhilarating and daunting to me.

During this fourth decade of my life I want to travel more alone, with my kids, and with my husband.  Fun fact, Daniel and I have never stayed more than three hours away from our home together without kids and that has only happened once in the almost fifteen years we have been together.  We spent a weekend away at a spa in  2014 after Daniel graduated with his master’s degree. We didn’t even go on a honeymoon when we were married. I hope to change that soon. I want to see the world with Daniel and I also want to show the world to my children so I hope to spend more time traveling with them. So far, we haven’t taken them very far from home but now that most of them are getting older, Daniel and I have been talking a lot about the places where we would like to take them.

In addition to traveling, there are so many other things I hope to accomplish over the next ten years. I have goals concerning everything thing from paying off debt to participating in a triathlon. I’ve always been a goal-setter and a fan of lists so I have created a list of things I plan to accomplish before I turn forty. I had a lot of fun creating this list and I am seriously considering creating a lifetime bucket list.  I hope to document it here on the blog every time I cross one item off my lists! So, without further ado, here are the forty things I want to do before I turn forty!

40 Before 40

  1. Pay off our debt. I’m looking at you student loans!
  2. Become my own boss.
  3. Buy myself a “fun” car that all my kids won’t fit in. (Camaro, please!)
  4. Start swimming again. Maybe competitively.
  5. Participate in a triathlon at least once.
  6. Visit all 50 states. I’ve been to 25. 25 more to go!
  7. Save a substantial amount of money.
  8. Visit London and Paris with Daniel.
  9. Go to Disney World.
  10. Take my kids to the beach for the first time.
  11. Visit Las Vegas with Daniel.
  12. Go on an African safari.
  13. See the pyramids in Egypt.
  14. Visit forty countries.
  15. See an active volcano.
  16. See Pompeii.
  17. Spend New Years in Times Square at least once.
  18. Read 750 books.
  19. Write a book.
  20. Host an exchange student.
  21. Go on a cruise.
  22. Ride in a hot air balloon.
  23. Go hiking in a rain forest.
  24. Indoor sky dive.
  25. Face my fear of open water and learn to scuba dive.
  26. Eat at a Michelin 3-star restaurant.
  27. Visit Moulin Rouge.
  28. See the northern lights.
  29. Go zip lining.
  30. Go kayaking.
  31. Diversify my income.
  32. Get my nose pierced again.
  33. Get a tattoo for each of my children.
  34. Hike the Grand Canyon.
  35. See a musical on Broadway and in West End.
  36. Hold a sloth.
  37. Bathe an elephant.
  38. Learn to meditate and practice yoga effectively.
  39. Learn a second language.
  40. Say only yes to my kids for a whole day.  Keep ‘no’ out of my vocabulary.

What else should I aim to accomplish over the next decade? I’m open to suggestions! Shoot me a comment below!

How I Made $200 Online Last Week

I woke up this morning with more than $200 that I made online last week ready to be transferred to my checking account.  Stay tuned and I’ll tell you how I did it!

Bye, Bye Debt. Hello, Travel

I have found myself struggling with not being busy since finishing my master’s.  I like to have a goal in mind and I like to feel productive.  Since I am no longer focused on graduate school all the time, I’ve decided that I need to hone my focus in on other areas of my life that I have wanted to see change in for a while.

One thing that Daniel and I have talked about extensively for years but never really focused on was paying off all our debt (hello, student loans!) I’ve read and own all of Dave Ramsey’s books. We know what and how to tackle it we just haven’t really put in the effort over the past few years.  So many other things have held our attention that gardening our finances wasn’t really a priority. Without graduate school though, I have all the focus in the world to throw at it now!

In addition to eliminating our debt, my dream is to be able to make viable income online so that I can work on my own terms and be my own boss and travel whenever I want. I would love to be able to work from home and be more available for my kids.  So as I tackle our debt and save for future travels, I also plan to explore online employment and freelance opportunities.

It is also important to me to look for ways to diversify our income. In addition to online freelance work, I would also like to begin developing passive streams of income.  I’m not totally sure how I am going to accomplish all this but I know it is possible. At this point, it is one big experiment and I plan to report my findings here as I go along.

How I Made $200 Online Last Week

One of the first things I am doing to contribute to all our financial goals is to begin finding viable online streams of income. Last week I spent time working on two different websites that resulted in over $200 made in just my spare time.

I knew that I needed to find something where my specific set of skills would be useful.  With two degrees in history and working as an English teacher, my writing, editing, and proofreading skills are probably my biggest assets so that is where I started.

The first website that I worked on is Upwork.com. Upwork is a market place for freelancers. Clients post jobs and freelancers submit proposals for specific jobs that they would like to complete. The jobs range from proofreading to graphic design. If you are chosen to work on a job by a client, then a contracted is started. Depending on the contract, you are either paid hourly or a fixed price per project.  I have read many excellent reviews on Upwork. Several freelancers are making $5,000 to $10,000 a month completing projects through this website.

I signed up as a freelancer in mid-May. I landed my first job as a proofreader the last week of May.  I was hired by a publishing company to do a last read through of a novel before it is officially published.  They supplied the novel in PDF format. After I read it, I supplied the client with a list of the grammatical errors that I found. It was a fixed price project and I was paid $150. The project took me roughly three days to complete. After the client approves your work, the money is held in an escrow account for five days as a security measure. After those five days, then you are able transfer the money to your personal bank account.

The other side hustle that I worked online was Rev.com. Rev provides transcription, captioning, and translation services. I signed up as a transcriptionist because I have fairly good typing skills after writing so many papers in college.  The pay for each audio file varies but once you get the hang of it, it wouldn’t be hard to make several hundred dollars a week if you’re willing to put a little time in.  I have been averaging about $30 a week just transcribing a couple of hours after the kids are in bed one or two nights a week.  I imagine if I was willing to transcribe every night or even during the day some I could make quite a bit more.

Rev pays weekly.  On Mondays, your earnings from the week before are deposited into your Paypal account.  This is one of the quickest paying online jobs that I have found.

 

So what are the cons?

There are a few cons to both Upwork and Rev.  We’ll start with Upwork.  First, there isn’t any guaranteed work.  The best you can do is try to write an excellent proposal and put yourself out there.  Of the more than 30 proposals I submitted, I was only hired for one of them.  Once you are hired it is important that you do the best job that you can.  The clients are given the opportunities to rate you as a freelancer.  Those ratings are displayed on your profile for other clients to see.  Once you start getting work and more ratings, your chances of securing more jobs increase.

The second con that I’ve found with Upwork is that they take a 20% service fee out of your earnings.  This means that of the $150 I was paid for the proofreading job that I did, I only netted $120.  While it’s still not bad money, it still stinks having that percentage taken off the top.

Rev is a great option for people who are wanting to break into transcribing work. Most transcribing jobs requires you to have some experience. However, Rev will hire you without any experience so it is a great way to build your transcription experience.  The downside to Rev is that you have to pass several grammar and typing tests to be hired.  I didn’t find any of the tests very hard but if you struggle with grammar and punctuation or typing just isn’t you thing, Rev may not work out for you.

May Online Income Report

I’ve been fascinated by other income reports I have seen posted on several blogs.  After much internal debate on whether or not I should share how much I make online, I’ve decided to go ahead and share my results at the end of each month. I made this decision for a couple of reasons. First, I find other people’s online income reports super inspiring.  It helped me to realize that earning an income online is possible even if it is not a full time income. Second, it allows me to track my progress and see what is working and what I’m wasting my time on.

While earning an income online has been an interest of mine for a while, I really didn’t put any effort into it until after I graduated on May 12.  So, the income I’m reporting was really only earned the last half of May. I did make a small amount of money from the affiliate links and ads that are found on this blog which I have also included in this income report.

Online Income Total for May: $216.83

Here is where that total came from:

  • Upwork: $120
  • Rev.com: $90.52
  • Affiliate Links: $4.66
  • Ads: $1.65

I’m happy with this income for May since this was the first month that I really devoted any time to working on these income streams. And in all reality, I only put that effort in the last two weeks of the month.  These results aren’t too shabby for a couple hour’s work over the last two weeks.  I can’t wait to see what I can accomplish in June. Check back at the end of the month for the June online income report!