Italy – Part 1 – Verona and Venice

If you have been following The French Lemon for any amount of time, you probably already know that I spent some time in Italy this past March. Things have been so busy around here the past few months that I have failed to blog about it so I think it is time to change that.

My trip to Italy started with a 6:00 am flight to Atlanta.  We had a short layover in Atlanta and then flew to New York where we had another short layover.  We then flew from New York City to Milan, Italy.  It was an overnight flight which means that we landed around 8:00 am Italy time in Milan. I love overnight flights to Europe!  If your flight is scheduled to land early in the morning then that means the last bit of your flight is spent chasing the sunrise.  I love watching the sun slowly rise as the plane races towards it.  We were so fortunate with this flight.  As the sun began to rise, we were flying over the Swiss Alps! I had a window seat and was so thankful for that view!  It was absolutely glorious!

Flying over the Swiss Alps

Verona

We unfortunately did not spend any time in Milan.  As soon as we landed and made it through customs we boarded our bus that was waiting for us and headed for Verona.  We arrived in Verona in time for lunch.  Verona is probably most well-known for being the setting of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. While the tale is not historically accurate, the city of Verona has capitalized on it and you can visit Juliet’s balcony.

Juliet’s Balcony

It is free to view the balcony from the outside of the house but you can also pay a small fee to enter the house and stand on the famed balcony.  A statue of Juliet graces the courtyard below the balcony.  It’s tradition to touch the statue for luck in love.  It’s a pretty neat place to visit but it was incredibly crowded so be prepared for that.

Verona is also home to the world’s third largest amphitheater that has survived from Roman antiquity. The Verona Arena is stunningly well preserved and intact.  The arena is actually still in use today and is famous for the opera performances that are frequently held there.  It is a quite a sight to see and I recommend checking it out if you have some free time in Verona.

Verona Arena

Venice

Adriatic Sea

After we left Verona we went to our hotel which was located just outside of Venice on the Adriatic Sea.  Our hotel was right on the beach and we had a bit of time before dinner to stick our toes in the sea.  So cold!

Dipping our toes in the Adriatic Sea!

 

Our second day in Italy we spent in Venice.  We started the day by visiting the island of Murano which is famous for its glass artisans. We watched an incredible glass blowing demonstration and then shopped some of the hand blown glass products in the shop. I bought some beautiful glass earrings. After seeing the incredible work these artists do, I decided that it’s my life mission to someday build my dream house, travel back to Murano, and pick out an incredible glass chandelier to go in that dream house!

Glass blower in Murano

We then headed a bit further into Venice.  We toured the Doge’s Palace which had exquisite architectural details and beautiful works of art. It was really a sight to see and the history of the palace is also very interesting.  If you have the opportunity to take a guided tour of the palace, I highly recommend it.

Ceiling in the Doge’s Palace in Venice
Ceiling in the Doge’s Palace in Venice

We spent some time in Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square) and had the opportunity to explore Venice a bit. I really loved this city but it is a bit difficult to get around.  The streets often felt like a maze to me but I had a lot of fun exploring.  I wish we would have had more time in Venice because I would have liked to make my way a bit further into the city.  I plan to go back someday and just spend several days exploring all of Venice.

Bridge of Sighs in Venice

Of course, you can’t visit Venice without taking a gondola ride.  Gondola rides are a bit expensive but it is such a traditional experience in Venice that I think everyone who visits Venice should try it at least once.  That being said, I’m not sure that I will spend the money to ride a gondola again when I return to Venice. The experience was valuable and a neat one to have but not necessary to fully appreciate the beauty of Venice.

Riding a gondola in Venice
Riding a gondola in Venice

Venice was definitely one of my favorite places that I visited while in Italy.  Stayed tuned for a future blog post to see where else we went!

How I Made $180 Online in June

June was my second month of making an attempt to bring some extra money in from online sources. I made a little of $180 online this month. While this month wasn’t as good as May, it wasn’t terrible either.  I had hoped to make quite a bit more than I did in June but I have to be honest, there were a few weeks in June that I just didn’t have any motivation.  I found myself just hanging out with my kids and enjoying summer instead of working those side hustles. I’m okay with that.  I needed some down time with my children.

June Results

Pretty much all of my June online income came from completing transcription jobs on Rev. I did receive a little bit of change from ads on this blog and affiliate links but it was really only change.  I also didn’t receive any income from Upwork like I did in May.  Again, I’m pretty sure this was due to my lack of motivation.  I only submitted a handful of proposals and was not very active on the site most of the month.

Total online income for June: $184.47

  • Rev.com – $183.77
  • Ads – $0.65
  • Affiliate Links – $0.05

June Blog Stats:

July Goals:

  • I would really like to work on increasing my traffic a bit more this month.  I would love to have more readers. My goal is 1,000 page views for July!
  • More content!  I have several posts swimming around my head that I need to focus on writing this month.
  • I am hoping to double my online income this month. $370 is the goal for July.

Check back at the end of July for another monthly online income report and to see the progress I made for towards my goals!

The Best Lemon Bars

I shared a bit earlier this summer that my kids have declared this the summer of cooking with mom.  We have spent a ton of time in the kitchen whipping up all kinds of treats from cookies to fresh donuts.  The kids have taken turns picking what the next thing we make together will be.   It was recently my oldest daughter’s turn to pick.  Emily begged to make lemon bars.

I love lemon everything (if you can’t tell by my blog title!).  Lemon meringue pie, lemon poppy seed muffins, lemonade, lemon bread…you name it.  I have a recipe for lemon bars that I love but the kids have complained in the past that it is too tart. However, I love the tart flavor of these bars! I’m not sure where I got this recipe but I’ve been using it for years. I was hesitant to make them with Emily when she asked but she was adamant that she wanted to make the sour lemon bars. Thankfully, my kids’ taste has seem to matured a bit and they appreciated these lemon bars much more than the last time I made them.

The Best Lemon Bars

For the crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup of sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon zest
  • 1/2 (1 stick) of melted butter

For the filling:

  • 4 whole eggs
  • 1 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 1/3 cups of sugar

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Mix flour, salt, sugar, and lemon zest together with a wire whisk. Using a hand mixer beat the melted butter into the flour mixture until it becomes dry and crumbly.  Press the crust mixture into the bottom of a slightly greased 9 x 9 pan. Use your hands or the back of a spoon to press the crust and even it out.
  • Bake your crust for 16 to 19 minutes until it is firm and slightly browned.  While the crust is baking make your filling. Using an electric mixer, mix the eggs, lemon juice, and sugar until well combined.
  • After your crust is done baking, poor the filling over the crust while it is still hot.  Bake the bars for another 20 to 25 minutes or until the filling is set. The filling should be firm and not jiggle much when the pan is shaken slightly.
  • Allow the bars to cool completely. Once cooled, store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.  When you are ready to serve them, dust the bars with powdered sugar and serve.

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!

 

May Recap

May is quickly coming to an end and it has been a busy month for us but things are finally starting to wind down.  I’m excited for the slow down and I’m looking forward to having some more quality time with my kids and time to read.

Sports Madness

Most of May kept us super busy with sports. Baseball geared up full force during May and won’t conclude until mid-June. I’ve really enjoyed baseball season this year.  Jackson moved up from t-ball to coach pitch. He was so nervous that he almost talked himself out of playing.  Thankfully, we convinced him to just give it a try and he has done wonderful.  He didn’t get very many hits the first few games but after a little practice he is hitting the ball almost every time he is at bat. One of his biggest fears was that he would get hit by the ball and that hadn’t happened until last week. Last week he was hit by the ball twice and now he’s a little skittish at bat.  I’m hoping that experience doesn’t ruin baseball for him but so far he is still hanging in there and trying.  He has four more games on the schedule and then possibly a tournament if his team continues to do well.

Up to bat!

Soccer is finally winding down.  Emily played her last game last night and Jackson played his last Saturday.  Soccer was a bit lackluster this year mainly because of all the rain we’ve had.  Every game but three for each child was rained out.  Emily’s team made an effort to make up several of her games during practice time through the week but Jackson’s team didn’t really make up that many games.  The kids enjoyed what little they were able to play but I do felt like they were more committed this year to baseball and dance.  Soccer may be the sport we have to rethink soon.

Nap time during soccer!

Dance season also wrapped up this month. Thank goodness! After spending three nights a week at the dance studio since last September, I am so ready for a break from dance. Honestly, I think the girls are too. Recital week was pure craziness and left me exhausted.  Because at least one child was dancing in both the Thursday and Friday night recital, we had to be at rehearsals Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday in addition to the recitals on Thursday and Friday nights.  Each recital and rehearsal required us to be at the theater for about three hours each night.  The girls did wonderful though!

Post-recital!
Proud dad!

Graduation

Around the middle of May, I finally walked across that stage and received my diploma for my master’s degree! It was a pretty surreal feeling.  The amount of time and effort I put into this degree was by far more than what I have had to do in the past academically. It was a long road but so worth it.

We made it!

While it was difficult, it was an experience I am very thankful for.  I made some, hopefully, lifelong friends that I could not have made it through the program without.  We compared notes, vented to each other, and encouraged each other every step of the way.  They understood what it is like to read the huge amount of historical literature that we were required to read and try to absorb it all while maintaining your sanity. I’m thankful for their support and friendship all along the way!

Two years of reading requirements!

The day after I graduated, I said good-bye to the graduating class of the high school that I teach at.  I have tried to run up to the graduation ceremony and wish the graduates good-bye each year but this year was particularly bittersweet.  The class of 2017 was the first class that I ever taught at this high school.  When I started my job I taught freshman civics and economics.  The next year I moved to junior English and the year after that I began teaching senior English as well.  Many of the kids in this graduating class had me as a teacher their freshman year, junior year, and senior year.  Needless to say, I was pretty attached to them.  I’m proud of the adults they have grown into the last four years and can’t wait to see what the future holds for them!

So, what now?

School is officially out and I have been home on summer break with my wonderful kids for a week now.  We haven’t really made any summer plans because I really think we just need some downtime. Our little family has been running full force for really the past two years. I’ve went to graduate school. We’ve bought a new house and welcomed two new babies in the past year.  We need a bit of time to relax.  Of course, our version of relaxing probably still seems busy to some.

No trips or traveling this summer but swim team practice starts next week. That will take up three mornings a week and then we will have some swim meets on Friday nights and Saturday mornings over the summer.   I have a list of books that I can’t wait to read and Lauren is looking forward to baking and cooking with me.  That is about all we have planned for the summer!  What are your summer plans?

Me Before You

Me Before You
Me Before You

This book review was originally published on The Wordy Nerd Books on August 28, 2015.

The topic of caring for disabled people is often one that is difficult to approach.  It is often not easy on the caretaker or the patient but Jojo Moyes does an amazing job at exploring the many facets of the life of a disabled person and a caretaker in Me Before You.  She easily pulls the reader in emotionally and makes you wonder what life would be like if you were facing the same circumstances.  I found myself in love with both of the main characters.  When they were sad, my heart was absolutely broken for them.  When they were happy, I found myself rooting for them.

This book does often involve some pretty hard topics that most people have strong opinions about but I still found it to be a beautiful book.  It is one that will probably affect you on an emotional level but I definitely think it is worth a read.  Moyes writes well and her work is easy to read.  I found myself not wanting to put this book down.  Overall, I rated Me Before You four out of five stars.  It’s a great book but be prepared to feel all the feels!

4 Star Rating

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