Sunday, May 21, 2017

Exploring, as seen on my walk

Last week flew by.  I'm hesitant to use the word busy when referring to life now that I'm not working.  So instead of a busy week, I'll call it a full week.  Temperatures jumped from the 50s into the 80s and 90s.  Of course, Allie and Anna had a field trip on the hottest day (so far) of the year.  92 degrees and we went hiking.  The field trip was through the Mass Audubon Society and was supposed to consist of one "hike" and two activities at the camp.  The classes were broken down into smaller groups of about 9-10 students.  Because I was technically there as Anna's nurse, I couldn't be a chaperone on my own so I was teamed up with another parent.  Our guide took us on a very long hike, an hour and a half long hike to be exact.  It was too much for Anna.  Poor baby.  The medication she takes for her bladder causes her to feel hotter than it really is so she was all pink-faced before the other kids and simply exhausted.  But she pushed through and did it.  She kept saying, "I'm going to sleep good tonight."  There were a few positives though.  The other kids were also hot and tired and wanted to rest too, so Anna didn't necessarily stick out.  When I wasn't right there to grab Anna's hand, her two friends helped her out before I could reach her.  They would also find places for her to sit when there was time to rest.  It was truly heart warming to witness.

Earlier in the week, I drove down to the cottage after dropping the girls off at school.  It was to be a day of cleaning, but I took a lunch break, of course.

5.21a
The view from my car as I ate lunch.

Aside from when we looked at the cottage back in the fall, this was the first nice weather day where I've been at the cottage.  It was interesting to spend almost the entire day there, watching the movement of the sun through the rooms.  The dreary, forlorn feeling had finally lifted.  In the middle of the day, I took a cleaning break and explored.  I could finally taste summer.  

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Friday, May 19, 2017

How we road trip

5.19a

After our recent trip to DC, I had an idea to write a post talking about how we do road trips.  As I created an outline, some of the points seemed obvious and too much like filler content.  Bring snacks.  Everyone knows this and you know what?  If you somehow forgot the carrots and hummus, or the raisins, your kids can survive off of crackers and whatever else you can scrounge up at a rest stop.  I was also going to mention Waze, the app.  Does everyone use this?  I'm an old person, who is not really up-to-date in the tech department, but I know and use this app, so I assume everyone else is aware of its existence.

I think the discussion I really wanted to have surrounds entertaining your children in the car and their tolerance levels for road trips.  My kids are not fans of driving long distances and part of that is due to the fact that they are prone to motion sickness.  I am too, so I completely understand.  But also, it's boring.  Their words, not mine.  I always think back to my parents loading up three kids (5 and under) and driving from Massachusetts to California.  "Electronics" of today didn't exist at that time.  There were no electronics of any kind.  Everyone had telephones attached to the wall and I'm pretty sure that one of our televisions was still black and white.  So what did we do?  We played with toys. We used our imaginations.  We looked out the window!

I have a friend with two kids slighter older than mine and when we have parenting discussions, I've been known to say, "Act like it's 1984.  What would you have done back then?"  Rich and I have really tried to limit screen time for the girls, but sometimes you just give in.  We had a portable DVD player that we used in the van for long road trips.  It wasn't ideal but it worked.  We had to string it across the middle of the two front seats, which made your blind spot even blinder and because the volume had to be turned up a bit so the kid in the third row could hear, the driver and front seat passenger had a movie blasting in their ears.  That DVD player began having issues a few years ago so before our road trip to Michigan last summer, we invested in dual DVD players that can be attached to the back of the headrests.

5.19c

We purchased two, so there are now four DVD screens in the van.  My niece was coming with us and this way, everyone had their own screen.  With the dual system, only one of the screens actually plays a DVD.  Yes, this means that the two kids using the same system need to agree on what to watch.  Thankfully, this has never been an issue for us.

While I'm not a fan of allowing my kids to binge watch shows/movies, over the years we've found that it's one of the things they can do on the road which won't trigger car sickness.  Activity books and the like are out of the question.

5.19d
(I know the shoulder strap needs to be on her shoulder.  The car was not moving (waiting for Rich) and she was shifting away from the sun.)

Additional thoughts on road trips:
  • Start 'em young.  Little kids are not going to enjoy road trips but over time, they'll get used to driving long distances.  Hopefully, when they're older, they'll appreciate they opportunities they've been given.
  • I've departed for road trips at all times of the day.  4:00 in the morning, 3:00 in the afternoon, midnight - that was waaaay before kids.  To avoid grumpiness associated with being overtired, we've found that waking up a little bit earlier than usual and leaving in the morning works best.  The drive to my grandmother's house in Michigan takes about fourteen hours.  If we left at 4:00 in the morning, we'd arrive around 6:00 that night.  We would also be exhausted from waking up at 3:30 in the morning.  If you're disrupting your normal sleep schedule, be aware that there will be side effects. 
  • For everyone's sanity, make frequent stops if you need to.  I know it adds time on to the drive but sometimes you just have to stop.

5.19b        

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

About those antique beds

[I want to thank those of you who reached out with insight and positive comments on Monday's post.  I feel like I've been whiny about blogging these past few months and I hate to be that way, especially over a blog.  But this is a place I've created and poured a lot of energy into and sometimes I question whether it's still worth doing so.  And sometimes I'm just straight up insecure.  Not going to lie. Thank you, again.]

5.17a

I ended up recruiting my parents to accompany me to the Cape this past weekend.  Rich wasn't going to be able to get down there at all either day and I needed assistance in moving mattresses so I could clean.  There was a Mother's Day luncheon with Rich's mom on Sunday, and for Saturday, Rich needed to be at a community event his bank was sponsoring.  Also, Allie was serving at the 4:00 mass Saturday afternoon.  The good news was that the community event was a family one so the girls were able to go with Rich and help hand out granola bars.

A few weeks ago, after I had removed the old mattresses from the beds, I realized how much easier it would be to clean the floors without mattresses on the beds.  Unfortunately, there was no (clean) place to store the new mattresses besides the beds so I vacuumed as best I could at the time.  The wooden bed frames also needed a good scrub down.  After I began working on Saturday, it became apparent that cleaning half of the room at time would be the easiest approach.  There are three bedrooms in total.  Two of the rooms have two twin beds each.  Grammy helped me flip the mattresses from one of the beds onto the other bed in both of those bedrooms.  The other bedroom has a full bed.

I have a thing for old houses and antique furniture so I was super excited when the sellers left a slew of antique-looking furniture in the cottage.  I've been curious (or obsessed) as to the origins of the beds and this weekend, I finally found some clues.

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I started cleaning this bedroom first.  With the mattresses off, there are some sections of unfinished wood on the inside of the beds.  It looks like either walnut or mahogany.  There were some painted numbers also but they were nonsensical and I assume refer to a lot or some other type of identification.  When I pulled the first bed away from the wall, I found this stamp on the backside of the headboard.

5.17k

I've quickly researched Paine Furniture Company but I am unable to determine exactly when the beds were made.  Paine opened a large store in Boston in 1872.  Their Paine Furniture Company tags changed over the years and from what I've read, I believe this is the first type used.  Best guesstimate is that these beds were made in the late 1800s/early 1900s.

5.17b
Grammy was able to remove about two-thirds of the wallpaper.  See how much darker the room looks. Paint!

The beds in the second bedroom are definitely newer.

5.17d

This is what I found on the back of the headboard when I pulled the bed away from the wall to clean.

5.17c

1870 must be a lot number.  From my research, these beds are most likely from the 1950s, maybe the early '60s.  Unlike the beds in the first bedroom, the wood used on these is lighter.  I'm not going to paint any of the twin beds now.  I wouldn't feel too bad painting these ones.  Up close, they are sort of beat up in several areas.  I'd say that the finish on the dark wood beds is in fair to good condition.  I'm sure that all these years of humidity and salt air have contributed to the shape they're in now.  The only thing I would do with those beds, and it definitely wouldn't be anytime soon, is strip the finish and put a new one on.  I wouldn't paint over that beautiful dark wood though.

The master bedroom, the smallest bedroom in the cottage, has a "pineapple" bed, which has been painted white.  You can see the dark wood through the paint though.  I've been concentrating on cleaning the girls' rooms first so I haven't really had a chance to really check out the pineapple bed but if it looks like it's a dark wood, I'm tempted to strip the paint off.  At some point.

We explored a bit before heading home.  It was about to rain and very chilly, especially right on the beach, but that's all changed this week!  What a difference a few days can make.

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(Lobster BLT with sweet potato fries.  Shared, because there's no way I would ever be able to eat all that.)

Monday, May 15, 2017

How and why I monetized my blog

When I started blogging nine years ago, I did so without the intent to make money.  Really, was anyone bringing in an income from blogging back then?  I mostly followed blogs written by moms and dads of multiples, along with those written by grieving parents.  Whether it be as a parent of a baby taken by stillbirth or a mom of triplets, I felt connected to others and a sense of community.  I still have all of those blogs in my reader and, unfortunately, only a handful of them are still active today.

In my world, way back when, sponsoring other bloggers or reviewing an item in exchange for a freebie were the main ways to bring in income.  And then there were all the "c/o" items for the fashion bloggers.  I never monetized my blog because I had a job, a very full time job, and I never wanted the stress of running a blog for money.  If I became overloaded with work or sick, I didn't want the pressure of having to blog because "sponsors" or others were expecting me to.

Companies have reached out to me on a fairly consistent basis requesting freebies.  It's usually played off how my mentioning XYZ would really benefit my readers.  Last year, during an incredibly busy time, I had a woman emailing nonstop asking that I write about some type of insurance.  When I didn't respond, she shot off one final email stating how she didn't think I was even a real person.  That's right; I am not real.  Thanks for pointing it out.

Recently, I've had companies email me letting me know about a campaign they are having and how they would like me to blog about my top five vacation destinations (for example.)  What's in it for me?  Well, they'll be sharing some of their favorite blog posts on their own social media.  I've taken to responding back requesting an advertising fee, which is never in their budget.  Aw, that's too bad.  It doesn't look like your post is in my time budget.

Back in the fall, I received an email from a company who works on campaigns with bloggers.  The email talked about "stylish" moms and wanted to know if I was interested in opportunities.  Sure, why not.  I figured it wouldn't hurt to check it out.  Stylish moms somehow turned into a store which sells baby items and if I agreed to include the name of the store in a blog post (on any topic), I would receive a fee of $X.  It sounded easy enough to me, so I agreed.  But then that somehow turned into a post on a specific baby product.  I needed to include a certain term in the title of my blog post, so not a post about anything.  I needed to have a certain number of photos, including original, of said baby product and links to a certain number of sites discussing said baby product.

I realize my blog is being added to blacklists right now.

I politely emailed the woman back telling her that I couldn't do it.  The whole experience left a really sour taste in my mouth.  Also, my kids are in the fourth grade.  I am so far beyond baby monitors, teething rings and breast pumps.  How can people not figure this out?

I'm a blogger, but I also read many blogs and I know what I don't mind when it comes to monetization.  Constant "sponsored" posts are a turnoff.  There are other annoyances but I don't want this to turn into a tirade.  Travel blogging has the least offensive type of advertising, in my opinion.  For the most part, I don't mind people making money off of blogs.  I follow a Disney/photography blogger who is an Amazon affiliate.  When I purchased my camera and new lens a few years ago, I used his link to Amazon to give him the fee money.  I did this because he had provided information which pushed me to finally make the purchase and I felt he deserved the fee for doing so.  Blogging now is a lot different than it was back in the day.  Blogging used to be what social media is today.  You posted a few photos with a little story.  Now, there's so much more time involved.

Shortly after what I like to refer to as The Baby Product Incident, I found an email in my inbox from Google AdSense telling me that because I was using Google's blogging platform, I had been approved to become an AdSense user.  I thought it over and then signed up.  In my opinion, ads on a sidebar are passive and harmless.  As a blog reader, they don't bother me and so I figured they wouldn't bother you either.

At the end of last year, I joined the Amazon Associates program.  Rich and I make many of our purchases from Amazon, including all of my photography gear, and I was frequently linking to Amazon so I figured it wouldn't hurt to sign up.  If you make a purchase on Amazon after clicking on any of my links to Amazon, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.  I do not see any of your personal information.  I can view how many clicks came from my blog and what items were purchased, but not by user.  Items purchased are listed because it's used to calculated my commission.  Just like ads, I've always felt that affiliate links, when used appropriately, are harmless.

When I left work last year and use of my time changed, I realized blogging took up a good chunk of time.  It's difficult nowadays to find a blog with fairly regular postings that doesn't have some sort of income component, so I didn't feel bad about monetizing.  That all being said, I'm not getting rich here.  Last month's revenue wasn't even enough to pay the monthly tuition for one dance class for one of the girls.  I've decided to give it a year and see how it goes.  I sincerely want to thank those of you who have supported me in this and by support, I mean you haven't become annoyed with the ads and affiliate links.  

I'll be honest, my readership here has dropped over the years.  I did see an increase last year when I began to post more but then after monetizing, it's been dropping.  Maybe the end is closer than I realize.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Eating, reading, life lately

Healthy Eats

Emily is sitting here next to me and when she read "healthy eats" she reached over to the keyboard and said, "None!"  Well, I don't know about yesterday but I continue to try to cook healthy dinners.  The girls have learned about nutrition in school and we talk about it here and there.  We mainly discuss balance and how important it is to stay active.

So here are two healthy dinners from last week that I photographed.

5.14a
Southwest salad - chicken, romaine lettuce, tomato, avocado, shredded cheese, black beans and corn.

5.14b
Veggie burger over lettuce, with tomato, cheese, guacamole and homemade red potato salad.  The kids had their veggie burgers on rolls.

I've mentioned this before but I try to meal plan so that we don't waste leftovers.  In this case, we were able to use the lettuce and tomato leftover from salad night.  We also had red potatoes in the pantry I wanted to use up which led to the potato salad.

Not-so-healthy eats (and that's okay)

5.14c
Mini brownie sundae.  I made brownies for Rich's birthday last week.

5.14d
Clam chowder.

Tuesday, on the way home from the Cape, Rich and I stopped at The Seafood Shanty in Bourne for a quick dinner.  The only seating options are outdoors and because I couldn't stop shivering standing outside to order the food, we ate in the car.  We weren't the only ones doing so either.  The food here is quite tasty.  Their clam chowder is more broth-based and not thick at all, but there are large pieces of both potatoes and clams.  Rich had the fish sandwich and said it was really good.  I ate some of his fries and they were nice and fresh.  It was a pleasant dinner!

Reading

I finished this book last week because I simply couldn't put it down.  If you like suspenseful, page-turners, pick up this one.



Jar's girlfriend, Rosa, supposedly committed suicide five years earlier, but he believes she's still alive.  The discovery of Rosa's encrypted diary on her aunt's computer furthers Jar's belief that she's out there and he must find her and the truth.  There are several twists and questionable characters along the way.  Will Jar find her?

Running

After my outdoor run last Sunday, I ran again Tuesday.  According to Rich, the treadmill is now making an odd noise.  It's more than 10 years old and has had quite a bit of use, but I'll be bummed if we have to replace it.  At this point in the year, I've had enough of treadmill running and want to be outside.  So that's what I did on Tuesday.  Except it was 50 degrees, overcast and about to rain.  The route I ran/walked is 3.4 miles.  I walked for about a quarter of a mile and then ran a mile in 10:37.  I walked another mile and then ran again for eight minutes.  I'm not sure of the distance but based on what I know of the route it was about three fourths of a mile.

I had planned to run/walk again on either Thursday or Friday, but I just couldn't find the motivation to do so.  I'm blaming it on the weather.  When I returned home from my run/walk on Tuesday, my hands were red and numb.  The calendar says it's May, so why does it feel like March?  It was in the 50s all last week.  According to the forecast, sun and much warmer weather is coming to us beginning Tuesday.  I'm hoping my motivation returns with it.    

5.14e

Mother's Day

I had the girls at the library Friday afternoon and one of the librarians, who lives on our street, handed me a little tub of flowers, saying it was for Mother's Day.  The girls speculated that the library was handing out flowers to moms.  This had me thinking about all the moms out there who can't be with their babies.

I don't ask for anything on Mother's Day.  (Well, I did request a day without complaints.)  The girls gave me some adorable coupon books and Rich offered to take care of the grocery shopping.  Oh, and I don't have to cook dinner tonight. What more do I need?

I'll leave you with some photos from Tuesday.  We always try to stop by the ocean and take in some of that salty air.

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