Friday, May 26, 2017

Our Encounter with MLK

Last week, I posted pictures from the few hours we spent in Birmingham while on our way to Florida. That same day, we also spent a short time in Montgomery.

We toured the Dexter Parsonage, the home where Martin Luther King, Jr., and his family lived while he was a pastor at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church (now Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church) from 1954-1960.

There were only a few of us on the tour, and I was the only female, so the tour guide allowed me to unlock the very same door that MLK would have unlocked hundreds of times. (Those who live in the South know that it is common Southern etiquette for men to allow women to walk through doors ahead of them. Even in high-rise office buildings in downtown Nashville, men will kindly insist that women exit the elevator ahead of them.)

The parsonage housed pastors and their families from 1920-1992 and then sat vacant for 10 years before it was renovated to look as it did when it was home to MLK and his family. The foundation was even able to recover many of the pieces of furniture (and even the gas stove and Melmac dinnerware) used by the famous civil rights activist and his wife and children.

We were honored to sit at MLK's kitchen table and listen to the famous speech he gave shortly before his death. He spoke of the epiphany he had had at that very kitchen table, late at night on January 27th, 1956.

Only 27 years old and the leader of the famous Montgomery Bus Boycott, MLK was receiving 30-40 death threats each day. On the night of January 27th, he was particular shaken by a caller who threatened to blow up his house if he didn't leave town within three days. Frightened, MLK made himself a cup of coffee and sat down at the kitchen table. Praying earnestly, he heard the still, small voice of God instruct him to stand up for truth, justice, and righteousness.

Almost every item in the home has significance, right down to the vase of artificial red carnations sitting on the kitchen table. In March 1968, MLK sent his wife, Coretta Scott King, an artificial bouquet of her favorite flowers, red carnations. Coretta, who usually received fresh flowers from her husband, asked him why he had sent fake ones, to which MLK responded that he had wanted to give her something she could have as a keepsake. Martin Luther King, Jr., was shot and killed just three weeks later in Memphis, Tennessee. Coretta cherished the flowers until her death in 2006.

Just a few days later, a bomb exploded on the front porch and blew through the living room window. Goosebumps crept up my neck as the tour guide pointed out a gash in the concrete in front of the porch swing.

After the tour, we were thrilled to meet Vera Harris, a lovely woman in her 90s who has lived down the street since MLK and his family resided in the parsonage. Her husband was a Tuskegee airman, and the two of them housed freedom riders in their home. Vera enjoys sitting on her front porch and greeting tourists. She gave us both a hug and held our hands as she asked where we were from and what brought us to Montgomery. Before we left, her daughter had us sign a guest book.

We also learned that there is a barber shop just down the street where Nelson Malden, who gave Martin Luther King, Jr., his first haircut when he moved into the parsonage and his last haircut before he died, still cuts hair a couple days a week.

Before leaving town, we stopped by the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church. Unfortunately, it was closed, but we filmed a short vlog (below). If you ever have a chance to visit Montgomery, be sure to visit the many sites of the Civil Rights Movement. The city truly is bursting with rich history!

 Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

How I Met Mr. Handsome, Part 2

Earlier this month, I posted the first part of the story of how I met Mr. Handsome. We finally got around to filming another segment--sorry it has taken so long. After my husband finishes telling his side of the story, I'll share my point of view.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Homemade Weed Killer

As many of you know, we are renting a small house. Instead of paying someone else to mow the lawn, which is quite large, our landlord offered to give us a $100 break on rent if we agreed to take care of the yard.

Mr. Handsome cuts the grass, while I keep tabs on the weeds scattered all over our cobblestone driveway and walkway. We bought a container of Roundup, but it wasn't long before we had emptied it...and the weeds were still growing.

Rather than spend $10 on another container, I decided to research homemade weed killer. Surprisingly, I found a simple recipe that worked wonders! Here it is:

Homemade Weed Killer

4 cups white vinegar
1/4 cup salt
1/2 Tablespoon liquid dishwashing soap 

Mix ingredients together until salt dissolves, and transfer to spray bottle. One batch will fill a 32-oz spray bottle.
On a sunny day with no rain in the forecast, spray weed killer generously on weeds. Weeds should start to shrivel up within hours. Tougher weeks may require multiple treatments.

*Be warned that this weed killer will kill everything in its path.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Sloss Furnaces

As a combined Christmas, birthday, and second anniversary gift, Mr. Handsome surprised me with a five-day trip to Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, which we took last week. It's less than seven hours from Nashville, but we did some sightseeing along the way, extending the trip to about 11 hours.

Our first stop was Sloss Furnaces in Birmingham, Alabama. Has anyone else been there?

Now a National Historic Landmark, Sloss Furnaces is a blast furnace that produced pig iron from 1882 to 1971. If you're like me, you're probably wondering why it was called pig iron. Well, the name came about when someone decided that the row of molds that the iron flowed into looked like suckling pigs.

Since the furnace is no longer operating, you can walk through the maze of massive smokestacks, dark tunnels, and rusted pipes and see how the pig iron was produced. The best part is that self-guided tours are free.

Touring Sloss Furnaces was like stepping back into the Industrial Age. I could picture workers covered in sweat and dirt, laboring hard to produce the iron that built the city of Birmingham. It was a muggy 90 degrees while we were there, so I can only imagine how difficult those jobs would have been in the heat of the summer, with the furnace running full blast.

I have to say, Sloss Furnaces is a pretty neat detour and unlike any tourist attraction I had ever seen. We weren't going to stop, but when we found out it was free, we just had to check it out. And we're glad we did!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Mr. Handsome's Cardinal

Over the past couple years, I have shared many pictures of Mr. Handsome's oil paintings. Our house is now filled with them, some rooms displaying as many as four or five, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Being surrounded by his artwork always puts a smile on my face.

We are slowly turning his hobby into a business, and he has already sold several paintings to folks in our area. The cardinal pictured above is only $40 plus $7.99 shipping. The canvas is 8 inches x 10 inches, and you can either hang it on a wall or display it on a shelf. Mr. Handsome paints the edges of his paintings, so they look great even without frames.

Update: The painting has been sold, but if you are interested in a similar painting (or another type of bird) send us an email at, and Mr. Handsome would be happy to make one for you.

Here is a short video of my husband showing off his work of art:

Monday, May 15, 2017

Rock Island State Park

Mr. Handsome and I love to hike, especially since moving to Tennessee and having access to so many beautiful trails. It really is incredible just how many state parks there are in the area surrounding Nashville. Our favorite hikes are ones that lead to waterfalls, of which Tennessee has quite a few. We recently made the trek to Rock Island State Park.

 Ellie and Mr. Handsome at Rock Island State Park in Rock Island, TN

There were multiple waterfalls, some that required hiking and others that did not.

We also love history and were thrilled to come across this old building, which housed the Falls City Cotton Mill from 1892-1902.

Just up the hill from the mill is a cute little castle-like structure, appropriately called the Spring Castle, where workers would store food to keep it cold.

Much to our amazement, we watched three individuals ride down one of the falls on kayaks. You could never convince me to do that (especially since it was only 60 degrees that day) but it sure made for great entertainment! Check out the photos and video below.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Homemade Chocolate Ice Cream Recipe

One of our favorite kitchen gadgets (and also a wedding gift from Mr. Handsome's aunt and uncle) is our Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker. We use it all the time during the spring, summer, and fall. The day that thing gives out will be one sad day.

I have mentioned my ice cream maker before, and a few of my readers requested that I post my chocolate ice cream recipe. It's absolutely delicious! Very chocolatey and pretty low in sugar. But a word to the wise, don't eat it late in the evening, or you will be up all night, as it contains a lot of cocoa. (I made that mistake yesterday...)

Homemade Chocolate Ice Cream

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup granulated sugar (I use Zulka Pure Cane Sugar)
1 teaspoon corn starch
3-1/4 cups 2% milk
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, stir together cocoa, sugar, and corn starch until combined.

Add milk. Whisk strongly for 2 minutes, or until dry ingredients are dissolved. (You can also use an electric hand mixer on low speed or an old-fashioned hand mixer.) Whisk in heavy whipping cream and vanilla extract.

Pour liquid into ice cream machine, and turn it on. Ours takes 35-45 minutes, but the time will be different for different machines.

Enjoy! Homemade ice cream tends to freeze very solid, so be sure to pull the leftovers out of the freezer about 20 minutes before serving.