Monday, March 19, 2018

Daylight Saving Memories

What are your thoughts on Daylight Saving Time? "Falling back" in fall isn't usually too difficult, but "springing forward" in spring can be tough.

Last Sunday, Mr. Handsome and I had a pre-service function at church at 8:30am, which meant hopping out of bed just after 7am (which felt like 6am). We rise early on the weekdays, but we enjoy sleeping in on the weekends, so that was a bit rough.

Despite losing an hour of sleep, the start of Daylight Saving Time always brings back sweet memories. Five years ago, before we were officially in a relationship, I traveled by train to visit Mr. Handsome and his family over spring break. He picked me up at the train station and took me to an indoor court to play tennis.

On the ride over there, I noticed that the clock in his car was still one hour behind. (It was about three weeks after the time change.) I asked him if he planned to change it, and he said that he had tried multiple times and hadn't been able to figure it out. He held up a Walgreens coupon (one of those '$1 off your next purchase' coupons that print out at the register) and told me I could have it if I figured out how to correct the time.

I'm always up for a challenge (and a free coupon), so I accepted the offer. It took me all of 30 seconds to complete the task. I think he was a tad bit embarrassed, but obviously not too bad because he ended up asking me to be his girlfriend two weeks later and asking me to be his wife 23 months after that.

Whenever the time changes, I retell the story. He usually rolls his eyes in response.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Latest from Mr. Handsome

Mr. Handsome has added a new subject to his painting repertoire! He has recently started painting musical instruments and has already built up quite the gallery. He plays the guitar, banjo, and violin, as many of you know, so it has been fun to see him combine music with art.

We have had his masterpieces displayed at multiple art shows in the Nashville area and have sold several. To give you an idea of what he has been up to, below are a few photos. So far, he has painted landscapes, birds, ships at sea, and now musical instruments. Stay tuned to see what he gets into next. (I'm certainly curious!)

Monday, March 12, 2018

Mr. Handsome's Bookshelf

About four weeks into the new year, I woke up one day and decided that our furniture needed a facelift. We had pieces of every different shade imaginable, and I was tired of it. Mr. Handsome and I have committed to living frugally, so going out and purchasing a bunch of brand new furniture isn't something we plan on doing.

After a little bit of research, I made the decision to find a few used pieces of furniture from Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and Goodwill and to refinish those along with some of our existing pieces. I started with a coffee table, for which I posted a tutorial.

refinished coffee table

We had an unexpected cold snap in late January and early February, so I worked on the furniture indoors and then hauled it out to our heated shed to allow it to dry. But by the second week of February, the weather had turned unusually warm, with a few days hitting 80F (26C), so I was able to do the bulk of the work outdoors. 

My second project was a nightstand that Mr. Handsome made in high school wood shop class.

Refinished nightstand
Refinished nightstand
Refinished nightstand
Refinished nightstand
Refinished nightstand

After refinishing a small entertainment stand that I purchased on Facebook Marketplace for $25, I  finally felt skilled enough to tackle our dining room table (pictures coming soon). Now I’m working my way through our four dining chairs, which are bar stool height and have curved backs that make them quite challenging to sand and stain. I also have a couple other pieces that I'm hoping to refinish, including an end table and a stool.

You might remember my post about the free bookshelf I received from Mr. Handsome's aunt in 2015. It has served us well for two and a half years, but our ever-expanding book collection has outgrown it. I spent quite a bit of time searching for a solid wood bookshelf that I could refinish, but I couldn’t find anything that worked.

For Valentine’s Day, my wonderful Mr. Handsome offered to make me a bookshelf! He constructed the entire thing, complete with routed edges, using two slabs of wood that we purchased from a wood supplier. The shelf took the better part of two days to build, and when it was finished, I did the staining, using the same method and materials explained in my coffee table post.

Mr. Handsome plans to write up a tutorial for his DIY bookshelf, but I wanted to give you a sneak peek. 

make your own bookshelf
DIY bookshelf

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Segway Adventure

When I was a teenager, several of my many cousins from Europe visited our family at various times. My parents always tried to plan special activities to allow my brother and I to bond with them, since we had (and still have) very few opportunities to see them. During one such visit, my parents booked a Segway tour.

Have you ever seen a Segway or been on a Segway tour? They are those personal "vehicles" with small platforms that have two large wheels and a bar with handles that the rider holds onto. You make them go by gently leaning forward (the more you lean, the faster you go) and you steer with the bar. When you first hop on, it constantly feels like you're going to fall over, but after about 10 minutes of practice, you can usually get into enough of a groove to feel relatively comfortable.

My brother and I had a blast on our Segway excursion with one of our cousins. Fast-forward 10 years, and Mr. Handsome and I are driving out of the Canadian Rocky Mountains after an eventful seven-day excursion through Banff and Jasper. On our way back to the Calgary airport, we spend a day and a night in Edmonton visiting some folks, and they surprise us with a Segway tour of the Edmonton River Valley.

Now you have to understand that as long as I have known Mr. Handsome, I have been wanting to take him on a Segway, so I was elated, to say the least. It took a bit of time for both of us to get the hang of it, but the tour was a blast, and the River Valley was gorgeous. If you ever have the opportunity to ride a Segway or to visit the Edmonton River Valley, I highly recommend both.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Tour of Slave Haven

You may remember our trip to Memphis last spring. I shared photos of the Lorraine Motel, iconic glass pyramid, Peabody Duck March, and Memphis Zoo. We returned again this year for a conference, but this time we were only in town for a short 36 hours, rather than a full weekend. While Mr. Handsome attended the conference, I toured the city, as I did last year.

The highlight was visiting an Underground Railroad museum called Slave Haven. Located on the outskirts of downtown Memphis, the museum is a house that was once a stop along the Underground Railroad.

The house, known as the Burkle Estate, was built in 1856 for German immigrant Jacob Burkle and his family. As a devout Christian, Jacob Burkle was very much against slavery, so after his home was completed, he decided to use his cellar to house enslaved Africans seeking freedom in Illinois via the Mississippi River.

Located only a few blocks away from the river, the Burkle Estate likely housed a large number of slaves, historians believe. To allow his home to be easily recognized by these guests and as a signal that his home was a safe place for them to stop, Burkle planted magnolia trees in his front yard. Magnolias are not native to the area, making these the oldest magnolias in Memphis.

Harboring fugitive slaves was a serious crime, so Burkle kept no written records of his actions, and he did everything he could to appear to the public as a "respectable gentleman." Because he owned a Memphis stockyard, he was wealthy and was expected to own slaves. For that reason, Burkle purchased two slaves--a male and female. He treated them like family and then secretly helped them gain their freedom in Canada. To make it look like they had escaped, he ran a newspaper ad offering a reward for their return.

Members of the Burkle family lived in the home for more than 100 years. Photography was prohibited inside the house, but the cellar where the slaves hid was accessible through small hole in the base of the house.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Easy Crème Brûlée

On Valentine's Day, I asked Mr. Handsome what he wanted for dessert, and he replied, "I'm always up for crème brûlée, but I've heard it's hard to make." I loved the idea but had also heard the same thing.

Hoping to prove them wrong, I Googled "easy crème brûlée recipes" and found a few that used instant pudding mix...yuck. After spending a little more time on the internet, I discovered that the ingredients in crème brûlée are very simple, and although the process requires the chef's full attention, it doesn't actually take that much time. I didn't have a kitchen torch, but I learned that I could use my oven's broiler setting.

Now I usually don't copy other bloggers' recipes, but I found the perfect, easy crème brûlée recipe. I have made it twice and have received rave reviews from Mr. Handsome and several guests, so rather than reinvent the wheel, I'll just share the link. There's a video, but I honestly didn't watch it. The written recipe has plenty of detail.

I will say that in step seven, when you're using your broiler setting to create a caramelized crust, turn the oven light on, and position the baking dish in the middle of the oven so you can keep an eye on your dessert through the window. Don't just setting the timer for 3 minutes and walking away. Sit there and watch it the entire time.

The first time I made it, my crème brûlée burned after only 2 minutes (it was sitting on the second-from-the-top rack, which I don't recommend). If that happens to you, just grab a fork and lightly lift the top layer off each crème brûlée, and voila...good as new! Then you can repeat the sugaring step and try again. Mine only took 1-2 minutes.

Also, I don't recommend looking at the nutrition facts below the recipe. Crème brûlée is by no means healthy, but a little treat now and then never hurt anybody.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

My Favorite Things Part 3

A couple years ago, I posted some get to know you questions, and I enjoyed reading your responses in the comments section. Below are a few more fun questions for you to answer. I'm curious to hear your replies!

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I started off wanting to be an actress, as many kids do. When I discovered my love for writing, I dreamed of being a well-known author. Then in high school, I started participating in home design workshops and set my sights on architecture. I visited a few universities that offered architecture, but after taking calculus, I realized that I really disliked math. I settled on journalism in my senior year of high school. A friend (who also happened to be an architecture student) loved the university she attended because she lived in a house with three dozen other Christian girls. After applying and being accepted into the house, I heard the school had a solid journalism school, so that's what I studied!

If you could eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Whole wheat rotini noodles (the curly ones) with spaghetti sauce and cottage cheese....and a spinach salad with homemade balsamic vinaigrette. It's certainly not my favorite meal, but I always enjoy it, and I don't see myself ever growing tired of it. You're probably wondering where the cottage cheese comes from. Growing up, my dad, brother, and I always put cottage cheese on our spaghetti. It's actually quite good...sort of like a makeshift lasagna.

What are your favorite and least favorite household chores?
I have always loved organizing. As a child, I would willingly spend hours cleaning and organizing my room, the kitchen, the basement, and any other room my mother would allow me to. I just find it so relaxing, and having a well organized home makes life a lot easier.

My least favorite is probably loading and emptying the dishwasher because it's such a constant thing. One minute you have a cabinet full of clean dishes, and the next minute they're all in the sink and needing to be loaded into the dishwasher, and then you have to put them back in the cabinet...and then the cycle repeats the next day. But the one bright spot is how beautiful glassware looks when you take it out of the dishwasher immediately after the dry cycle ends. I just love how it sparkles!