Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Gender Reveal Party!

Over the weekend, my sister-in-law Anne threw a gender reveal party for her second child. Her first baby, Ana, is almost 2 years old, and Baby #2 is due in October. (Click here to see the adorable announcement photo.)

Anne and her husband decided to be surprised about the gender of their first child, but this time they elected to find out before the birth. Anne had a sonogram last week and had the technician jot down the gender and seal it in an envelope, which she gave to a friend who bakes cakes.

About 45 family members and friends gathered yesterday afternoon for a joint Gender Reveal/Memorial Day party. My 15-year-old sister-in-law, Mae, took a handful of beautiful photos that I just have to share.

It looks like my sister-in-law went "all out," but aside from the cakes and disposable plates, napkins, and silverware, she didn't have to purchase a single item. (My mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law took care of food.) All the supplies and decorations, including the white tent, were left over from our DIY backyard wedding.


In the picture above, you'll notice two bulletin boards covered in chalkboard paper. Here are the close-ups of those:



This one is an actual chalkboard. Anne constantly amazes me with her creativity!


To drink, we had "bouncing blue Hawaiian punch," "pretty pink lemonade," and water. I'm not a huge fan of sugary drinks, so I went with water, but I have to admit that the festive drinks were a cute idea.


Anne created a nursery decoration by printing off an outline of a tree and having everyone decorate it with their thumb print.


My mom, Lily, and I were given the important task of picking up the cakes. The big one is a regular vanilla sheet cake, and the small one is the announcement cake, with either a pink or blue center.


My jokester husband Mr. Handsome grabbed a plastic knife and pretended to cut into the cake before it was time. LOL. He and a few of the men examined the cake (without touching it) to see if they could tell what color was inside.

Mr. Handsome came over to me and whispered, "I know the gender!" He proceeded to tell me that he had found a stray colored crumb. "It's a boy," he said. I didn't believe him because everyone was convinced that it was a girl, mostly because of the fast heartbeat and the other old wives' tales. But Mr. Handsome was very sure of his prediction.


When the time came for Anne and her husband to cut the cake, everyone grabbed their phones and gathered around.


Well, you can imagine our surprise when we saw blue instead of pink. Anne was floored. She had been so sure that it was a girl. We are all looking forward to welcoming this "bouncing baby boy" into our family in October!


Thursday, May 26, 2016

Healthy Pasta Salad

Are you looking for an easy side dish to make for you Memorial Day cookout? Check out this pasta salad recipe (video and printed recipe below). It's one of my favorites!



Healthy Pasta Salad  

Ingredients:
12 ounces small shell pasta
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
18 ounces cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup black olives, sliced (optional)
2 Tablespoons fresh chives or 2 teaspoons minced onion
1/4 cup fresh basil or 2 teaspoons dried basil
1 large cucumber
4 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
7 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste


Directions: 
-Boil pasta, adding 1/4 teaspoons garlic powder to the water. 
-Combine cooked pasta, chopped tomatoes, sliced olives, chopped cucumber, and minced chives (or onion) in a large bowl.
-Add basil, and stir to combine.
-In a small bowl, mix white wine vinegar and olive oil. Stir into salad. 
-Add 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder and salt/pepper to taste.


Recipe adapted from Jamie Oliver's Best Pasta Salad

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

What's Lurking in Your Baking Powder?


While researching homemade cleaning products, I made a shocking discovery. Did you know that many brands of baking powder use aluminum in their products? That's right, a metal that is believed to be a potential cause of serious health problems could be lurking in your kitchen.

I'm guessing that many of you are familiar with the push to avoid antiperspirants, which contain aluminum. Now I'm not going to lie, that is not easy transition to make. Deodorants that work well and do not contain antiperspirants are few and far between. In fact, I don't blame anyone for refusing to forsake their beloved antiperspirant.

But let's be honest, does anyone have a brand loyalty to baking powder? Personally, I buy whatever is on sale. As long as it does its job, it works for me.

For that reason, when I found out that my Clabber Girl Baking Powder contained aluminum and that Walmart sells Rumford's Aluminum-Free Baking Powder for virtually the same price (both under $2.00), I was more than willing to make the transition.

Am I late to the game on this one? Is it a known fact that many baking powders contain aluminum? (I wouldn't be surprised...) I would also be interested to hear if any of you know of any other easy ways to cut out potentially harmful ingredients in food?

Monday, May 23, 2016

Carpal Tunnel?

A few months ago, I started experiencing pain in my hands, wrists, and lower arms while using the computer. I tried taking it easy for a few days, but that didn't help.

I went out to Office Depot and purchased a keyboard, ergonomic mouse, and gel wrist rest, but none of that seemed to do any good. I even figured out how to use the mouse with my foot (LOL), but that didn't seem to work, either.

At that point, I was pretty discouraged. I'm in my early 20s, and I'm already having to deal with this? I thought. That's just not right.

After doing some research, I determined that I needed a new desk. My old one was about 50 years old and had been handed down to us by my in-laws. Not only was it not the correct height, but it did not have enough room underneath for a proper office chair.


So I did more research and ended up purchasing a sit-to-stand desk, which has a hand crank that allows me to adjust the height. It cost $300, but it's built like a tank.



When I'm not standing, I sit on an exercise ball. I take frequent breaks to stretch my arms, wrists, and back and am also very mindful of my posture throughout the day.

I sleep with wrist braces, which I purchased for $16 each at Walmart, so my arms don't curl up. I've also become a pro at voice texting and swipe texting on my iPhone. Oh, and I've been taking 450 mg of turmeric to heal any inflammation.


That sounds quite complicated, doesn't it? It's only been a week since I started the full regimen, but it seems to be helping. Have any of you struggled with carpal tunnel syndrome or tendonitis? If you have any suggestions to share, I would be very grateful!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Quack, Quack!

To all the animal lovers out there: Y'all are going to love this post. :)

My hubby recently cashed in on his joint Christmas present from his grandparents and me, which was a four-hour guided fishing trip on a local lake.

The weather was beautiful, and we had a wonderful time catching fish, but the highlight for me was feeding the two ducks that touched down beside our boat and swam along with us.

The male duck looked pretty normal to me, but the female was a much lighter shade than any of the female ducks I had ever seen.


She also had a beautiful blue feather, which you can kind of see here...



Is it just me, or does the angle of her beak make it look like she is smiling?


They stuck really close to the boat and at one point came up beside the ladder and looked like they were trying to find a way in. Am I the only one who thinks these ducks are absolutely precious?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

My Favorite Things Part 2

Sounds like you all enjoyed Saturday's "My Favorite Things" post. I loved reading your responses! You suggested so many follow up questions that I just had to write a second post. So here goes. I would love to read your responses to these questions, too.

1. Dog Breed
Call me crazy, but I really like dachshunds (aka "hotdogs")...they're just so cute!

2. Color
Purple

3. Boy/Girl Names
I'll have to keep those a secret for now. :)

4. Song
"Come Thou Fount"

5. Style of Music
Hmm...my top three are hymns, bluegrass, and contemporary Christian.

6. School Subject
I always enjoyed French class and language arts.

7. Vacation Spot
Tropics/beach

8. Relaxation Technique
Exercising. I don't usually like jogging, but we belong to a gym, and I enjoy the elliptical.

9. Bible Verse
I have lots, but one is Romans 8:32.

10. Book
I don't usually have time to read anything other than the Bible, but I love historical fiction. Growing up, my favorites were the Little House on the Prairie books.

11. Letter of the Alphabet
Maybe E? LOL.

12. Bath and Body Products
I usually just buy whatever lotions are on sale and are either unscented or have a natural scent.

13. TV Show
Little House on the Prairie (and When Calls the Heart)

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Giveaway!

Thank you for all the feedback you submitted to my 1 Million Pageviews post!

It sounds like most of you would like me to host a giveaway of one of Mr. Handsome's paintings. Great idea! It's going to take him a little bit of time to whip one up, so we will have to put that giveaway on the back burner. (He is currently working on paintings for two of his sister's birthdays.)

You have been such loyal readers that I would like to do a giveaway now, while we wait for the painting. I wanted to raffle off something with meaning, so I spent a few days thinking it over and came up with something that I think you all will enjoy: fancy hair clips! Feel free to keep them for yourself or give them as a gift to a friend.

One winner will receive a pair of Lilla Rose heart bloom bobby pins...


...And the other will receive a Lilla Rose felicity flexi clip (size small).


To enter, follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter widget below. Two of the entry options are mandatory, and the others are optional, but the more you do, the greater your chances of winning.

The first mandatory entry option is to submit a comment telling me which hair clip you would prefer. The second is to visit each of the tabs below the blog header (Meet Ellie, DIY Wedding Planning, Recipes, etc) and search through the posts that are linked to on each of those pages. One of the posts has a message in hot pink at the very top. Simply submit the title of that post as a comment to this giveaway post. (Hint: It's in a post that is linked to in one of the first five tabs.)

This giveaway is open to all readers, but those under age 18 must have permission from their parent or guardian.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, May 16, 2016

Weekend Getaway

We spent the weekend in the beautiful city of Indianapolis, Indiana. Mr. Handsome had a continuing education class there, and I went along for the ride.

Have any of you been to Indianapolis? I never had, but it turned out to be a wonderful place with a lot of rich history.

When we first arrived, we drove past the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in the center of the city. On Sunday afternoon before leaving, we decided to go see it up close and discovered that there was an observation deck on the very top.


I was eager to go up there, and although Mr. Handsome was tired and ready to get on the road, he agreed to go with me. You can either pay $2 a person to take the elevator or walk up all 330 stairs for free. Being the frugal folks that we are, we took the free route, and oh my was it challenging!

Even though the observation deck was no higher than our 15th-floor hotel room, it was still a neat experience and provided a beautiful view of the city. But I would not recommend it to people who are claustrophobic. It was quite cramped in there!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

My Favorite Things

Happy Saturday! I figured I would have a little fun this afternoon and compile a list of my favorite things. I would love it if you all would share your answers, too! And if you come up with more questions, let me know, and I'll do another post.

What's Your Favorite...?

1. Candy
Dark Chocolate all the way!

2. Board Game
I love all board games, but my favorites are Settlers, Bananagrams, Dutch Blitz, and Yahtzee

3. Holiday
Easter

4. Childhood Memory
Vacationing with my family

5. Cereal
It changes all the time, but currently I'm into Whole Wheat Chex

6. Type of Cookie
White chocolate macadamia nut

7. Sport to play
Tennis

8. Sport to Watch
Hockey or basketball because they're both fast-paced. I'm not a huge fan of watching sports, but my husband is, so I've learned to enjoy it.

9. Candy from Childhood
Root beer flavored Bottle Caps

10. Pet
My cockatiel from childhood

11. Clothing Store
Second-hand/consignment stores are the best, but I also like Maurice's

12. Breakfast food
Pancakes!

13. Pop/Soda/Soda Pop
I prefer juice, but if I had to choose a pop, it would be Ginger Ale

14. Person
My husband! (aka Mr. Handsome)

15. Restaurant
Olive Garden

Thursday, May 12, 2016

My College Years

Anne and me
First off, thank you for all your wonderful ideas of how to celebrate one million pageviews! I'm going to talk with Mr. Handsome and get back to y'all soon.

Remember when you submitted questions and feedback to my "Ask Ellie" post? I look at those comments frequently and have been using them to plan my blog posts. (Feel free to continue to submit ideas, either as a comment or via email--nashvillewife@gmail.com.)

A few of you asked me to blog about my college years, so here goes!

I chosen a state school with a student population of more than 40,000. Not only was tuition significantly cheaper than private or out-of-state schools, but I had heard from multiple sources that the journalism department was very strong. (With scholarships, my education costs were very reasonable.) I also had a friend from church who was a sophomore in architecture and had great things to say about the academic strength of the university.

My friend had told me about the house she lived in on campus, so I visited and absolutely fell in love with it. Of course I was nervous about attending such a large, public school, but she assured me that this house would provide a close-knit community of caring girls to lean on.

I ended up being accepted into both the university and the house, and my friend's words proved true. I was blessed to be able to stay in that house during all five of my semesters on campus, so I never had to experience true dorm life.

I lived with 37 other Christian girls in a four-story house. We did all our own cooking and cleaning, which meant we paid significantly less than those who lived in the dorms. Next door was a house full of Christian guys who kept an eye on us. (Don't worry, we had plenty of rules--which we made--to prevent shady things from happening.)

Each girl shared a study room with one or two others, although we slept dormitory-style, with 20 girls in one large attic room and 18 in the other.

My study room in freshman year
You may be surprised to hear that I have never slept better in my life than I did during college! Even though everyone went to bed at different times and the door was constantly opening and closing, no one ever complained. I rarely ever woke up. The room I was in--called the "warm dorm"--was kept at a constant 65 degrees, and the other--the "cold dorm"--was somewhere between 15 and 50 degrees, depending on the season. (In the winter, they kept the windows open...)

Every week, each girl prepared one or two meals for the entire house and cleaned one or two areas; bathrooms were always the worst. Every Sunday after church, we had the guys over for lunch, which meant we had to make food for 70 people. (The boys prepared dinner for us on Saturday nights, but let's just say that many of the girls elected to make their own food.)

We had plenty of social events and study parties, and there was always someone to talk to. It truly was a great way to spend my college years! I'll be forever grateful to God for the life-long friendships I made while living there, especially the one with a gal named Anne. She introduced me to her family, and a certain brother of hers and I really hit it off. LOL. Click here to read more about how I met Mr. Handsome.

Oh, and by the way, I graduated with a bachelor's in journalism and concentrations in both business and public relations.

Monday, May 9, 2016

1 Million Pageviews!


I told myself that I was going to check my Nashville Wife pageview meter every night before bed so I could watch it switch over from 999,999 to 1,000,000. But alas, my busy life got the best of my, and I missed it...

So today, I'm at 1,026,000 pageviews. Woohoo!

Of course, I couldn't have done it without my wonderful readers. Y'all are the best! I love sharing my life with you and chatting with you via the comments section.

Please feel free to share your suggestions for my blog, either as a comment or an email (NashvilleWife@gmail.com). Many readers have done that already, and I hope many more will!

Lastly, we must find a way to celebrate this milestone. Any ideas? Someone mentioned doing a giveaway. What do you think I should raffle off? 

As always, I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts. :)

Have a blessed day!
Ellie

Friday, May 6, 2016

Drawing the World...Freehand

As I shared with you back in November, I elected to leave public school after 10th grade and homeschool during my last two years of high school. (Click here to read about my homeschool journey.)

My in-laws have seven kids, of which Mr. Handsome is the oldest, and all have been homeschooled for the majority of their childhoods. The first five, who are now in their 20s, were homeschooled until high school, and the youngest two--Mae and Lena, ages 13 and 14--will most likely be homeschooled all the way through.

Last weekend, my mother-in-law joked that she wishes she could go back and homeschool her five oldest again. "I've learned so much through the Classical Conversations curriculum that I'm doing with the little girls," she said. Truthfully, all of her older kids are very successful, so she was clearly a good teacher.

Are any of you familiar with Classical Conversations? It's a rigorous co-op program that divides the learning process into three stages: grammar, dialect, and rhetoric. Let's just say that the oldest five are glad they didn't have to go through it. As someone who grew up in the public school system, I can tell you that Classical Conversations kids learn more useful information than public school students.

The most amazing part of the curriculum is how much the kids memorize. In middle school, they learn how to draw the world freehand and label ever country and its capital. Mae has already mastered that, but she enjoys practicing her skill.

Here is a time-lapse video of her freehand drawing the United States. Naturally she claims it "isn't very good"...

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Mother's Day Craft for Kids

Footprint Butterfly Flower Pot 

Mother's Day is less than one week away. Are you looking for a last-minute craft for your kiddos? If you are, you'll love this post!

We don't have any children (yet), but I helped my sister-in-law Anne with her Mother's Day craft. (It's supposed to be from her 21-month-old daughter Ana, but of course we ended up doing all the work.)

Anne found the idea on Pinterest, and I think it's quite adorable. Kudos if you can get your child to sit still long enough to put paint on the bottoms of their feet and press their feet onto the flower pot. My niece wouldn't have any part of that, so we made paper cutouts of Ana's feet.

We positioned the cutouts on the flower pot and lightly traced them with a pencil. Then we used paint brushes and acrylic paint to fill them in and draw the butterfly's body.

Once we finished the first flower pot, we spent a few moments admiring our handiwork and proceeded to make seven more. (In addition to her mom, Ana has two grandmothers, three great-grandmothers, and two great-great-grandmothers.)

The flower pots we used were seven inches tall, but you will want to measure your child's feet before going to the store. This craft works for children of any age! (Click here to see the "grownup craft" that my husband made for our moms.)

I'm not wearing makeup in this photo, so don't look too closely ;-)

Monday, May 2, 2016

No-Sew Fleece Blanket

A couple weekends ago, I was invited to a friend's baby shower. I checked her gift registry, but most of the items have been purchased, so I decided to do a homemade gift. After thinking it over, I came up with the perfect idea: a no-sew fleece blanket!

I visited the fabric store and bought an adorable animal print pattern for one side of the blanket and a plain brown piece of fleece for the other side.


I made my blanket 1-1/2 yards, but looking back, I would have preferred it to be only one yard, as that would have been the perfect size for a car seat or stroller cover.

The general rule of thumb for no-sew blankets is...
Infant: 1 yard
Toddler/child: 1.5 yards
Teen/adult: 2 yards (or 2-1/2 for taller adults)

What do you think of the finished product? (The feet belong to Lena, my 13-year-old sister-in-law). The tutorial video that I followed is embedded below.