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.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Homemade Salad Dressing

I love salad. Well, that's a bit of a stretch. A more accurate statement is that I'm trying to love salad because it's healthy and I know I should be eating more of it. And sometimes when I have the right mix of dressing, croutons, and lettuce, I can convince myself that it's tastier than a piece of chocolate cake. But that's rare. Okay, extremely rare.

I've searched high and low for the perfect salad dressing. Mr. Handsome's favorite is Hidden Valley Ranch, but I'm not a huge fan. (There's an amusing story behind that...I'll have to tell it sometime.)

I quickly grew tired of purchasing an entire bottle of store-bought salad dressing, only to find with the first bite that it just wasn't very good. At first, I was disciplined and would force myself to finish the entire thing, but that just made me avoid salads, so I convinced myself that it was healthier to toss it in the garbage and try another type. Well, after going through about six bottles of salad dressing, I decided I needed a new method for finding the perfect salad dressing.

When I was a child, my mother often made her own oil and vinegar salad dressing...a little of this, a little of that. Sometimes it turned out great, other times it was far from perfect. So I recently began my own quest for the perfect homemade salad dressing recipe. After much experimentation, I came up with a winner. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Homemade Salad Dressing

1/8 cup white wine vinegar
3/8 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder 
1/8 teaspoon dried mustard
5 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese

Whisk ingredients together, and voila...homemade oil and vinegar salad dressing that might just make you fall in love with salad.

I store mine in an old coconut oil jar from Aldi, but I recommend switching out the lid (which contains BPA) for a Ball/Kerr canning lid. The dressing hardens in the refrigerator, but if you toss it in the microwave for 5-10 seconds, it will return to its liquid form.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Bald Eagle Footage

While going through videos on my phone, I came across a few from our trip to the Memphis Zoo that I had not yet posted. As we walked through the exhibits on a rainy afternoon in March, we came across a large habitat that was home to three bald eagles! We stood and watched them for several minutes and were able to capture some pretty neat footage (see videos below).

Monday, May 8, 2017

Famous Mothers Game

Mother's Day is just around the corner. How will you honor the special women in your life?

Mr. Handsome's grandma led guests in this creative game at an early Mother's Day tea. I wasn't able to attend, but she emailed me a copy so I could share it with my readers.

Try your hand at the game, and let me know how you did in the comments section. (The answers are listed below the game.)

Famous Mothers

1. Mother _____________ No bone for her dog

2. Mother ______________ A fowl start to the game

3. Mother ________________ A rich find in mining

4. Mother ________________ Mother of the weather

5. Mother _____ _______ The question asked by Shakespeare's Hamlet

6. Mother ______ ________ A game in which you must ask permission

7. Mother ________________ The Supreme Court decides this

8. Mother ________________ Mother recognized for helping others

9. Mother of ____________ A substance used in jewelry found in a shell

10. Mother ______________ Mother of the planet

11._____________Mother England's monarch

12. Mother ______________ The head of a Christian order for females

13. ____________ Mother A famous art piece

14. ____________Mother Another word for stair

15. Mommy ____________ Joan Crawford

16. ____________mother Deity

17. ____________mother Mother's mother

18. Mother_____________ A location mentioned in rap music

19. ___________________ The best mother in the world.

Famous Mothers Solutions

1. Mother Hubbard
2. Mother Goose
3. Mother Lode
4. Mother Nature
5. Mother To Be
6. Mother May I?
7. Mother-In-Law
8. Mother Teresa
9. Mother of Pearl
10. Mother Earth
11. Queen Mother
12. Mother Superior
13. Whistler's Mother
14. Step-Mother
15. Mommy Dearest
16. Godmother
17. Grandmother
18. Motherhood
19. Your own mother

Saturday, May 6, 2017

2nd Audiobook Giveaway

Earlier this year, I raffled off four copies of The Jungle Book, as read by Jim Weiss. Mr. Handsome and I had the honor of meeting Jim, a world renowned storyteller, and his wife, Randy, at my brother-in-law's wedding in December. I graciously took them up on their offer to send material for two giveaways.

Since the inception of Greathall Productions in 1989, Jim has recorded more than 60 audio recordings of beloved stories under that label, including The Jungle Book, A Christmas Carol, Arabian Nights, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, A Tale of Two Cities, and multiple titles by G.A. Henty.

Jim has also created recordings of fiction and non-fiction works for other publishers, including the well-known series The Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer. In addition to producing audio recordings, Jim has spent time traveling as a storyteller and workshop instructor. He has received more than 100 awards for his work.

Jim Weiss' recordings can be ordered off and He and Randy publish a bimonthly e-magazine, which can be accessed on their website,, by clicking "View Archives of Past E-Magazine Blogs."

Follow the prompts on the Rafflecopter widget below to enter to win one of four copies of A Collection of Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories, as Read by Jim Weiss.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Photo courtesy Greathall/Jim Weiss

Friday, May 5, 2017

Save Money with Coupons

In the comments section of one of my recent posts, the discussion turned to couponing, and a few readers requested more information on how to save money with coupons.

How many of you have heard of Groupon? The site has been around for quite a while, but I recently learned about a new service called Groupon Coupons. The company has partnered with more than 9,000 retailers from across the globe to provide consumers with great coupons...all for free.

You can search coupons by store or category on the Groupon Coupons page. There are tons to choose from, but I am especially excited about the clothing store coupons. Kohl's, one of my favorite stores, is on there!

I always remember to search for coupons for online orders, but when I clip coupons for in-store use, I'll admit that I often forget to use them. That's something I need to improve on.

If you are familiar with Groupon Coupons, I would love to hear how you have used the site to save money. And feel free to share your general couponing tips, as well.

Photo courtesy of Groupon Coupons

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

How I Met Mr. Handsome (Vlog)

Good afternoon! My readers have been encouraging Mr. Handsome and me to share more videos, so we filmed one yesterday evening. In his witty way, Mr. Handsome tells the story of the first time we saw each other...