Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Canadian Rockies Day 2

Last week, I posted photos and stories from day one of our Canadian Rocky Mountain adventure. On the second day, we woke up early and drove out to Yoho National Park, located on the edge of Banff National Park.

Our first stop was the Lower Spiral Tunnel Viewpoint, located in an area along the Trans-Canada Highway known as Kicking Horse Pass. Dr. James Hector, the surgeon who accompanied the expedition credited with discovering the pass, was kicked by a horse while the party was exploring the area, thus the name.

So what are the Spiral Tunnels? Well in 1884, the Canadian Pacific Railway built the segment of track known as the Big Hill. They were in a hurry to complete their route and crowd out competition from northwest U.S. railways, so they created a section with a 4.5% grade, which was very dangerous and resulted in frequent crashes. And during the construction of the track, an average of one crew member died each week. Imagine how secluded it would have felt working in the Rockies 130 years ago!

In 1909, engineers replaced the treacherous section with a new track that included two spiral tunnels to help trains keep their speed in check. 

This is a terrible picture, but the orange circles show each opening of the lower spiral tunnel. When a train comes through, you can see the front of the train come out the exit while the back of the train is still going through the entrance.

After our stop at the tunnel, we drove up the winding Yoho Valley Road (closed October through June for use as a cross-country ski route) to Takakkaw Falls.

We walked up a short path to the base of the falls, taking pictures along the way. I attempted to be artistic and snap a photo of Mr. Handsome taking a photo.

The waterfall is 300 meters (nearly 1,000 feet) at its highest point.

As we approached the falls, the air became noticeably colder, and we began to feel the spray.

We ate a fancy picnic lunch (peanut butter and jelly, anyone?) in the parking lot and then decided to be wild and crazy and embark on a long hike along the iconic Iceline Trail. We grabbed water bottles, snacks, raincoats, and sweatshirts and headed out.

Mr. Handsome carried bear spray from our bed and breakfast hosts on his belt. The park rangers have had a lot of trouble with bears this year, and a man was attached--but thankfully escaped--by a grizzly while were were there.

The bear spray was nearly expired, so we tested it before starting the hike. Boy was it a powerful spray! I sprayed it into the woods and walked away, but my nose still burned a bit. Mr. Handsome, on the other hand, didn't smell a thing.

The first hour of the trek was steep switchbacks up the side of the mountain. When we finally reached the treeline, we were relieved. Time for a photo with our $7 Amazon Selfie Stick!

Every direction provided breathtaking views. There were even some wildflowers growing along the trail.

The next hour was switchbacks along a rocky path. We had to hop over some mountain streams that crossed the trail. The temperature, which had started out at 80F, began to drop to the high 60s, and we started seeing patches of snow.

By that time, we had climbed higher than the Takakkaw waterfall, located across the valley. You can see it in this picture.

We were glad to have our raincoats when it started drizzling!

By the third hour, we were trudging through waist-deep snow. If we walked carefully, we could stay on top of it, but every once in a while, our feet sunk into deep holes, often with rocky streams below. The rain picked up a bit, and the temperature was around 55F, but we were still sweating, as we continued walking up a steep incline.

This picture is taken from the trail summit. By that point, we had gained 710 meters (2,330 feet). It sure felt good to look out over that huge expanse of snow and know that we had made it across. It may look like a small area, but to put it into perspective, the two little dots in the orange circle are people.

Mr. Handsome was brave enough to walk out to the peak. He successfully coaxed me out there, but I was too scared to pull out my phone and take a picture.

The scenery was just incredible, unlike anything that either of us had ever seen. We could have stayed up there for hours.

The trip back was even more treacherous, as we had to walk down the steep, snowy mountain. By that time, our shoes were soaked. The wind picked up, and it started pouring. We pressed on. As we reached the top of the treeline, we noticed that the ground was covered in hail. A hailstorm had gone through while we were at the summit! We were grateful to have missed it.

The 8-mile hike took us 5.5 hours. We wanted to go further (the entire loop is 21.1km/13.1miles) but the snow was too deep.

Here are couple videos that we filmed on day two:

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Strawberry-Maple Spinach Salad

Mr. Handsome proudly tells people that I'm the only person he knows who craves salad. Salads are not only tasty, but eating them makes me feel health and content, especially if I have been indulging in some not-so-healthy meals.

It's rare for me to come across a salad that I dislike (although I will say that I'm not a fan of iceberg lettuce). I have several homemade salad dressing recipes that I switch between, and I'm always adding to my arsenal.

This spinach salad is incredibly easy to make, and it has a unique flavor. If you prefer a less sweet taste, feel free to cut down on the maple syrup or add more balsamic vinegar.

Strawberry-Maple Spinach Salad

1-1/2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 teaspoons pure maple syrup
3 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
6 ounces spinach leaves
1 pound of strawberries

  • Whisk oil, mustard, syrup, and vinegar together in a cup.
  • Do a taste test, adding more balsamic vinegar if you prefer a less sweet dressing.
  • Slice up the strawberries. Mix into the salad.
  • Just before serving, pour the dressing over the spinach and strawberries, and mix gently with salad tongs.
Serves 4

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Perfect Gift For Under $20

You need a gift for a family member or friend, and you keep putting it off because you have absolutely no idea what to give them. A gift card is always an option, but that just seems so impersonal. Has anyone been in that situation? I know I have.

I was at my aunt and uncle's house recently, and my cousins were saying that they have stopped exchanging gifts with their siblings and siblings-in-law because they felt like there was an invisible $50 bill changing hands in the form of a different type of gift card at every birthday.

Now don't get me wrong, gift cards make great gifts (if someone gives me a gift card, I certainly won't turn it down), but sometimes it's nice to spice things up a bit and give an actual object.

I know you're probably wondering where I'm going with this. Well, if you're searching for a gift for a female friend or family member, I have the perfect suggestion. Treat her to a spa gift basket!

Pick up a cute basket at a thrift store, and head to a beauty store (or Walmart) to fill it with girly stuff. My gift basket contains the following:

2 Miss Spa face masks ($2.50)
1 lavender candle ($2)
1 Tree Hut Shea sugar scrub ($5)
1 Bodycology cherry blossom body lotion ($4)
1 Yardley Oatmeal & Almond soap bar ($1)
1 bath sponge ($1)
1 Bodycology cherry blossom bath fizzies ($4)

If you need additional suggestions, feel free to add nail polish and remover, a nail file, a pumice stone, a bar of chocolate, a book to read in the bath, bubble bath, or shower gel.

Now I want to hear from you--what are your gift suggestions?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Canadian Rockies Day 1

On Monday, I shared a few pictures from the trip we took last week to see if you could tell where we were. All the guesses were close, and several readers hit the nail on the head. We spent eight days in the Canadian Rockies! I have wanted to take Mr. Handsome to Alberta since before we were married, and it finally happened.

We flew into Calgary and stayed overnight with friends. Then we stopped by Walmart to load up on healthy snacks and ingredients for peanut butter and jelly before heading to the mountains. After checking into our bed and breakfast, we grabbed our hiking gear and went straight to the trails.

The first trail was a short walk to the hoodoo viewpoint. If you're like me, you're probably wondering what on Earth a hoodoo is. (Sure is fun to say, isn't it?) We learned that hoodoos are rock formations that have been eroded into pillars. You can see a few towards the bottom of this photo:

Our next stop was Tunnel Mountain, a 2.7 mile/4.3 km hike with a 948 foot elevation gain. It took us about two hours. On the way to the top, the views just kept getting better and better, and we took pictures every chance we got.

There were beautiful mountains and valleys in every direction!

Mr. Handsome snapped a bunch of photos for painting inspiration.

Mr. Handsome also really enjoyed playing around with the panorama setting on his iPhone.

This is the first video we made on our trip. It's a little shaky and poor quality, but I promise that the rest of the videos I will post from our trip will be clearer and more stable.

When we reached the top, we were both blown away by the breathtaking view of Banff Townsite and the surrounding mountains. We saw a teenage boy sitting on a rock engrossed in his smartphone, and it made us laugh. How could someone prefer technology over this incredible, once-in-a-lifetime view?

"The views are only going to get better from here," I told Mr. Handsome excitedly. "No way," he responded. "Surely this is going to be the best view we see on our entire trip."

The views did end up getting better each day, making Tunnel Mountain a perfect first hike. 

Here is another video I filmed at the peak:

Following our hike, we walked around Banff Townsite trying to find a reasonably priced place to eat. After much time spent looking at menus outside various restaurants, we finally settled on McDonald's. I would never choose to eat at McDonald's at home, but we were hungry and tired, so the food tasted great!

We stopped by Bow Falls, a very loud and fast-flowing waterfall below the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.

And of course, we had to take the iconic picture at the end of Banff Avenue. Unfortunately, it was 10pm by that time and starting to get dark, so the photo didn't turn out great.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Where in the World?

Hello, Nashville Wife followers! Last week, I took a blogging break, and Mr. Handsome and I spent eight days on a relaxing but adventurous vacation. It was great to unplug from the world (Mr. Handsome even put his phone on airplane mode!), connect with each other, and experience God's beautiful creation.

I have tons of photos and stories to share, but today, I'm just going to post a few teasers to see if anyone can guess where we went. What do you think?

Friday, July 7, 2017

May Wedding Part 2

Here's the second batch of photos from my sister-in-law's May wedding. (Click here to see the pictures I posted on Monday.)

The three-tiered cake was made by Mr. Handsome's cousin, who runs a bakery out of her home. She has made cupcakes and wedding cakes for us in the past, but she holds her recipes close. Her cakes are just so moist, and her homemade frosting is out of this world! Someday I'll learn how to bake like her, and then I'll share the recipes with you all.

 She also made five sheet cakes.

We had a dessert table with a few assorted treats made by other family members.

There's Mr. Handsome's "We Do Forever" sign, greeting guests at the front door. We need to start charging for use of that thing!

My mother-in-law set up a room for kids with carnival games, popcorn, and soda. Most of Mr. Handsome's many first cousins have several children each, so family weddings always have a bunch of little ones running around.

For drinks at the reception, we set up dispensers of iced tea, lemonade, and water.

And there's Mr. Handsome and me....

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Laundry Confessions: Stinky Kitchen Towels

I have another laundry confession to share. Sometimes when I wash my kitchen towels, they come out smelling almost as bad as when I put them in. It's gross.

Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but let's be honest. The point of a washer is to clean and freshen linens and clothing, so if your laundry comes out with a lingering stench, it's a bit disconcerting. Can anyone else relate?

Well, I looked long and hard for a solution, and I finally found one. When my kitchen towels start to smell, I soak them in baking soda and white vinegar using the recipe below, and it works like a charm! My towels usually only need the treatment every few months, but feel free to do it as often as necessary.

Cure for Stinky Kitchen Towels
1/2 cup baking soda
1-1/2 cup white vinegar

  • Soak towels in hot water with above ingredients for 2 hours. (I turn on my washer soak setting and pause it for 2 hours.)
  • Wash towels in hot water using a strong detergent. (I use Whisk Deep Clean with Oxi Complete.)
  • Dry towels until they are completely dry. (This step may sound obvious, but it's a very important part of eliminating odors.)

Monday, July 3, 2017

May Wedding Part 1

Two weeks ago, I shared photos from my sister-in-law Catherine's Let Love Grow bridal shower. As promised, here are the snapshots I took at her wedding!

Mr. Handsome and I, along with the other brothers and sisters-in-law, were guests of honor. Mr. Handsome wore a tux without a jacket, while us girls wore the same style dresses as the bridesmaids but in navy rather than blue. Mr. Handsome played music during the ceremony, while I walked my niece (almost three) and nephew (nine months) down the aisle and sat with them in the front row. My niece had a bag of toys and played quietly, while my nephew sat calmly in the grass the entire time.

The wedding ceremony took place at a park. Although it was hot, the scenery was gorgeous. Beyond the arbor was a small lake.

The reception was held at the same community building where we had my brother-in-law's New Year's Eve wedding reception. It was also the rain backup for our DIY outdoor wedding reception.

We were blessed to have a whole crew of friends and family help us set up. Around 260 guests attended the wedding.

 The centerpieces were teacups/tea sets and books, as Catherine loves to read.

Instead of champagne or sparkling grape juice, we set out chocolates for the guests to eat during the toasts. The milk chocolate grooms were for the best man's toast, and the white chocolate brides were for the maid of honor's toast.

The wedding party sat at raised tables at the front of the room. The food was buffet style, catered by a friend. I made salad balsamic dressing (recipe to come).

Mr. Handsome's cousin and aunt did the flowers, as they did for our wedding.

Stay tuned for more photos!