Friday, October 20, 2017

Ask Ellie 2.0

Soon after I started this blog (has it really been almost two-and-a-half years?) I published a post titled "Ask Ellie," where I invited readers to share their feedback, questions, and post suggestions. I have lots of new ideas up my sleeve, but I'm always eager to hear what you all have to say.

What are your favorite posts that I have shared? What types of post would you like me to share in the future? Do you have any questions that you would like me to answer (either in a video or a written post)?

Go ahead and share your answers as comments. I will read and take into consideration every single response.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Homemade Hummus Recipe

How many of my readers are hummus fans? I sure am! Last week, I was randomly craving chips and hummus after having gone several months without having any. The Walmart brand was decent, but after finishing the entire tub in one week, I decided to make my own. The recipe I came up with was leaps and bounds better than store-bought.

Homemade Hummus

1-15oz can garbanzo beans
1/4 cup tahini (often found in the international aisle)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
2-1/2 Tablespoons olive oil
4 Tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon paprika

Combine ingredients, and blend using an immersion hand blender--such as a Bamix--until creamy. (Food processors and regular blenders work, as well.)

Store in the refrigerator. Serve with chips or veggies.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Chipmunk Encounter

To help you conquer the Monday doldrums, I have a couple cute photos to share. As I mentioned in my post about Day 4 of our Canadian Rocky Mountain adventure, we were greeted by a curious chipmunk when we arrived at a breathtaking lookout point during an all-day hike at Lake Louise. (Don't worry, we didn't feed it.)

The chipmunks in Banff National Park are often very friendly because they have grown so accustomed to humans. As a child, I remember sitting on a bench at Moraine Lake and being completely startled when a chipmunk crawled into my lap.

Have you had any interesting encounters with animals in the wild?

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Mr. Handsome's Ship Paintings

Mr. Handsome the painter has recently become interested in a new subject: ships. These three original ship paintings are some of his first attempts. The photos simply don't do them justice. They are so much better in person, and they blow me out of the water every single time I look at them. No pun intended...

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Flowers of the Canadian Rockies

On our trip through the Canadian Rocky Mountains, we hiked 32.3 miles in 20.5 hours and gained a total elevation of 9,284 feet. I always had my iPhone camera handy to capture all the beautiful scenery. While we walked, I made a point of taking pictures of the many types of flowers we encountered. Can you name any of them? Which are your favorites? Mine is No. 8.


Monday, October 9, 2017

Ground Turkey Taco Salad

We usually eat leftovers for lunch, but today, I felt like making something "fresh," so I whipped up a ground turkey taco salad. The "recipe" is hardly even a recipe because it's so easy.

Everything can be cooked/sliced in advance, so it's the perfect meal to have on hand for a quick lunch or to pack up and take to work.

Ground Turkey Taco Salad

1-1b ground turkey, browned and seasoned with taco seasoning
2 heads romaine lettuce, shredded
3 tomatoes, sliced
Tortilla chips, crumbled
Shredded cheese
Ranch dressing

Serves 3-4

#FabFitFun and a Giveaway

Last week, I received my first #FabFitFun Box, and I have already fallen in love with the products inside.

For those who haven't heard, FabFitFun is a subscription box filled with beauty, wellness, fashion, and fitness products that is delivered to your door each season (four times per year). I was invited to become a #FabFitFunPartner and was sent the fall box for free.

I'll admit that subscription boxes have never been my thing. I expected a box of cheap and junky products that I would never use, but I was thrilled to find a bunch of practical, useful items--including several full-size beauty products with all-natural ingredients.

Check out my unpacking video below, and enter code ELLIE at to get $10.00 off your first box. The Fall Box has sold out, but if you order now, you will receive the Editor's Box (filled with FabFitFun's top-rated brands and products). All opinions are my own.

Because I love my readers so much, and because I want you to see how awesome #FabFitFun is, I have set aside one of the most expensive items from the Fall Box to raffle off as a giveaway. Stay tuned for more info!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Top Wedding Planning Tips

Two-and-a-half years ago, Mr. Handsome and I planned a DIY wedding in just three months. It was a whirlwind, but we loved having a short engagement. I wrote several posts about our wedding soon after it happened, but I have since received requests to share more. Here are my top wedding planning tips:

Research and make a budget
Start by brainstorming ideas, looking things up online, and talking with folks who have had experience planning weddings. Write up some rough ideas, and then get together with your fiancé and anyone else who will be involved in the finances, and make a budget.

When we planned our wedding, we cut costs by DIY-ing everything but the side dishes. That allowed us to pull off an event for nearly 300 guests (we invited more than 400) at a small fraction of the amount considered to be the national average cost of a wedding.

Be kind to your wedding party
I can't tell you how many stories I have heard from disgruntled bridesmaids and groomsmen who
have been asked to purchase exorbitantly priced outfits. While it's important to choose wedding party attire that you and your fiancé love, selecting $400 bridesmaid dresses isn't always a considerate decision. One of my friends had to bow out of a wedding because she couldn't afford the dress she was told to buy.

Our wedding was shabby-chic. The girls wore matching knee-length gowns from Dress Barn ($35 each) with jewelry that we provided. The guys wore their own black suits (no suit coats), along with matching dress shirts and ties that we gave them as gifts.

Don't be afraid to ask for help
Planning a wedding is no easy task. If well-meaning friends and family offer to help, take them up on it, and if they don't offer, don't be afraid to ask. Choose one person as a wedding coordinator (either a professional or someone close to you who has the talent of gently telling people what to do) and fill her in on all the details. That way, when the big day comes around and you're busy having your hair and makeup done, your coordinator can take care of the last minute details.

Add special touches that you will remember for a lifetime
All too often, brides and grooms are so caught up in the details that make a wedding seem picture perfect from the outside, that they forget to add personal touches that they will remember for years to come. We were blessed to have lots of family and friends help with planning and setup, and we were happy to let them give opinions and suggestions. That being said, there were a few things that Mr.
Handsome and I weren't willing to compromise on.

Mr. Handsome plays guitar, and ever since we started dating, I had been dreaming about him playing the song "Come Thou Fount" on guitar as I walked down the aisle. We received many opinions from people who thought we should add additional instruments to make it more interesting, but I'm so glad I didn't allow them to change my mind. Walking down to him as he performed a fingerstyle version of "Come Thou Fount" that he had composed is one of my favorite memories from our wedding day. Mr. Handsome also wrote a song for me that he played during the ceremony. Not wanting anyone to talk him out of it, the only person he told ahead of time was the guy running the sound system.

Relax, and enjoy the moment
"The goal of a wedding is to join two people in marriage. Everything else is just icing on the cake." This piece of advice was very helpful to me, and it applies to both the planning process and the actual wedding day. You can't control the small hiccups that are bound to happen, but you can determine whether you let them change your mood.

Our wedding reception was outdoors on a hot and humid day, so we had written on the invitation that guests could bring casual clothes to change into. Well, we failed to mention that the wedding party should stay in their dress clothes at least until dinner began. You can imagine what was going through my mind as our party was being introduced in front of everyone, and one of the groomsmen walked out in shorts and a t-shirt! But I quickly composed myself and refused to let it bother me. Had I flipped out, it could have negatively impacted the tone of the whole reception. We chose to laugh it off, and it's now a memory that we enjoy teasing the groomsman about.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Recipe: Pulled Pork Nachos

Mr. Handsome and I try to eat healthy most of the time, but we allow ourselves a couple days each week to indulge in less healthy meals--usually on the weekends and/or Magnificent Meal Monday. (That being said, I always strive to incorporate at lease one veggie into every lunch and dinner.)

Growing up, my family rarely went out to eat, but when we did, one of our favorite items to order were loaded nachos with all the fixins.

A while ago, I mentioned loaded nachos to Mr. Handsome and was shocked to find out that he hadn't every tried them. I just had to share this wonderful experience with him, so I decided to whip up a batch...and boy were they good! Instead of the usual ground beef, I tried pulled pork. Best culinary decision I've ever made.

Here's my recipe:

Loaded Pulled Pork Nachos

18-ounce bag tortilla chips
1.5 lbs pulled pork*
2 cans black beans
4 tomatoes
2 bell peppers
Homemade queso (click here for my recipe)
Homemade BBQ sauce (recipe is included in my BBQ wings post)
Shredded cheddar cheese

*I use my slow cooker pulled pork recipe, but I leave out the onions. My recipe calls for 3 lbs pork shoulder, so I save half the pulled pork for leftovers. (If you don't have pork shoulder, pork loin works, as well.)

Chop the tomatoes and peppers. (Mr. Handsome wanted me to share a photo of his perfectly sliced peppers.)

On a greased cookie sheet or baking stone, assemble the first layer of nachos, using half of each of your ingredients:

Pulled pork
BBQ sauce
Shredded cheddar cheese

Now, add a second layer:
Pulled pork
Shredded cheddar cheese
BBQ sauce

Bake at 350F until cheese has fully melted (about 20 minutes). Drizzle with queso, and serve.

Recipe serves 4-6

Monday, October 2, 2017

Lego-Themed 1st Birthday (Photos)

Another day, another party hosted by Anne the party planner. This summer, I was helping brainstorm ideas for her son's first birthday party. We both agreed that "Turning One Is Fun" is corny and overdone. Rather than a rhyming theme, I came up with the idea of doing something with Legos, and Anne loved that.

Fast-forward a few months, and she just pulled off the absolute cutest Lego-themed party (scroll down for photos). Below are the links to pictures from other parties Anne has planned:

Nursing/Healthcare Themed Party
Turning 3 Under the Sea
Fiesta-Themed Gender Reveal Party
Let Love Grow Bridal Shower
Turning 2 With Winnie the Pooh
Pink and Blue Gender Reveal Party
Fall-Themed Bridal Shower 
Love Is Brewing Wedding Shower

The Lego party was an outdoor gathering, to which Anne invited family and a few close friends.

To entertain the adults, Anne and her husband hosted a Lego building competition. Everyone split up into teams of two or three, and Anne gave each team a slip of paper with a structure for them to build (swing set, picnic table, hotdog, church, etc). At the end, each group took turns holding up their creation and having the rest of the guests guess what it was. The first person to guess correctly received a prize.

Anne and her husband served Lego pizza and made a fire for guests to roast hotdogs.

Lego character balloons...

They did a cake smash, but the birthday boy wasn't too into it. He just sat calmly and picked at the icing.

Lego sugar cookies...

Lego rice krispie marshmallow treats

Lemonade in a Lego face pitcher...

Cute decor...But in all seriousness, has anyone ever stepped on a Lego in bare feet? It's extremely painful. Walking across Legos is no easy feat!

Table decor...

Anyone seen The Lego Movie? Be sure to fast-forward through the "Everything is Awesome" song, or you will have it playing in your head for days.

Lego napkin holder...

Plastic cutlery in colorful cups...

Lego plate holders...

Guess how many Legos game...

First-year milestones...

More decor...

Life-sized Legos (boxes covered in butcher paper)...

Gear-shaped decorations...