Saturday, December 30, 2017

2 Million Pounds of ICE

Am I the only one who feels like the holiday season flew by? It hardly felt like there was any time at all between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and now we're about to celebrate New Year's. Can we really be coming up on 2018? I vividly remember ringing in the new millennium--and all the apprehension that went along with it--but that was 18 years ago! Yikes.

Well, now that I'm done reminiscing, I have some photos to share. Some of my in-laws are here for the weekend, so we have enjoyed showing them the city. We have 11 of the 15 family members, but it still feels like a small group. (Did I tell you that one of Mr. Handsome's little sisters is expecting? He is the oldest, and she is number five, so there are several years between the two of them. She is the one who married in May.)

This morning, we headed over to the Gaylord Opryland Hotel to enjoy the many Christmas festivities and decorations.

In addition to walking through the indoor gardens, as Mr. Handsome and I did a couple weeks ago, we spent 30 minutes inside the ICE winter wonderland.

Located in a conference center that is being kept at 9 degrees Fahrenheit, this holiday attraction is an annual tradition at Opryland. The display features two million pounds of ice sculptures, hand-carved by talented artisans from Harbin, China. This year's theme is A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Pretty much everything you see in these photos is made of ice, even the Christmas tree and giant strands of popcorn.

There was also a huge ice slide (about two stories high). My three-year-old niece and one-year-old nephew were too short to ride it, but all the adults gave it a try. It was short but fast.

In general, the adults definitely appreciated the ice display more than the kiddos.

At the very end was a massive Nativity scene. Although my niece was cold and ready to leave, she enjoyed identifying all the characters--baby Jesus, the Wise Men, Joseph and Mary, the shepherds, the angel, and the livestock.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Winter Wonderland

It's hard to believe that yet another Christmas has passed. It was our third year celebrating as husband and wife.

For the holiday weekend, we traveled to the area where both sides of our families live. This is something we have done for a few years and really enjoyed, but we expect things to be different in the coming years. As we look forward to starting a family of our own, we also look forward to starting new Christmas traditions. I'm curious to hear how your holiday celebrations have changed over the years?

We were blessed with a white Christmas. Although it was chilly, we took a long walk through the snow.

We came across one house that had a yard full of snowmen statues.

Some were plastic, and some were inflatables. The one on the far right is about 12 feet tall!

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas!

Wishing all my blog readers a very Merry Christmas! Hope you are having a wonderful time celebrating with family and friends.

This holiday season, Mr. Handsome and I have been thrilled to meet a few of our blog readers while out and about. We love it when folks approach us and tell us that they enjoy our blogs.

For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder,
and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
~Isaiah 9:6

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Fall in the Smokies

A few weeks ago, I posted photos from our recent trip to the Cades Cove historic settlement in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I have a few more snapshots from that day, but I first want to show you some other pictures I took.

The drive through the park was simply beautiful with all the vibrant colored leaves.

Every turn we made, there was another stunning view.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Fall in the Smoky Mountains

Autumn in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Smoky Mountains in autumn

On Saturday of our weekend trip, we ventured over to the start of the Roaring Fork Motor Trail (southeast of downtown Gatlinburg) and parked at the Rainbow Falls trailhead.

It was a difficult, 5.4-mile roundtrip hike, but the views were worth the trek. Just as we had at Cades Cove, we saw the smoke-like fog that give the Smoky Mountains their name.

Smoky Mountain fog smoke

As we climbed higher, we passed an area that had been burned by the devastating wildfire that tore through the Smoky Mountains in November 2016. We are thankful that the area has been able to rebuild and that Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are still as busy as ever. Our hearts go out to those who lost loved ones and property.

With a 1,500-foot elevation gain, we had to stop and rest quite a few times, especially as we neared the end.

After a 20-minute period of rain, we finally reached our destination...the beautiful Rainbow Falls! You're probably wondering what Mr. Handsome is wearing on his head. (That is the first question people ask when we show them this picture.) It's his sweatshirt. He got tired of carrying it.

Rainbow Falls Gatlinburg Tennessee

Monday, December 18, 2017

Christmas Cookie "Exchange"

'Tis the season for holiday baking! One of my readers asked about my favorite Christmas cookie recipe, and that got me thinking, why not do a virtual cookie exchange? Of course we can't exchange physical cookies, but we can share our favorites and do a recipe swap. I'll start...

My favorite type of Christmas cookie has always been gingerbread. Growing up, I spent many December evenings in the kitchen helping my mom bake and decorate cookies. We made several dozen, saving some for ourselves and passing out the rest to neighbors. I posted my recipes for Old-Fashioned Soft Gingerbread Cookies and Royal Icing last year. (Click here to view.)

What about you??

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Christmas Lights in Nashville

This holiday season, we visited two iconic Nashville attractions to see Christmas lights. Do you enjoy viewing Christmas lights?

The first place we visited was Cheekwood, a historic estate that has both a botanical garden and a small art museum. We enjoyed walking the one-mile loop through the outdoor lights, touring the mansion, and browsing the art museum.

As we have for the past few years, we also walked through the three beautiful atrium at the famous Gaylord Opryland Hotel. Opryland is magical at any time of year, and Christmastime is no exception! This year, a portion of the parking lot was blocked off because they are building an indoor-outdoor water park called Sounds Waves, a very appropriate name for a Music City attraction.

In the largest atrium is a huge fountain that shoots water to the beat of Christmas carols.

 Outside, they had their usual manger scene and giant tree made of white lights. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Burlap Christmas Wreath Tutorial

Burlap Christmas wreath tutorial

As promised, I have written up my Christmas wreath tutorial. Whether you're looking for a holiday craft to do with friends, homemade gift ideas, or a decoration to "spruce up" (no pun intended) your front door, you're going to love this tutorial.

Just take it slow on your first try, and you'll find that these wreaths are far from difficult to make. If you run into a problem, you can always remove the wire, burlap, and ribbon and start over. Even if you do this craft with several other people and all use the same materials, each person's wreath will be uniquely different.

Burlap Christmas Wreath Tutorial

12-inch wire wreath form
15 feet of 5.5-inch-wide burlap ribbon (not wire-edged)
Wire-edged accent ribbon* (2 or 2.5-inch wide is ideal)
Floral wire
Wire cutters
Wire-edged ribbon for bow (2 or 2.5 inch-wide is ideal)
Embellishments for your wreath (optional)**
Glue gun
Wreath hanger

*You can use as little or as much accent ribbon as you desire, but you likely won't need anywhere near a full roll.
**Ideas for embellishments include pine cones, ornaments, garland, artificial cranberries, and artificial greenery. Most craft stores have tons of options in their Christmas section. Hobby Lobby has an entire aisle devoted to such items.

Use a piece of floral wire to securely anchor the end of your burlap ribbon to the wire wreath form.

Leaving excess burlap, secure burlap with another piece of floral wire 3 to 5 inches from the first one.

As you go along, be sure to wrap the wire tightly around the burlap, and then wrap any excess wire along the back of the wreath form.

Continue once around the wreath form. Feel free to vary the distance between the wire pieces or keep the distance the same throughout. It's entirely up to you. There's no wrong way to make a burlap wreath.

Once you have gone around one full time, go around a second time to fill it out.

If you think your wreath needs more burlap, feel free to go around a third time.

When you're done, securely anchor the end of the burlap to the wreath form with a piece of wire.

Do the same thing with your accent ribbon. Remember, you can use as much or as little as you want, depending on the look you are going for. You can wrap in the ribbon in the same direction as the burlap, or you can wrap it as I have done below:

Be sure to secure your ribbon to the wreath form with pieces of wire.

To make a bow, let out a piece of ribbon the length you want your tail to be, and then make a loop (making sure the design is facing out). Pinch the ribbon with your thumb and forefinger.

Twist the ribbon so the design is still facing out, make a second loop, and pinch the ribbon together.

Repeat for as many loops as you desire. I did six. When you're finished, let out enough ribbon for the second tail, and cut. Use a piece of floral wire to tightly hold the center of the bow (where you have been pinching) together. If your bow doesn't turn out the way you envisioned, don't be afraid to start over. If you need more help, YouTube has tons of Christmas bow tutorials.

Add your embellishments. If they are on wire sticks, wrap the wire sticks around the back of the wreath form, and then secure with a long piece of floral wire. Secure your bow using floral wire. Next, you'll want to heat up your glue gun and use glue to anchor the embellishments and bow (making sure the glue is not visible from the front).

When your wreath is finished, you'll want to go over all the floral wire and burlap/ribbon ends with the glue gun. This will help keep them in place and ensure that the wire does not scratch the door or wall where you hang your wreath.

To keep the tails of the bow from fraying, I rolled the ends up just a bit and gently used a tiny dab of glue from the glue gun to keep them from unrolling.

Hang your finished product on the wall, or use a wreath hanger to hang it on a door.