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.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Our Christmas Tree

Nashville Wife Christmas Tree

This year, we purchased our seven-foot Christmas tree from the very fancy tree lot at The Home Depot. At the end of the holiday season last year, a kind, elderly lady who was moving out of her home and into an assisted living facility gave me a bunch of beautiful, silver and gold balls. Combined with our silver star, white lights, and other ornaments, the balls are a great addition!

Still, my favorite decoration is the tree stump ornament that I made from our first Christmas tree.

Do you have a tree this year? What color are your lights and ornaments?

Nashville Wife Christmas Tree

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Gift Ideas Galore

Christmas is the most wonderful time of year, but finding gifts for all the folks on your list can be a challenge. To make it easier on myself, I keep a running list on my phone of gift ideas for family and friends. As I think of things throughout the year that a particular person would need or want, or as people mention items they would like to have, I write them down. It makes holiday gift giving so much easier! Here are a few of my best suggestions:

Something Homemade
Every year, Mr. Handsome and I make small, homemade gifts for our family members and close friends, often in addition to larger presents. Ideas that we have done in the past include: homemade BBQ sauce (from my Buffalo Wild Wings Style Wings recipe), jars of apple butter--using our recipe, homemade scarves, paintings, and Christmas wreaths (tutorial coming soon).

Something Practical
One way to come up with winning gift ideas is to think of what the people in your life really need. Maybe it's a digital compass because they recently bought a car that doesn't have one and have discovered they can't live without it (my mother-in-law). Or perhaps all the fry pans in their kitchen are hand-me-downs from your husband's bachelor days, and every time you visit their house, you feel bad for passing down peeling Teflon pans (my brother-in-law). And how about that person who is missing half their measuring cups, or doesn't have a non-rusted cheese grater, or minces garlic by hand because they haven't yet discovered a garlic press? The possibilities are endless, but if you can think of something that someone desperately needs, you'll be a gift-giving hero!

Give the Gift of Safety
Last year, my brother and his wife gave everyone vehicle emergency kits. What a great idea! You can purchase them at your local auto parts store. Some of the must-have items include a first-aid kit, a tire gauge, jumper cables, a flashlight and extra batteries, and a combo seatbelt cutter and window breaker--which should be kept within reach of the driver's seat.

Any coffee lovers out there? Several weeks ago, I was perusing the home goods aisles at TJ Maxx and came across a section of coffee. The smell was divine! It just so happens that Mr. Handsome's grandmother is a huge coffee drinker. Her favorite quote is, "Why drink water when you can drink coffee?" So I chose a bag of beans for her Christmas gift. One thing to remember is that some people don't have a coffee grinder. When in doubt, err on the side of caution, and buy pre-ground coffee.

Can you think of any gift ideas that I haven't mentioned? Go ahead and share them as a comment, as I'm sure we could all use more suggestions.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Mr. Handsome's Birthday

During the week of Thanksgiving, we also celebrated Mr. Handsome's birthday. He requested dinner at a steak restaurant as his gift, and the two of us had a lovely time. I made an ice cream cake with an Oreo crust for dessert. (Would y'all like the recipe?)

I searched and searched the "husband birthday" section for an appropriate card but couldn't find one that expressed what I was thinking. So I hopped on the Walgreens Photo website and created a blank photo card using a picture of the two of us. The best part was that it only cost $2.00, and he enjoyed it more than he would have a shore-bought card. I posted a video of the card to my Nashville Wife Facebook page.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Tour of Historic Cades Cove

In early November, Mr. Handsome and I made the short drive over to the Smoky Mountains for a weekend getaway. We had met a like-minded couple at a conference a few weeks prior, and they had invited us to stay at their house.

The fall colors were at their peak, and the scenery was just incredible. We were also able to see the "smoke" (aka fog) that gives the Smokies their name.

On day one, we explored Cades Cove, a mountain farming community founded in the early 1800s. It is no longer inhabited, but you can drive along the 11-mile, one-way road and view more than 80 historical buildings and settlements. We enjoyed pulling off into the many parking areas and walking through the old buildings. (We were shocked that all of them were open to the public.)

At the entrance to Cades Cove, we drove past a beautiful, dusty-colored horse grazing in a vibrant, green meadow.

The scene was picture-perfect.

 Our first stop was the John Oliver Place. Built in the early 1820s, the cabin is the oldest in the Cove.

The cabin, which was owned by the Oliver family until the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established in the 1930s, is a five minute walk from the road. It is a simple, one-room house with a loft.

Next, we stopped at the Primitive Baptist Church, established June 16th, 1827. (The current building was built in 1887 to replace a log structure.) We learned that the church closed during the Civil War because its members were Union sympathizers and felt threatened by the many Confederates who lived in Cades Cove.

There was a wedding that day, so we didn't go inside, but we walked through the cemetery and came across multiple tombstones of men who had fought in the Revolutionary War. 

We also found the tombstone of the man after whom Gregory's Bald, a mountain in the park, was named. A Union supporter, he was killed by Confederates three years into the Civil War.

We passed the Methodist Church, built in 1902 (although the congregation was established in the 1820s). Customarily, old churches with two doors would have been designed that way to seat men and women on separate sides. We chuckled as we read that this church did not carry that custom but that its congregation had borrowed the blueprint from another church that did. Apparently, sticking to the blueprint and cutting two front doors was easier than deviating and installing just one.

We stopped at a pull-off and hiked a short distance the Elijah Oliver Place, built by John Oliver's son after the Civil War. On the left side of the house, the family added a "stranger room." With a separate entrance, the room provided a place for overnight acquaintances to stay without jeopardizing the safety of Elijah's family.

Hope you enjoyed these photos. More coming soon.