Friday, July 29, 2016

3 Attributes Part 2

A few weeks ago, one of my readers challenged me to answer the question, "What are your favorite attributes about your spouse?" I posted them on June 29th.

Following that post, you all suggested that I ask Mr. Handsome to share his three favorite attributes about me. I mentioned it to him right away, but we've been busy this month, and he never had a chance to write them down for me.

Three nights ago while we were driving, I finally remembered to ask him if he had come up with three attributes yet, and he responded right away. It was clear that he had already spent some time thinking about it, which was sweet. 

I would love to hear you spouse's favorite attributes about you. If you're not married, feel free to choose another loved one, such as a parent or sibling.

Here are Mr. Handsome's three attributes...

1. Her strong work ethic. 
Ellie is a hard worker and does a great job managing her three blogs while running our household.

2. Her Encouragement
When I return home from work, she always greets me with a smiling face. Whether I have had a rough day or a great day, she responds with encouragement as I share my triumphs and frustrations.

3. Her Compassion 
Ellie has great sympathy for others and is always looking for way to serve.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Cinnamon-Sugar Popcorn Recipe

Simple Cinnamon-Sugar Popcorn

Our Bible study friends make the most delicious treats! Last week, one of them brought a big bowl of cinnamon-sugar popcorn that was so wonderful I just had to ask how she made it.

The recipe is incredibly simple. In fact, it's too short to even be called a recipe.

Just make a bowl of popcorn--click here for my healthy "microwave" popcorn tutorial--and drizzle on as much melted butter as your heart desires. (I use a mixture of melted butter and melted coconut oil.)

Immediately after adding the butter, sprinkle the following three ingredients onto the popcorn:

Powdered sugar
Dehydrated cane sugar (like Sucanat or Rapadura)

How much you add is entirely based on personal preference. Be sure to stir the popcorn to make sure that each piece is coated well.

Shout-out to my friend who made this recipe for our group. Mr. Handsome and I sure do appreciate all your tasty treats!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Turning 2 with Winnie the Pooh

My niece just celebrated her 2nd birthday! As usual, my super creative sister-in-law Anne went all out. She always manages to create adorable decorations, using items that she or another family member already owns. (Be sure to check out the photos from her gender reveal party if you haven't already.) Unfortunately, we weren't able to make it to the party, but we enjoyed seeing photos.

The theme was "Turning Two with Winnie the Pooh." Several weeks ago, while we were visiting Mr. Handsome's family, Anne was telling me all about her plans for her daughter's Winnie the Pooh themed birthday party.

"I guess you can call it 'Turning Two with Winnie the Pooh,'" I said, thinking that she had probably already thought of that.

"That's absolutely brilliant!" Anne exclaimed.

Remember when I posted about Anne's interest in cake decorating? Well, her Winnie the Pooh cake definitely "took the cake" (excuse the pun...LOL). I was absolutely stunned when she texted me this picture. Can you believe that she has only decorated a few cakes in her lifetime and hasn't had any sort of formal instruction?

My niece, Ana (or "Girlsy," as we call her) loved the cake. Anne tries to limit her daughter's sugar intake, so eating an entire piece of cake was a huge treat for Ana.

Even the snacks and drinks were Winnie the Pooh themed...

Anne loves to decorate with chalkboards (or chalkboard paper tacked onto bulletin boards). She created a chalkboard of Ana's current favorites.

For those who haven't heard, Anne and her husband are expecting their second child, a boy, in October.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Waterfalls and Exterminators

It's been an eventful week for us! Over the weekend, we took a day trip to Cummins Falls State Park in Cookeville, Tennessee. It's a small state park in the hills of Middle Tennessee, and it's definitely a gem.

You walk about a mile (both on land and through shallow water) and then arrive at a beautiful waterfall that allows swimming. The park is staffed by rangers who enforce a set of rules (no alcohol, etc) in order to ensure a family-friendly atmosphere.

It was 95 degrees on the day of our visit, so the trail and waterfall were both very crowded, but we had a blast.

Here's the view from the lookout point. Before it reaches the water, the trail becomes pretty steep in spots, as you have to walk down the side of a cliff. But we passed guests of all ages, so it is certainly doable for families with young children.

A few days after our waterfall excursion, Mr. Handsome and I were sitting in the living room, relaxing after a delicious dinner of deep dish pizza. He was talking to his dad on the phone, and I was folding laundry.

I looked up and noticed a creepy looking spider by the front door. It wasn't huge, but it looked odd to me. I grabbed a piece of paper towel and ran over to squish it, quickly realizing that it was not your average house spider. "I think I just killed a brown recluse spider!" I shrieked.

Mr. Handsome, still on the phone, told me that it was probably nothing to worry about, but he quickly finished up his conversation and came over. After conducting some research online, he turned to me and said, "You know what? You're right. It's a brown recluse."

I just about had a panic attack. A poisonous spider? In our house? This had to be a bad dream. We contacted our landlord, and she made an appointment with an exterminator. Have you ever found poisonous spiders in your house?

Monday, July 18, 2016

Homemade Mocha Smoothie Recipe

What's your favorite frozen coffee beverage? Is it the Starbucks Frappuccino? The McCafe Frappe? The Dunkin Donuts Frozen Dunkaccino? What if I told you that you could make a homemade frozen coffee beverage for a fraction of the cost...and a fraction of the calories? Check out my YouTube recipe tutorial!


Cafe Mocha Smoothie
  • 6 coffee ice cubes (black coffee frozen in ice cube molds)
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1 Tablespoon chocolate drink powder or 1 teaspoon chocolate syrup
1. Place ice cubes, milk, instant coffee, and chocolate drink powder/syrup in the blender
2. Cut frozen banana into 3 pieces, and add to the blender
3. Blend until thick and creamy.

*Feel free to adjust the amounts of coffee powder and chocolate flavoring according to personal preference. If you're not a chocolate lover, you can substitute for a splash of vanilla syrup.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Our Growing Garden

I want to thank all of you who shared gardening advice via last week's post! Your tips and words of encouragement have been extremely helpful as I enter into the unknown world of gardening.

We ended up purchasing a few more plants, so we now have three tomato plants (one that will produce cherry tomatoes and two that will produce larger tomatoes), two pepper plants (banana peppers and red bell peppers), and one citronella plant.

Are any of you familiar with citronella plants? The fellow at The Home Depot told me that they will repel mosquitoes up to 10 feet. As I child, I also remember my mom rubbing the leaves on our arms and legs to keep bees at bay while we played AYSO soccer. I am considering buying some herbs, although I may have to wait until next year, as it is late in the season.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Favorite Wedding Gifts

One of my readers asked me to share my top 10 favorite wedding gifts. I took a walk around our two-bedroom rental home and snapped some pictures of the items we use most often. Here they are! I would love to hear your favorite wedding gifts (or your favorite household items in general).

1. My Dresser
Definitely my favorite gift, as it comes from Mr. Handsome. He refinished it a couple weeks before our wedding and gave it to me as a surprise.

2. Cuisinart Stainless Steel Ice Cream Maker
I don't think this one needs an explanation. It's super easy to use and makes delicious ice cream in 30-40 minutes. We make the same flavor every time (dark chocolate) but someday I hope to get creative. Mr. Handsome absolutely loves ice cream, so this is his favorite wedding gift.

3. Noritake Colorwave Rim Place Settings (Color: Ice)
When I went to Bed Bath and Beyond to register, the lady behind the counter convinced me to
request these plates. "They can go in the microwave, dishwasher, freezer, and oven," she explained. "That means you can leave your husband home alone, and he won't ruin your plates!" I found that comment slightly offensive, but after looking at all the other place settings they had to offer, I decided to go with her recommendation.

4. Ceramic Pots and Pans
These things are great, mostly because they're easy to wash and don't give you Teflon poisoning. LOL. I have three pans and three pots of various brands, but my favorites are Zwilling and

5. Ramekins 
I always thought that ramekins were useless, but boy was I wrong. I have eight (four from Noritake and four from Corningware) and I use them every single day.
6. KitchenAid Toaster Oven
Growing up, my family did not own a regular toaster. We did all our toasting, and some baking/cooking, in our toaster oven. (Ours was big enough to fit an entire pizza.) When I told Mr. Handsome this, he thought it was crazy. But during our first year of marriage, he began to see the light (haha) and has come to enjoy our toaster oven. He especially likes it for reheating homemade pizza. On the flipside, we also registered for a regular toaster, and I have come to realize how useful that can be for toasting bread.

7. Pyrex and Corningware Containers
Perfect for storing leftovers and a great way to avoid using tons of plastic Ziploc bags.

8. Mason Jars
Some of these are wedding gifts, and some are not, but they are all equally as wonderful. I use them to store white (non-bleached) flour, whole wheat flour, brown sugar, white sugar, pasta, cornmeal, popcorn seeds, and rice. Not only are they practical, but they also make for excellent decorations.

9. Cuisinart 5-in-1 Griddler
This is Mr. Handsome's second favorite wedding gift. I think that's because he associates it with bacon and eggs, one of his favorite meals. I usually prefer using my ceramic pans because they are easier to clean, but this griddler does come in handy sometimes.

10. Picnic Time Picnic Basket
I didn't register for this, but I was thrilled to receive it. It has everything you could possibly need (and then some) for a picnic for two. We've only used it once, but it sure is cute.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Easy Blueberry Cobbler

During our drive back from vacationing in Virginia Beach last month, we stopped in to see the future in-laws of Joseph, my brother-in-law.

His future mother-in-law made us the most delicious blueberry cobbler that any of us have ever tasted. We asked her for the recipe and were shocked to find out how simple it is. Don't blink or you might miss it.

Mr. Handsome and I picked blueberries today, so I'm going to make a batch of cobbler tonight!

Easy Blueberry Cobbler

1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 stick butter
1 egg
3-4 cups blueberries

-Mix sugar and flour, and cut in butter.
-Add egg and berries, and mix again.
-Bake in a greased 9x9-inch pan for 1 hour at 350F.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Gardening Advice?

I'm a little late to the game, but I decided to start a patio garden yesterday. I had hoped to start one earlier in the season, but we took a week-long vacation in June, which would have killed off everything.

I stopped by Lowe's yesterday and picked up two plants (cherry tomatoes and banana peppers), two bags of Sta-Green Flower and Vegetable Garden Soil, two five-gallon buckets, and two tomato cages. The total cost was only $20.

When I returned home, it only took about five minutes to set up my garden. We live in Tennessee, so the lady at Lowe's said my plants should still have time to produce plenty of veggies before the end of the season.

I have never seen deer in our yard, but I'm a little worried about squirrels, raccoons, and stray cats eating my crops. I put a vinegar-soaked rag on each of the beds of dirt. I also made a natural squirrel repellent, for which I found the recipe on Pinterest (1 cup water, 1/4 cup hot sauce, 1/4 cup dish soap, 2 Tablespoons cayenne pepper). I sprinkled that on the dirt.

I'm a newbie at this whole gardening thing, so I would be grateful for any advice!

Friday, July 1, 2016

My Interview with the FBI

I have a story to share with you all. Did I ever tell you about how I almost worked for the FBI?

Two years ago, when I was close to finishing school, I went to a job fair and handed a few dozen resumes out. One of the organizations that was there was the FBI. That's right the Federal Bureau of Investigation. "How neat!" I thought.

As you can imagine, that booth was one of the most highly trafficked at the job fair. I submitted my resume, as did thousands of other students from my school and schools across the country.

Not expecting to hear back, I was shocked when I received a call requesting that I schedule a phone interview with one of the hiring managers. The phone interview went well, and three weeks later, I was on my way to Washington DC for an interview at FBI Headquarters.

I arrived late in the evening for an interview the following day. Never having been to DC, I woke up at the crack of dawn and visited all the major monuments. I took a picture in front of the White House, walked past the Washington Monument, toured the Library of Congress, and peaked inside the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History ... all before lunchtime.

By the time I arrived at the J Edgar Hoover building, which houses FBI headquarters, for my interview, I was exhausted but incredibly excited.

You can probably guess that security was tight. Imagine airport security times 10. Myself and a few other interviewees received a tour of an exhibit that features memorabilia from some of the most notorious crimes committed against the United States. My tour guide, a rookie employee, explained the process of becoming a special agent. Although it required extensive training, it was an attainable goal.

The actual interview went very well, but again, I was not expecting much. Surely there were plenty of people more qualified than me. Well, you can imagine my surprise when I received a job offer several weeks later. The letter included information about the exhaustive background checks and in-person meetings that were required prior to becoming an official employee.

This was not a job offer that I could just pass up on a whim. At that point, Mr. Handsome and I were not engaged, but we had been in a relationship for 20 months. After hours of prayer and thought, I decided to decline the offer.

Between the day of my second interview and the day I received my job offer, I had received an offer to work in the communications department of a ministry. I ended up accepting that position, and within a few weeks of working there, I knew I had made the right choice. Mr. Handsome proposed four months later.

Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like if I had accepted the job with the FBI and moved to Washington DC. Where would I be 10 years from now if I had chosen to focus on my career and climb the corporate ladder to eventually become a special agent? I guess I'll never know, but one thing I do know is that God has me right where he wants me, and that's enough.