Wednesday, August 31, 2016

TV Series Review: 'Monk'

After a long day of work, some form of exercise, and a (hopefully) delicious dinner, Mr. Handsome and I enjoy curling up on the couch and watching TV. We don't have TV service, so we either watch shows on DVD, Netflix, or Amazon Instant Video.

Right now, we're in the middle of Monk, a comedy that ran for eight season between 2002 and 2009. The main character, Adrian Monk, is a brilliant homicide detective who struggles with obsessive compulsive disorder. With help from his assistant, Monk is able to overcome his O.C.D. enough to be an essential asset to the San Francisco Police Department.

Mr. Handsome and I highly recommend this TV series to other adults (as well as teenagers, with parental guidance). While it is not suitable for children, Monk is incredibly entertaining and more appropriate than the vast majority of modern shows. We are currently on season three and look forward to working our way through the series in the coming months.

Have you seen Monk? Would you recommend it?

Monday, August 29, 2016

DIY Wedding Reception (More Photos)

Last fall, I shared posts about our DIY outdoor wedding reception and DIY wedding food. Many of you have expressed interest in seeing more wedding photos, so I went digging and found some that had not yet been posted.

We successfully planned a DIY wedding for 300 guests in only three months, but we couldn't have done it without help from dozens of family members and friends. By DIY-ing almost everything, we not only saved tons of money, but we also strengthened our relationships with those who offered to lend a hand.

For example, after the rehearsal dinner at the church, the guests caravaned over to my in-laws' house to hang out for the evening. While chatting and snacking, everyone helped set up tables and chairs that we had rented. The women tied bows of blue and purple tulle around the backs of the chairs, while the guys set out tiki torches (to repel mosquitoes) and filled them with lighter fluid.

The next morning, while the bridesmaids and I did our hair and makeup, Mr. Handsome, the groomsmen, and various other family members and friends finished setting up for the reception. When we walked into my in-laws' backyard after the wedding ceremony, I was blown away by how beautiful it was...

My mom, cousin-in-law, and grandmother-in-law DIY-ed our flowers, and Mr. Handsome cut slabs of wood for each table. Someone even thought to lay out Off! Insect Repellent Wipes for the guests.

 My sisters-in-law made clever chalkboard signs to display throughout the backyard...

And someone hung up this beautiful chandelier...

Many hands sure make light work. We were blessed that so many of our friends and relatives offered to help make our wedding such a memorable occasion!

Friday, August 26, 2016

A Nice Surprise

We recently stopped at Chick-fil-A while on a road trip. I know their values can be controversial, but going off of taste and price alone, they're doing some pretty good work over there. I'm a fan of their chicken salad sandwich on whole wheat bread, with Chick-fil-A sauce, of course.

While we were ordering, I saw a picture of their new frosted coffee on the menu. "Is that tasty?" I asked the cashier. "Oh yes!" She replied. I thanked her and said I would come back after eating my meal to order one.

A few minutes later, another employee brought our food to our table. "Here's a frosted coffee, on the house," she said with a smile. What a lovely gesture! It's encouraging to know that there are still classy, generous people out there, don't you think? 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Simple Peach Smoothie

Summer went by in a snap--I blinked, and now it's almost over! Are you feeling the same way?
Better whip up one last smoothie before the warm weather goes into hibernation. (Be sure to check out my Homemade Mocha Smoothie tutorial, as well.)

Peach season has come to an end in most regions, so pull out those frozen peaches (fresh-picked or store-bought), and savor the fleeting flavors of summertime with a simple peach smoothie.

Simple Peach Smoothie
2 cups frozen peaches (skinned, sliced, and cores removed)
1 1/3 cup of peach juice*
1/3 cup plain, nonfat yogurt (optional)**

Blend all ingredients in a blender and serve!

Makes 4 servings

*Peach juice intensifies the flavor, but feel free to substitute apple juice or another mild-flavored juice that you have on hand. (I don't recommend orange juice, as it will cover up the peach flavor.) Milk is also an option. (That's what Mr. Handsome prefers.)

**Although yogurt makes the smoothie more filling and satisfying, eliminate it if you desire a crisp, clean flavor that truly quenches your thirst.

Monday, August 22, 2016

2 Weddings and a Baby

Mr. Handsome and I are bracing ourselves for what is shaping up to be a very busy fall...

First off, my brother (my only sibling) will be getting married on the Oregon Coast. He and his fiancĂ© were engaged last spring, so we've known about this event for a while. We're planning to drive down to the Redwood Forest after the wedding. Any other suggestions of what we should see while we're there?

Three months ago, Mr. Handsome's youngest brother (he has two brothers and four sisters) proposed to his girlfriend of seven months. The two will tie the knot on the East Coast. Due to Mr. Handsome's work schedule, it's going to be a quick three-day trip, so we won't have time for sight-seeing.

Between those two weddings, my oldest sister-in-law, Anne, is expecting her second child. (Remember my post about the gender reveal party?) We're counting down the days until her due date and are excited to meeting our new nephew!

Needless to say, fall is going to be a whirlwind, but we're looking forward to reuniting with family and friends and participating in all the festivities.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

A Ring in a Candle?

Have you ever heard of the company JewelScent? I hadn't, until I received a JewelScent candle from my brother and future sister-in-law. I figured it was just an ordinary candle, but then my future sister-in-law informed me that there was a surprise buried in the wax. I was intrigued!

Apparently, JewelScent specializes in beauty products--including candles and soaps--that contain a piece of jewelry valued at $15-$7,500. Well when I found out that there was something in my candle that could be worth seven grand, I started burning it night and day.

It wasn't long before I noticed a shiny piece of foil in the pool of hot wax.

To avoid burning my fingers, I used a fork to fish the foil pouch out.

I unfolded the foil and found a beautiful ring wrapped in plastic, and it happened to fit perfectly on my right middle finger. The JewelScent website has a page where you can type in the serial number of your piece of jewelry and receive a free appraisal. Unfortunately, mine only ended up being worth $20, but it still looks great.

I'm always on the lookout for unique gifts, so I'll definitely be browsing the JewelScent website at Christmastime.

*This is not a sponsored post. :)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Canning Peaches in a Makeshift Canner Without Sugar

I absolutely LOVE peaches. We are blessed to live within 30 minutes of three you-pick peach orchards and have made several trips to each of them over the past six weeks.

While enjoying a fresh-picked, free-stone peach in mid-July, I started thinking how wonderful it would be if peach season lasted all year. "I ought to can some of these delicious peaches so we can pull them out in the dead of winter and be reminded of summertime," I thought.

Canning was a new experience for me, so I did lots of research and talked with other ladies. After some trial and error, I came up with a wonderful recipe that uses honey instead of sugar. Hope you enjoy this tutorial. Don't have a canner? No problem at all. I used a large pot. 

Peaches should be well-ripened but not rotten or overly ripe. If your peaches are still firm, place them in large paper bags (only one layer per bag) and fold closed.

*Photos 1 and 3 were taken by my talented sister-in-law Mae. Due to technical difficulties, I lost a few of my pictures. If you need clarification, please feel free to ask. :)

How to Can Peaches in a Makeshift Canner
(Without Sugar)

Step 1: Put a large pot of water on the stove to simmer. This will be your water bath for canning, so make sure the pot is large enough to allow the cans to be completely immersed, with 2 inches of water above the lids.

Add as many jars, lids, and rims as will fit in the pot at one time (with jars standing up). I added four. In order to fully sanitize, make sure the water is simmering for at least 15 minutes.

Here is a note from the Ball/Kerr website on sanitizing your canning lids: "Our Quality Assurance Team performed comprehensive testing to determine the need for pre-heating lids. Ultimately, we determined that it’s completely safe to skip pre-warming lids in the canning process. While it’s still safe to simmer your lids before use, you should never boil them. Our recommendation for over 40 years has always been to simmer (180°F) - not boil (212°F) - the lids."

Step 2: Load your peaches into the sink, and rinse.

Step 3: Fill a medium-sized pot with water, and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to medium, add several peaches, and cook for 1 minute. If the water begins to boil, turn the heat down. Meanwhile, prepare a medium-sized bowl of ice water.

Step 4: After peaches have been in the hot water for 1 minute, transfer peaches to ice water for 1 minute and 30 seconds.

Step 5: Remove peaches from ice water, and gently remove skin with your hands. If your peaches are well-ripened, the skin should come off easily. If it doesn't, let peaches soak in the hot water bath for another 30 seconds and then in the ice water for another minute.

Step 6: Remove pits, and slice each peach into 5-6 slices. I also removed the red areas around the stone. In a medium-sized bowl with a spout, mix 2 cups of hot (not boiling) water,  4 teaspoons of lemon juice, and 1/8 cup of honey.

Remove sanitized jars, lids, and rims from water bath using Ball Jar Lifter canning tongs ($3.00 in the Walmart canning aisle). Place on a clean towel.

Fill each jar with peaches. (Only fill to the bottom of the threads.) Pour water-lemon-honey mixture into each jar, leaving 1/2 inch of space at the top. Take a spoon and press down on peaches to release any air pockets. Add more liquid if necessary.

Wipe rims of jars with a clean cloth, and place lids on each. Screw rims on firmly (not too tight). Now it's time to process your peaches. Using your tongs, place jars in your makeshift water bath. (Jars should not touch each other.) The water level should be 2 inches above the lids.

Bring water to a boil, and boil 25 minutes (pint jars) or 30 minutes (quart jars). If you live at an altitude of 1,000 feet or greater, you will need to add to the processing time. Click here to see the Ball/Kerr altitude chat.

Use tongs to remove jars, and place undisturbed on a towel for 24 hours. (Make sure jars don't touch each other.)

Lids should seal within 30 minutes. To check if they have sealed, press down on each lid. If they don't bounce back, they are sealed properly. Jars that don't seal within 24 hours should be refrigerated and eaten within 7 days.

What are your thoughts on canning? I'm curious to know what types of fruits/veggies people in different regions of the U.S./world have canned.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

6-Mile Canoe Trip

Last weekend, we went on a six-mile canoe trip on a river in Middle Tennessee. We had five hours to complete the trip but still managed to arrive at the boat ramp just as the canoe rental shop was closing.

It was a beautiful river, and although the water was much too cold for swimming, we had a great time. For the first four-and-a-half hours, we floated slowly along while trying to catch fish. We then realized that the shop was closing in 30 minutes and we still had three miles to go!

My wrists are still not fully recovered, so I wasn't much help when it came to paddling. But somehow Mr. Handsome was able to get us back just in the nick of time. (I'm not an experienced canoe-er, but I'd say that three miles in 30 minutes is pretty impressive with just one person paddling.)

Do you enjoy canoeing/kayaking? We had so much fun that we may try to find a used canoe on Craigslist, although we will probably wait until next summer.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Games, Games, Games

Do you like games? I sure do! I'll share some of my favorites, and then I would love to hear your input.

When we were young, my brother (who is three years old than me) and I played board games all the time. Our top choices were Pay Day, Frustration (the British version of Trouble), and Monopoly/Canada-opoly.

As we grew older, our family started playing strategy games together, such as Blokus, Sequence, Bananagrams, Rummikub, and Yahtzee.

When I started college and met my husband, he and his friends introduced me to card games. Until then, I had only ever played Go Fish, Spoons, and Slapjack, so it took a bit of time to get the hang of these more advanced card games, but now I really enjoy them. Presidents is a great game for large gatherings, and Kemps, Golf, Euchre, and Dutch Blitz are also lots of fun.

If we're looking for a group game that is more interactive, we usually choose Taboo, Fishbowl, Pictionary, Mad Gab, or Pit. If we have a few hours to spare, we might venture into a round of Settlers or Empire Builder.

What are your favorite board games and card games? Have you played any of the ones that I mentioned?

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Working from Home

One of my loyal readers asked me to explain my lifestyle and my decision to work from home. That issue is a bit of a "hot button" in today's society, but I do not intend for my response to spark controversy.

For those who don't know, I attended public school through tenth grade and then switched to homeschooling, by my own choice. (For more on that, read "My Homeschool Journey.")

I hold a bachelor's degree in journalism, which includes a public relations certificate and a business concentration. Upon completing my education at age 20, I worked in the Communications department of a nonprofit organization for several months before marrying Mr. Handsome. I now work from home as a blogger and am also writing a book based on my grandmother's WWII story (more updates on that to come).

Working at home isn't for everyone, but I really enjoy the flexibility. Most days, I spend 4-5 hours at the computer and 4-6 hours running errands, cooking, cleaning, and doing paperwork/bookkeeping for Mr. Handsome's business.

We have been married for almost 14 months and are praying about starting a family in the next few years. Mr. Handsome and I would love to have at least four children...and perhaps as many as eight or ten. We plan to homeschool, as both of us had wonderful home education experiences. I hope to continue working from home while being a mother (and teacher), but my husband and family will always come first. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Gluten-Free Almond Butter Loaf

I have a delicious recipe to share with you all. Are any of you gluten-free? Mr. Handsome and I are not, but we still love this recipe. Hope you do, too!

Gluten-Free Almond Butter Loaf

  • 1 cup almond butter
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • 1/2 cup honey 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (I use dark chocolate)
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  • Combine almond butter, egg, honey, vanilla, baking soda, and salt. Stir until smooth.
  • Add chocolate chips, and stir again. 
  • Transfer batter to a greased loaf pan. Using a fork, press batter into the pan. 
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes (until golden brown).

Monday, August 1, 2016

Paintings and Rattlesnakes...

Before I continue with my post, let me just say that we had a frightening experience this weekend. While hiking with my brother-in-law in a beautiful forest near Nashville, Tennessee, we encountered a rattlesnake! We came within one stride of the four-foot creature before we realized what was happening. It began rattling, and we quickly retreated.

Unfortunately, we had to pass the rattlesnake in order to return to our car, and although we waited several minutes, he didn't seem to want to leave. My brave Mr. Handsome grabbed my hand and calmly led me through some brush on the other side of the path. Due to the rough terrain, we still had to come within about five feet of the snake. Thankfully, it didn't strike, and we able to return to our car safely. Does anyone have any advice on what to do if you meet a rattlesnake?

Now, onto the post...

Mr. Handsome has been painting again. It's been about five months since I have shown you his latest masterpieces, so I figured it was about time for an update.

This one is my absolute favorite. He completed it in March and hid it under the guest bed until our anniversary in June. It was all I could do to keep from peeking! The painting is a reproduction of one of our ocean engagement pictures. (We were engaged in Florida.)

Here are a few random landscapes that he has painted so far this summer...

Now before you start wondering why the next one is significantly lower quality than the others, let me tell you that it's not Mr. Handsome's. It's mine. I'll admit I haven't painted a picture since elementary school, but I know it's definitely not nearly as good as my husband's paintings. Hopefully it's a decent start, though.