Thursday, December 29, 2016

Exploring Mexico Part 2

Earlier this week, I shared pictures from our first of two port days in Mexico. We sailed into Cozumel and spent eight hours on land touring the Mayan ruins of Tulum, swimming in a cenote, and eating a traditional Mayan meal.

At 4:30, we hopped back on the ship and headed to Progreso, also located on the Yucatan Peninsula. There, we boarded a bus and drove two hours to Chichen Itza. We could have spent the day on the beach, but we decided to use our time to sight-see. After all, we live close to Florida and will have many more chances in life to swim in the ocean than we will to visit iconic Mayan ruins. But that beautiful blue water did look inviting.

Here are some snapshots from our day at Chichen Itza...

And here are the photos we took on the ship. I definitely wish we had taken more.

 Mr. Handsome and me in the dining room on formal night

Mr. Handsome plays "Rocky Top" for his coworkers
(There were some musicians on board, and he asked to borrow their guitar for one song)

Another Carnival ship at the Cozumel port

Sunset on the Gulf of Mexico

Sunset on the Gulf of Mexico

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Exploring Mexico Part 1


Earlier this month, I posted pictures from our two-day vacation in New Orleans, Louisiana. The first day was spent touring the French Quarter, and on the second day we visited the Audubon Zoo.

On the third day, we met up with Mr. Handsome's coworkers and embarked on a four-day Carnival cruise. (We went at the tail-end of hurricane season, so tickets were much cheaper than usual, and most of the trip was paid for by Mr. Handsome's boss as a Christmas present/end-of-year bonus.)

Neither of us had ever been on a cruise before, so we didn't know what to expect. It ended up being a wonderful experience, although looking out and seeing nothing but the vast ocean and knowing it was 10,000 feet deep was a bit disconcerting. Thankfully, the seas were calm the entire time.

We thoroughly enjoyed the towel animals that the room steward left on our bed, although I'm not quite sure what they are. Maybe an anteater and a gorilla?

Our cruise stopped in Cozumel and Progreso, both on the Yucatan Peninsula. In Cozumel, we took an excursion to the ancient Mayan seaside city of Tulum. Our tour guide from Sun & Fun Tours was a lovely Mexican woman whose English was absolutely perfect. She was the reason why the trip was so wonderful.

Outside the ancient city was a marketplace for tourists. There was a tall pole in the middle, and several men were hanging upside down and spinning around. It was quite a sight to see!

Later, we visited a local park and swam in a cenote (natural pool). With permission, Mr. Handsome and I did a 15-foot cliff jump. (It took quite a bit of encouragement from my husband and our group, but I finally made the leap and was glad I did.)

Before heading back to the ship, we enjoyed a traditional Mayan lunch of chicken, pork, rice, beans, vegetables, homemade tortillas, fruit, and hibiscus iced tea. It was hands-down one of the most delicious meals I've ever had. (The week after we returned home, I was inspired to make Mayan rice and beans for dinner. I will share that recipe with y'all soon.)

While we ate, I snapped a picture of this odd looking animal. It was the size of a goose but looked like a duck. Completely different than anything I had ever seen.

If y'all would like, I'll share photos from our second shore excursion later this week.

Christmas Contest Answers

I hope you enjoyed taking part in the Christmas carol game I posted on Christmas Eve. You all did impressively well! The correct answers are below.

The reader who took the least amount of time to come up with the answers was Laura. Laura, shoot me an email with your mailing address, and I'll send you some Christmas goodies. I'll know it's you if you're able to tell me how many seconds it took you to complete the game. (I removed the comment where you reported your time.)

1. We Wish You a Merry Christmas
2. 12 Days of Christmas
3. Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas
4. Joy to the World
5. O Holy Night
6. Do You Hear What I Hear?
7. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
8. Away in a Manger
9. Here Comes Santa Claus
10. O Little Town of Bethlehem
11. Jingle Bells
12. I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
13. Deck the Halls (also called Sing We Joyous)
14. Carol of the Bells
15. Silver Bells

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Contest

I want to wish you all of you who celebrate a very merry Christmas! May you enjoy spending time with family and friends and celebrating Christ's birth.

In the spirit of the season, I have a little game for us to play. I have pasted one or two lines from 15 popular Christmas songs. Grab a pen and paper, and see how quickly you can figure out the names of all the songs. In the comments section below, post the answers and the time it took to get them. I'll wait until Monday to release the comments so everyone has a chance to play. The winner will receive a special late Christmas gift. Ready, Set, Go!

1. Good tidings we bring for you and your kin

2. Seven swans a swimming

3. Faithful friends who are dear to us

4. While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains

5. Long lay the world in sin and error pining, 'til He appeared and the soul felt its worth

6. In your palace walls, mighty king

7. The fire is slowly dying

8. Bless all the dear children in they tender care

9. Bells are ringin', children singin', all is merry and bright

10. The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight

11. Bells on bobtail ring

12. And wild and sweet the words repeat of peace on earth, good will to men

13. Sing we joyous, all together

14. Words of good cheer, from everywhere, filling the air

15. Hear the snow crunch, see the kids bunch

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Our Christmas Decorations

A few of my readers have asked that I post pictures of our Christmas decorations. I have to admit that we don't have many. We have very limited storage space, and our little house is already full of non-Christmas decor. But I do enjoy decorating, so I'm hoping to do more in the coming years.

This year, we bought a five-foot tree from The Home Depot. (When we have children, we definitely plan to make a tradition of visiting a Christmas tree farm to cut down our tree.) It's a cute little tree and is the perfect size for our strand of colored lights and couple dozen ornaments, my favorite of which is the tree stump ornament I made last year for our first Christmas. We also put colored lights on the bush in front of our house.

We scored this cute "Noel" sign at a Dirty Santa/White Elephant gift exchange earlier this season.

This gold Christmas tree and porcelain angel are from my sister-in-law Anne. She purchased them from a thrift store for 50 cents each. Behind them, you can see the DIY stocking I sewed for Mr. Handsome's birthday last year. Click here to watch the tutorial that I used.

And this is a small "Joy to the World" chalkboard sign that I made, using a glue gun to attach the little decorations. We also have the snow scene that Mr. Handsome painted hanging in our kitchen. Do you decorate for the holidays? Do you go all out?

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Wedding Hairstyles

A couple months ago, I told you all that we had two family weddings to attend before the end of the year (my brother's and Mr. Handsome's youngest brother's). Well both of those weddings are over and done with, and they both went very well. (I posted photos from my brother's wedding back in October. Click here to view.)

Joseph (Mr. Handsome's youngest brother) and Sarah (Joseph's wife) had a beautiful wedding party of 10 bridesmaids and 10 groomsmen. They were sweet to include all the siblings and siblings-in-law, as well as cousins and friends.

Rather than pay for a professional hair stylist, us bridesmaids gathered at the church at 9am and did our own hair. Most of us were a bit nervous about the whole thing and didn't go in with high expectations, but by the end of the morning, every single one of us looked gorgeous.

Most of us curled our own hair and then had someone pin it up. I wasn't able to take pictures of all the hairstyles, but in the midst of the wedding craziness, I managed to get three, all of which were pinned up by Mr. Handsome's cousin. She is self-taught and has a totally different career, but I think she's better than some professionals.

This is how my hair turned out...

And this is Lena, my youngest sister-in-law. Her mature hairstyle made her look much older than her 13 years.

And this is my sister-in-law Anne...

Monday, December 19, 2016

Decorating Christmas Cookies

When I was a child, my mom and I made gingerbread cookies every year in preparation for Christmas. Then our family of four would decorate them with royal icing, mini M&Ms, and sprinkles.

This year I decided to bake both gingerbread and sugar cookies. (The sugar cookies didn't turn out great, so I'll try another batch next year. Does anyone have any suggestions?)

Mr. Handsome and I decorated a few batches, and I did another round of decorating with friends. Scroll down for pictures and tutorials.

Do you enjoy decorating holiday cookies? What types of cookies do you make, and how do you decorate them?

Old-Fashioned Soft Gingerbread Cookies

1 1/2 cup dark molasses (1-12 ounce jar)
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2/3 cup room temperature water
1/3 cup butter
6-1/2 cup flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves

Mix molasses, brown sugar, water, and butter until smooth.

Sift remaining ingredients, and add to molasses mixture, using a fork to stir. (You might need to use your hands towards the end.)

Cover dough tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 2 hour or more. Remove dough from refrigerator, and roll ¼ inch thick onto wax paper or floured surface. (Make sure rolling pin has been floured.) Cut shapes with cookie cutters that have been dipped in flour.

Place cookies 2 inches apart on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Use your finger to lightly press cookies. If indentation stays, bake another 1-2 minutes.

Place cookies on cooling rack. Allow to cool completely before decorating.

Yield: approximately 2 dozen gingerbread cookies

Royal Icing

Combine 1 pound powdered sugar and 2 egg whites (use liquid pasteurized egg whites) in a large mixing bowl. Using a hand mixer or standup mixer, beat until glossy. Slowly add lemon juice, and beat until icing is glossy and stiff (will use 2-6 Tablespoons of lemon juice). Add food coloring if desired.

Here are a few shots of the cookie decorating that Mr. Handsome and I did, using royal icing, mini M&Ms, and sprinkles.

 Mr. Handsome's sassy snowmen...

A few days later, I gathered with several ladies from our Bible study to decorate more cookies. Everyone brought three dozen of their favorite type of cookie, as well as supplies for decorating. We had crushed candy canes, melted chocolate in squeeze containers, nuts, coconut flakes, and tons of sprinkles. I brought royal icing, and another gal brought cream cheese icing. It was a blast!

One of the ladies has a seven-year-old boy, and he also enjoyed taking part in our cookie decorating. He requested that I take a picture of his plate for my blog...

Do you follow me on Facebook ( Last week, I posted a time-lapse video of my cookie decorating. Check it out below:

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Gift Ideas for Musicians

 Mr. Handsome and me in 2013 (scroll down to find out where this photo was taken)

What did you think of Mr. Handsome's "Gift Ideas for Your Outdoorsman" guest post? (Click here to read.) Well he has one more to share with y'all.

As you have seen from his YouTube videos ("Silent Night" on guitar, "Away in a Manger" on guitar, "Flash Flood" on banjo, "Come Thou Fount" on guitar, and "Amazing Grace" on an antique violin from the 1700s) he is quite musical. So that's how he came up with the idea for this post:

Gift Ideas for the Musician in Your Life

Do you know anyone who enjoys playing music? Does a list of quick and easy gift ideas for musicians sound like music to your ears? These ideas are sure to speed up the tempo of your holiday shopping.

Every musician I have ever known (including myself) has trouble keeping track of tuners. You can buy a simple one that just does tuning or a complex one that has a metronome and different settings for tuning different instruments. If he’s technologically savvy, purchase a tuning app for his smart phone.

Engraved guitar strap (or other instrument strap):
A local leather worker should be able to make an awesome leather instrument strap with your musician's name engraved in it, or you can order one online. A personalized instrument strap is something she will cherish every time she sits down to practice.

Band merch:
Does your music enthusiast have a favorite band? (I can probably guess the answer to that question...) Most bands have shirts, hats, scarves, and other merchandise that any fan will love.

Music lessons:
If your musician is a beginner or intermediate, she will appreciate a gift that helps her improve her craft. In-person music lessons from a local musician are always great, but in the age of the internet, students can also earn from the comfort of their home. For example, a subscription to would make a great gift. For $30 a month, she can watch videos of some of the greatest musicians in the world and learn their tricks of the trade.

Concert tickets:
Concerts can be quite expensive, but if your musician's favorite band is coming to town and tickets are within your budget, it is sure to be a night he will always remember.

Musicians like good music, but they like to listen to their music through good speakers. Speakers come in all levels of quality and price. (Visit your local music shop or electronics store for more information.)

Studio monitors give the best quality sound and truest representation of what the artist recorded. (KRK speakers are a great option.) You have to be decently tech savvy to set them up, but with a little patience and research, you'll be able to figure it out. If your musician enjoys listening to music through an iPod or mp3 player, high quality studio headphones would also make a great gift.

You have probably already thought of this, but a CD of your musician's favorite band is always a great option. If you don’t know what bands she likes, just purchase a gift card to iTunes or Spotify.

If your musician is an aspiring professional musician in Nashville, he is probably struggling just to get by. So buy him some food, or treat him to dinner. (Okay, that's a joke, but honestly, anyone would enjoy a nice meal at their favorite restaurant.)

Do you have other great gift ideas for musicians? Let us know in the comment section below.

If you're wondering where the above photo came from, it's a throwback to 2013 (before we were engaged). Through mutual friends, we were able to visit the Lucas Mansion, an estate located in Carmel, Indiana, and owned by Forrest Lucas (Lucas Oil products, Inc., founder and owner of the naming rights to the Indiana Colts' Lucas Oil Stadium). We took the opportunity to snap a few pictures.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Favorite Christmas Movies

Just one week to go until Christmas! One of my loyal readers suggested I do a post about Christmas movies. I'm always up for a good holiday film. My favorites are:

It's a Wonderful Life (my husband's family watches it every year)
Elf (always a good choice)
The Sound of Music (not sure why people call this a Christmas movie, but I do like it)
Miracle on 34th Street (haven't seen this one in years, but I enjoyed it as a kid)
A Christmas Story

How about you? There's still plenty of time to watch more Christmas movies before next weekend, so I would love to hear your favorites, and I'm sure others would too.

There are plenty of lists out there that claim to be the "top Christmas movies of all time," but I want to know what y'all think.