Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Green Sand Beach

Mr. Handsome and I just returned home from a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii. It was a long journey  (two, five-hour flights each way) but we had a blast. We booked our trip months in advance and were able to find some fabulous deals. (Stay tuned for a post with all the details of how we saved money during our travels.)

Our first full day on the island was our busiest. We rose early because of the five-hour time change, ate a quick breakfast, and threw together sandwiches for lunch. From where we were staying at Waikoloa Beach Resort on the west side of the island, we drove south, past the town of Kona and around the southern tip of the island, which is also the southernmost point in the United States. It is appropriately named South Point (or Ka Lae, meaning "the point" in Hawaiian).

Although the area is extremely windy (you can see windmills in the distance in the photo below) and secluded, there are a decent number of cattle ranches.


Located near South Point is a beach, but not just any old beach. This beach has green sand! The mineral responsible for the color is olivine. Apparently it is one of only four green sand beaches in the entire world.

The only way to access Green Sand Beach (also called Papakolea Beach or Mahana Beach) is by hiking or driving a five-mile-round-trip road. There are actually multiple roads that intersect throughout the drive. Some routes are impassible, so choosing the right one can be a challenge. Our rental car was 4WD, so Mr. Handsome drove us all the way to the beach, and boy was it a nail bitter! More on that later. Before determining whether is was safe, we spoke with locals and other tourists who had made the drive.


If you haven't seen pictures of the beach, be prepared to be shocked. You can't see it until you reach the parking lot and look down. It really is an incredible sight to behold.


The beach is located in a c-shaped cove and runs down the side of a cliff. It's steep, but walking down to the water isn't too difficult. For most of the way, there is a path worn into the side of the cliff.



We walked down to the beach to admire the unique sand.


One thing we did not do at Green Sand Beach was go swimming. The waters surrounding South Point have been forever infamous for their extreme turbulence, even by the ancient Hawaiians, who reportedly tied their canoes to the cliff before going out to fish. The currents flow uninterrupted all the way to Antarctica, so getting pulled out to sea wouldn't be ideal.


We did, however, enjoy walking along the beach and dipping our feet in the water.


The wind was fierce (sunglasses were a must to keep the sand out of our eyes) so we only ended up staying a short time. We survived the drive back, which boosted my confidence in Mr. Handsome's newly-acquired 4WD skills. He did an incredible job!


Below is a video that Mr. Handsome and I filmed at the beach to give you a better view (and a better understanding of just how windy it was!). After our stop at Green Sand Beach, we continued on to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where we saw an active lava lake on the inside of Halemaʻumaʻu Crater.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Spicy Fried Fish Recipe

As a couple that enjoys fishing, Mr. Handsome and I are always looking for new ways to cook our catches. Nashville is famous for hot (spicy) friend chicken, so we created a similar recipe for fried fish. We use crappie or bass, but you can use any type of fish.

Nashville Wife's Spicy Fried Fish

Ingredients:
Oil (Canola works well)
4-6 fish fillets

Breading:
3/4 cup flour
1 Tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt

Milk Mixture:
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup milk
3 Tablespoons hot sauce*

Glaze (optional):
1/2 cup butter
1 Tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon paprika

*We use Frank's Hot Sauce because, unlike most brands of hot sauce, it is free of artificial preservatives.

Directions:

Fill a fry pan with just enough oil to allow the fillets to be covered. (Do not add the fillets yet.)

Heat the oil over medium heat, keeping it covered with a splatter screen. Test it by flicking one tiny drop of water onto the surface of oil. If it crackles and pops, you know it's ready. 

Warning: Do not flick more than one tiny drop of water onto the oil. Oil and water do not mix. If you add any significant amount of water, you will create an explosion. 

Combine the breading ingredients in one shallow bowl and the milk mixture ingredients in another shallow bowl. Adjust the amounts of cayenne and hot sauce to fit your tastes. This recipe is only moderately spicy.



Rinse fish fillets, and remove all bones.


Dip each fish fillet in the milk mixture and then in the breading. Make sure fillets are fully coated with breading. Place fillets into hot oil. Cook until both sides are golden brown, flipping once if needed.


To test if fish is fully cooked, remove a piece from the oil, and cut into it with a fork. If the white fish meat flakes, it is ready to eat. We like ours with ranch dressing (MSG-free ranch).

The glaze is optional, but if you wish to try it, mix all three ingredients in a separate, small fry pan, until combined.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Refinishing My Dining Table and Chairs

After nearly four months, I am nearing the end of my many furniture refinishing projects. So far, I have shared photos of my coffee table, the post for which doubles as a general tutorial, as well as the nightstand and bookshelf that Mr. Handsome built.

Last week, I completed our dining table, and a few days ago, I finished the third chair, out of four.



Before I began the project, the table and chairs were in desperate need of a new finish. I looked into buying a new set, but I couldn't find any solid wood pieces for a decent price. Mr. Handsome purchased our set at a garage sale for $100 when he lived alone before we were married. New, it sells for more than $600.



To refinish the table, I had to remove the legs and take the leaves apart.




For the table and chairs, I followed the same tutorial laid out in my coffee table post, but I also applied three coats of wipe-on, clear gloss, Minwax polyurethane, to add a shiny finish.


The table alone represents many hours of work, but the chairs have by far been the biggest challenge. I have spent about eight hours on each of them (24 hours combined!). Sanding the spokes and neatly applying polyurethane and stain has been extremely time consuming, but the results have been well worth my labors.

After completing one chair, I discovered that the polyurethane and stain had pooled up around the bottom of the spokes and just didn't look right. So I completely redid that chair. From then on, I started running a nail around the bottom of each spoke about five minutes after applying each coat of polyurethane and stain, to remove the excess liquid and prevent it from pooling up. That fixed the problem.

Monday, April 16, 2018

1,000 Napkins...Oh My!

During a recent visit to Mr. Handsome's grandparents' house, his grandmother, whom we call Gram, insisted that all her children and grandchildren follow her down to the basement for a "very important meeting." We obliged and were met with an entire room filled with household items.

Gram's friend had recently sold her home to move into an assisted living facility and no longer wanted the majority of her things, so Gram insisted that we take what we wanted.

This woman had always been a big entertainer and had a lot of kitchen tools and dinnerware. "You don't have to worry about her things being junky," explained Gram. "Loraine has very high standards and doesn't buy anything low quality." It really did feel like Christmas.

Aside from a big box of bath towels, which I took for Mr. Handsome's brother who couldn't make it, I scored some candles, stationery, and three containers of about 1,000 festive napkins (pictured above). Like I said, this lady loved entertaining, and she had napkins for every holiday. I'm looking forward to breaking out my napkins for upcoming celebrations!

Do you enjoy entertaining?

Thursday, April 12, 2018

World Travel

New Orleans, 2016
In response to my most recent Ask Ellie post, one of my readers asked where I would most like to travel to. I am a homebody at heart, and I can honestly say that there's no place like home. That being said, Mr. Handsome and I have done a decent amount of traveling during our first three years of marriage, and we have enjoyed experiencing new places.

Oregon Coast, 2016
We hope to start a family soon, so we have been taking advantage of our time as a couple, knowing that once we have kiddos, travel will be much more complicated.

If you could pick two places to visit, one within your country or continent and one further away, where would you go?

Closer to home, I would visit the Boston area. I love experiencing history, which is something Boston is very rich in. If I could travel to another country, I think I would pick the British Isles. From the photos I have seen, that part of the world looks absolutely gorgeous.

What about you?

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Touring Memphis

Last month, I posted photos from my tour of Slave Haven in Memphis. During that weekend trip, which we took so Mr. Handsome could attend a conference, we also stopped at a few other places.

On Saturday evening, we walked down iconic Beale Street in downtown Memphis. It was cold, but there a lot of people milling about. Most were bar hopping, which isn't our cup of tea, but we enjoyed browsing through a few shops and reading the historical markers.


We just happened to visit while the spring flowers and trees were in full bloom. The city was filled with beautiful trees like the one below.


Before leaving for home, we decided that we had to try a local BBQ restaurant. Mr. Handsome and I are always up for some good BBQ! We chose Germantown Commissary, and it did not disappoint. The restaurant was small but quaint, and the food was exquisite. We ordered a rack of ribs to share, plus some salads and sides.

Have you seen the movie The Blind Side? It's one of my favorites, and it came to mind while we were in Memphis. Although the movie, which is based on a true story, was filmed in Atlanta, it takes place in the Germantown area of Memphis. 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Goat Yoga...No Joke!


Have you heard of goat yoga? I know you're probably thinking, 'You've goat to be kidding me!' As odd as it sounds, though, goat yoga is a real thing, and it's growing in popularity. I hadn't heard of it until a friend of mine recommended it a few weeks ago. It's a yoga class...with baby goats.

Now if you're picturing a bunch of goats doing yoga poses, you're a little off, but not by much. You do the yoga poses, and the goats frolic around you. While you exercise, you can pet them, and if you're lucky, one might even jump on your back.



For my birthday this year, I couldn't come up with a gift idea, so Mr. Handsome accompanied me to a goat yoga class put on by Shenanigoats, a Nashville company that specializes in goat yoga and goatscaping. The baby goats do the goat yoga classes, while the older goats work in the goatscaping business helping property owners clear their land. You can also hire the goats for private parties and events. 

Now back to the goat yoga. Two of the goats (wearing pink and green fuzzy pajamas...my heart melted when I saw them) were only five weeks old, while the others were a little older but still under six months. There were a few different breeds, but the pygmy goats were by far the cutest.


The class was one hour long, and the yoga routine was at a beginner level. The yoga was great, but the goats were even better. You don't have to be an animal lover to enjoy the class. As someone who has a decent fear of dogs, I had no problem being around the goats. They were very gentle, and they didn't try to eat anyone's fingers or toes.



Mr. Handsome pulled off a bridge with a goat on his stomach. I was highly impressed. Not only can I not do a bridge, but if I could, I certainly couldn't do it while balancing a goat.


At the end of the class, we had 10 minutes to take additional photos with the goats. We goat some really cute ones!




Goat yoga truly was a unique experience, filled with loads of laughter and entertainment. And if you're having a baaaaaad day, the goats are sure to make you smile! (Okay, no more goat puns.)

What do you think of the idea of goat yoga? Would you be up for trying it? For my readers in the Nashville area, be sure to check out the class schedule on the Shenanigoats website.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Giveaway: Piano CDs


Hope your Easter was lovely. How did you celebrate? Did you take part in any pranks for April Fool's Day? Or maybe someone pranked you?

In celebration of spring, I am giving away 2 sets of 2 CDs from award-winning pianist Anna Ferraro. To enter, follow the prompts on the Rafflecopter widget below. I have embedded a YouTube video below, as well.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
 

Photo courtesy of Anna Ferraro

Monday, April 2, 2018

Easter Weekend

A few readers have asked how we celebrated Easter. We had quite the weekend! Mr. Handsome is an avid fisherman, so we spent some time fishing and were able to provide a meal for 17 friends and family members. Mr. Handsome and I each caught a 20-inch large mouth bass.


Mr. Handsome also did a painting party for his youngest sister, Lena, and her three closest friends. Lena was celebrating her 15th birthday with a sleepover and had "reserved" Mr. Handsome several months prior. He was honored that his sister wanted him to be part of her birthday celebration.

(Mr. Handsome is the oldest of seven, and it's neat to watch him interact with his younger siblings. He takes his role as firstborn very seriously and is a great leader. There is a big age gap between the oldest five and the youngest two, which makes for a neat dynamic.)

The girls were very sweet, and their paintings all turned out really well. One accidentally dropped her painting on the new hardwood floors that my father-in-law had recently installed. He heard it fall and had a minor freak-out moment but was thankfully able to wipe the paint off the wood. And Mr. Handsome was somehow able to help the girl fix her painting.

oil painting lesson

oil painting lesson

oil painting lesson

Since Mr. Handsome and I have been married, we have always gotten together with both of our extended families (his parents, siblings, grandparents, and cousins and my parents, brother, and sister-in-law) for Easter. Everyone enjoys that tradition because it allows both sides of the family to have more time with us, and it prevents Mr. Handsome and me from having to travel to multiple gatherings. We sang Easter hymns, ate BBQ, and played cards. The guys, who are huge basketball fans, watched the March Madness semifinals.

And, of course, we dressed up in our Easter best and attended church. How did you celebrate the holiday?

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Easter Baskets on a Budget


This week, I drove up to Bowling Green, Kentucky, for another segment on WBKO, in partnership with TopCashback (video below). You may remember some of my past money-saving segments on WBKO, on the topics of fall travel and back-to-school shopping.

Does your family do Easter baskets?

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Homemade Swedish Meatballs

Homemade Swedish Meatball recipe

Last year, I shared my recipe for my take on the cream sauce that IKEA serves with its Swedish meatballs. A few weeks ago, during a trip to Memphis, I paid a visit to IKEA and ordered a plate of Swedish meatballs. When we returned home, I was inspired to come up with a recipe for homemade Swedish meatballs. (Previously, I had been using frozen meatballs.) The resulting dish was delicious.

Homemade Swedish Meatballs

Ingredients:
4.5 lbs ground beef
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon nutmeg
4 Tablespoons ground parsley
2 teaspoons garlic powder
3/4 teaspoons ground pepper
1 medium sized onion, minced
1/3 cup bread crumbs (I used Panko)
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
4 eggs, beaten
1.5 Tablespoons olive oil


Directions:
In a large mixing bowl, mix ground beef, spices (allspice, nutmeg, ground parsley, garlic powder, and ground pepper), onion, bread crumbs, Worcestershire sauce, and eggs. I have found that using your hands (as long as you wash them thoroughly before and after) is the easiest way to combine the ingredients.

homemade swedish meatballs recipe
homemade swedish meatballs recipe
homemade swedish meatballs recipe

Use your hands to create meatballs. The recipe makes approximately 26 medium-sized meatballs (around 1.5 inches in diameter).

homemade swedish meatballs recipe

In a skillet with a lid, heat olive oil, and add meatballs. Cook covered until outsides are brown and centers are no longer pink, turning every few minutes. Add additional oil as needed to prevent meatballs from sticking to the pan.

homemade swedish meatballs recipe

Serve with lingonberry jam and homemade cream sauce. (Tap here for my cream sauce recipe.)