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

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

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.)

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Exit Tactics

Exit Tactics
Each week, Mr. Handsome and I attend three Bible studies. One of the groups is made up of 15 young married couples, which has been a great opportunity for us to grow in our walk with God and in our marriage.

A couple weeks ago, the guys had planned to go camping in East Tennessee, while the girls had planned to go hiking in Chattanooga. The weather didn't cooperate, so we canceled the trips and found an activity to do together in the Nashville area.

We ended up eating dinner at a Mexican restaurant and then spending a couple hours at Exit Tactics, an indoor activity center where we did archery tag, axe throwing, and bubble soccer (photos below). Have you ever participated in any of these activities?

I also posted a video to my Facebook page

Exit Tactics
 Axe Throwing

archery tag
 Archery Tag

archery tag

bubble soccer
Bubble Soccer

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

My Tennessee Easter Egg--Featured in Food Network Magazine

Nashville Wife in Food Network Magazine
Happy First Day of Spring! We had plenty of spring weather earlier this month, although, ironically, today feels more like winter. But never mind the wind and rain--I have an exciting announcement to share with all my wonderful readers.

A few months ago, I was contacted by a representative from Food Network Magazine and asked to play a role in the April edition. The issue has officially hit the newsstands, so I am finally able to share the details of my involvement.

In celebration of Easter, Food Network Magazine wrote a story that features a decorated Easter egg from all 50 states, and I was given the honor of decorating the Tennessee egg. Naturally, I decided to tap into my husband's artistic talent to create this unique work of art. (For those who don't know, Mr. Handsome is a painter.) The two of us had a blast working together on this project.

We chose a banjo to represent the Americana, country, and bluegrass music that Tennessee has helped mold and create. We chose a river to represent the great waterways that flow through Tennessee and set the state apart as a center for industry and trade. We superimposed these images over the Great Smoky Mountains, which represent the beauty of nature that all Tennesseans know and love.

We did several practice runs, some with hard boiled eggs and others with "empty" eggs, and tried a few different designs. (If you poke a hole in both ends of an egg, you can blow the yolk out and be left with just the shell.) We always started with a pencil sketch.

Tennessee Easter Egg tutorial

It took a bit of time to find the right medium. We first used artist-grade colored pencils (better quality than the colored pencils used by children) but decided they weren't quite bold enough.

Tennessee Easter Egg tutorial

After spending some time wandering around our local Hobby Lobby, I ended up purchasing a small set of acrylic paints and some tiny, tiny brushes. The brushes have a max of about 10 thin bristles per brush--so small that they are nearly microscopic!

Tennessee Easter Egg tutorial

The Food Network sent me an Eggnot (a fake egg that looks and feels real) on which to do the final design. The other option was to use a real hard boiled egg for the finished product, but something about sending a hard boiled egg through the mail to New York City just seemed a little strange to me.

Of course, we made several mistakes along the way, like attempting to draw or paint on a hard boiled egg that was either too hot, which made the paint run, or too cold, which created condensation. We managed to get paint all over our fingers and dining table. Thankfully, that was before I refinished the table (tutorial coming soon) or else I might have had a small panic attack.

Tennessee Easter Egg tutorial

On a couple of the trial eggs, we added the cityscapes of the three major Tennessee cities (Nashville, Memphis, and Knoxville) but decided that they made the egg look too cluttered.

Tennessee Easter Egg tutorial

After much trial and error, we came up with a design that we loved.

Tennessee Easter Egg tutorial

Be sure to pick up a copy of the April issue of Food Network Magazine to see all the creative Easter eggs reflecting our 50 states.

Food Network Magazine United States of Easter Eggs

Food Network Magazine United States of Easter Eggs

Monday, March 19, 2018

Daylight Saving Memories

What are your thoughts on Daylight Saving Time? "Falling back" in fall isn't usually too difficult, but "springing forward" in spring can be tough.

Last Sunday, Mr. Handsome and I had a pre-service function at church at 8:30am, which meant hopping out of bed just after 7am (which felt like 6am). We rise early on the weekdays, but we enjoy sleeping in on the weekends, so that was a bit rough.

Despite losing an hour of sleep, the start of Daylight Saving Time always brings back sweet memories. Five years ago, before we were officially in a relationship, I traveled by train to visit Mr. Handsome and his family over spring break. He picked me up at the train station and took me to an indoor court to play tennis.

On the ride over there, I noticed that the clock in his car was still one hour behind. (It was about three weeks after the time change.) I asked him if he planned to change it, and he said that he had tried multiple times and hadn't been able to figure it out. He held up a Walgreens coupon (one of those '$1 off your next purchase' coupons that print out at the register) and told me I could have it if I figured out how to correct the time.

I'm always up for a challenge (and a free coupon), so I accepted the offer. It took me all of 30 seconds to complete the task. I think he was a tad bit embarrassed, but obviously not too bad because he ended up asking me to be his girlfriend two weeks later and asking me to be his wife 23 months after that.

Whenever the time changes, I retell the story. He usually rolls his eyes in response.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Latest from Mr. Handsome

Mr. Handsome has added a new subject to his painting repertoire! He has recently started painting musical instruments and has already built up quite the gallery. He plays the guitar, banjo, and violin, as many of you know, so it has been fun to see him combine music with art.

We have had his masterpieces displayed at multiple art shows in the Nashville area and have sold several. To give you an idea of what he has been up to, below are a few photos. So far, he has painted landscapes, birds, ships at sea, and now musical instruments. Stay tuned to see what he gets into next. (I'm certainly curious!)

Monday, March 12, 2018

Mr. Handsome's Bookshelf

About four weeks into the new year, I woke up one day and decided that our furniture needed a facelift. We had pieces of every different shade imaginable, and I was tired of it. Mr. Handsome and I have committed to living frugally, so going out and purchasing a bunch of brand new furniture isn't something we plan on doing.

After a little bit of research, I made the decision to find a few used pieces of furniture from Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and Goodwill and to refinish those along with some of our existing pieces. I started with a coffee table, for which I posted a tutorial.

refinished coffee table

We had an unexpected cold snap in late January and early February, so I worked on the furniture indoors and then hauled it out to our heated shed to allow it to dry. But by the second week of February, the weather had turned unusually warm, with a few days hitting 80F (26C), so I was able to do the bulk of the work outdoors. 

My second project was a nightstand that Mr. Handsome made in high school wood shop class.

Refinished nightstand
Refinished nightstand
Refinished nightstand
Refinished nightstand
Refinished nightstand

After refinishing a small entertainment stand that I purchased on Facebook Marketplace for $25, I  finally felt skilled enough to tackle our dining room table (pictures coming soon). Now I’m working my way through our four dining chairs, which are bar stool height and have curved backs that make them quite challenging to sand and stain. I also have a couple other pieces that I'm hoping to refinish, including an end table and a stool.

You might remember my post about the free bookshelf I received from Mr. Handsome's aunt in 2015. It has served us well for two and a half years, but our ever-expanding book collection has outgrown it. I spent quite a bit of time searching for a solid wood bookshelf that I could refinish, but I couldn’t find anything that worked.

For Valentine’s Day, my wonderful Mr. Handsome offered to make me a bookshelf! He constructed the entire thing, complete with routed edges, using two slabs of wood that we purchased from a wood supplier. The shelf took the better part of two days to build, and when it was finished, I did the staining, using the same method and materials explained in my coffee table post.

Mr. Handsome plans to write up a tutorial for his DIY bookshelf, but I wanted to give you a sneak peek. 

make your own bookshelf
DIY bookshelf

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Segway Adventure

When I was a teenager, several of my many cousins from Europe visited our family at various times. My parents always tried to plan special activities to allow my brother and I to bond with them, since we had (and still have) very few opportunities to see them. During one such visit, my parents booked a Segway tour.

Have you ever seen a Segway or been on a Segway tour? They are those personal "vehicles" with small platforms that have two large wheels and a bar with handles that the rider holds onto. You make them go by gently leaning forward (the more you lean, the faster you go) and you steer with the bar. When you first hop on, it constantly feels like you're going to fall over, but after about 10 minutes of practice, you can usually get into enough of a groove to feel relatively comfortable.

My brother and I had a blast on our Segway excursion with one of our cousins. Fast-forward 10 years, and Mr. Handsome and I are driving out of the Canadian Rocky Mountains after an eventful seven-day excursion through Banff and Jasper. On our way back to the Calgary airport, we spend a day and a night in Edmonton visiting some folks, and they surprise us with a Segway tour of the Edmonton River Valley.

Now you have to understand that as long as I have known Mr. Handsome, I have been wanting to take him on a Segway, so I was elated, to say the least. It took a bit of time for both of us to get the hang of it, but the tour was a blast, and the River Valley was gorgeous. If you ever have the opportunity to ride a Segway or to visit the Edmonton River Valley, I highly recommend both.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Tour of Slave Haven

You may remember our trip to Memphis last spring. I shared photos of the Lorraine Motel, iconic glass pyramid, Peabody Duck March, and Memphis Zoo. We returned again this year for a conference, but this time we were only in town for a short 36 hours, rather than a full weekend. While Mr. Handsome attended the conference, I toured the city, as I did last year.

The highlight was visiting an Underground Railroad museum called Slave Haven. Located on the outskirts of downtown Memphis, the museum is a house that was once a stop along the Underground Railroad.

The house, known as the Burkle Estate, was built in 1856 for German immigrant Jacob Burkle and his family. As a devout Christian, Jacob Burkle was very much against slavery, so after his home was completed, he decided to use his cellar to house enslaved Africans seeking freedom in Illinois via the Mississippi River.

Located only a few blocks away from the river, the Burkle Estate likely housed a large number of slaves, historians believe. To allow his home to be easily recognized by these guests and as a signal that his home was a safe place for them to stop, Burkle planted magnolia trees in his front yard. Magnolias are not native to the area, making these the oldest magnolias in Memphis.

Harboring fugitive slaves was a serious crime, so Burkle kept no written records of his actions, and he did everything he could to appear to the public as a "respectable gentleman." Because he owned a Memphis stockyard, he was wealthy and was expected to own slaves. For that reason, Burkle purchased two slaves--a male and female. He treated them like family and then secretly helped them gain their freedom in Canada. To make it look like they had escaped, he ran a newspaper ad offering a reward for their return.

Members of the Burkle family lived in the home for more than 100 years. Photography was prohibited inside the house, but the cellar where the slaves hid was accessible through small hole in the base of the house.