Monday, November 28, 2011

Grocery Bag

Whether we need to make use of leftovers or breakout of a turkey and stuffing rut, meal planning is the key to our success!  Here is our plan for the week:

Day One
Turkey tetrazzini from Simply Recipes
with pineapple and green salad

Photo and recipe from Simply Recipes

Day Two
Broccoli and potato soup from Southern Living Magazine
with homemade bread
Photo and recipe from

Day Three
Pumpkin Chili from Food and Whine
with cornbread muffins
Photo and recipe from Food and Whine

Day Four
Slow cooker teriyaki chicken from A Zesty Bite
with basmati rice and lemon butter lima beans

Photo and recipe from  A Zesty Bite

Day Five
Soy-ginger glazed salmon from Food & Wine Magazine
with couscous and steamed broccoli
Photo and recipe from Food and Wine 

Blessings on your kitchen!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Advent 2011

Today we are celebrating the arrival of Advent.

This morning, the kids and I unpacked our Christmas decorations to Christmas music.

This afternoon we celebrated the new liturgy changes at Mass.  

Tonight we will welcome T home from his trip with the basketball team.

Whew! This is just our first day of the season!  With all we plan to enjoy between now and Christmas, may the most important changes and preparations will be in our hearts:

Father in heaven,
our hearts desire the warmth of your love
and our minds are searching for the light of your Word.
Increase our longing for Christ our Savior,
and give us the strength to grow in love for our neighbor,
that the dawn of His coming
may find us rejoicing in his presence
welcoming the light of his truth.

~Opening prayer, First Sunday of Advent, Year B

God bless us all this precious season!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sharing our blessings

While playing with playdough today....

E-Bear:  "Ask me what I am making."

Aunt K:  "E-Bear, tell me about what you are making!"

E-Bear:  "I am a puppy and I am making bones for the puppies who have no bones."

We have been talking a lot about sharing with others this Thanksgiving week.  It is great to see that some of our conversations are starting to sink in!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Day 2011

Happy Thanksgiving,
 from all of us in Happily Ever Johnson Land.

This year, I find myself particularly thankful for:

My three healthy kids,

My husband, with whom I am even more in love today than the day I married him,

Our parents, who have loved and supported us in extraordinary ways this past year,

Our siblings, who have welcomed us, hosted us, and shared our nieces and nephews with us,

The extra time we have had as a family to travel to be with friends and family,

Reunions with dear friends this summer and fall, reviving friendships we treasure so much,

Our job opportunities, the food on our table, and our sweet little apartment -- we are blessed to have these needs met,

The Lord, who is patient with me when I worry and holds us in the palm of His hand.

We are a blessed family, a blessed nation.  
What a great day it is when we stop to count our blessings.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Seven months, two more teeth, and Mr. Scoots

I'll tell you the story of Baby Bear sweet,

joyful by day,

alas, night howls replete.

Who me?

For weeks this went on for our poor little bear,

his mother, quite sleepless, was pulling her hair.

No, surely not!

But ha!  That was then!  We are now quite in heaven.

No longer six months,

Baby Bear is now seven!

Ok, maybe me

He celebrates in style: from his gums underneath,

on his seven month birthday, came two enormous top teeth!

Hooray!  Two new chompers!  We'll now all get sleep!

But alas, Baby Bear had one last secret to keep:

When we babes learn new skills, oh haven't you heard,

we have such trouble sleeping, though it seems quite absurd,

So sorry dear mommy, though the point might be moot,

I still don't plan to sleep

'cause I'm learning to scoot.





Mr. Scoots, I love you, and I love all the new things you are learning everyday.  This is true even if you keep me up at night, which you do.  

Happy seven months, Baby Bear!

Monday, November 21, 2011

One Pumpkin Down

I have no Grocery Bag to offer for this Thanksgiving week.

We are, however, down one pumpkin on our porch.  This means that we are currently feasting on all things pumpkin.  If you are like us and have a few (uncarved) pumpkins surviving from Halloween that need to disappear before the Christmas freeze, DON'T do what I have done every other year and throw them away!  This year I decided that the beta carotene in our large gourd friends was too good to waste.  So, this weekend we carved and cooked up one of our pumpkins, and we now have a pile of delicious seeds, a fridge full of puree and a feast of pumpkin goodies to enjoy.

If you are a pumpkin roasting novice like me, be reassured that there isn't much to it.  Also be reassured that although people will tell you to roast small pie pumpkins, ours was a large field pumpkin and it turned out just fine.

For a great tutorial on how to make your own pumpkin puree, start here at The Pioneer Woman.

Next, here is a list of the recipes we have enjoyed with our pumpkin puree so far:

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes by Cookie and Kate
Photo and recipe at Cookie and Kate

Pumpkin Smoothie by Ree Drummond
Photo and recipe at The Pioneer Woman

Pepitas by Ree Drummond
Photo and recipe at The Pioneer Woman

Photo and recipe at Make It Do

and of course

Pureed pumpkin baby food with rice cereal by Queen B for Baby Bear

We still have plenty of pumpkin puree in our freezer.  Here are a few more recipes that I can't wait to try:

Pumpkin Chili with Cocoa by Food and Whine

Pumpkin Lasagna by Real Simple Magazine

Whole Wheat Sweet Potato Gingersnaps by Finding Joy in My Kitchen
(Except I'll substitute pumpkin for the sweet potato!)

What a treat!  May your pumpkins be as loved and as delicious as ours have been.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sunday Snapshot

If I am not careful, by the end of November I am going to set a Happily Ever Johnson record for all-time lowest number of posts in a month.  *Sigh.*

What a great reason to take a moment to reflect on our awesome, low-key family weekend.  Thanks to an interview that was rescheduled, E-Bear and G-Bear enjoyed one of their first full weeks of school since September (whew, have we been on the go!), and we five Happily Ever Johnsons enjoyed a full weekend at home with an empty schedule.  Now, don't get the idea that we don't LOVE our travels and our crazy goof-off weekends with our treasured family and friends.  Our adventuring good fortunes simply allow us to treasure weekends at home in a way we probably wouldn't otherwise.

So, here are some snapshots from our Sunday.

Our morning began with a tea party and a dog named Harold.

Harold was abandoned; the tea party was invaded.

Note the swiftness of hand with which Baby Bear makes his move!

A tussle was averted by a call to the breakfast table.  Pumpkin pancakes for everyone!
(We are one pumpkin down.  More on that tomorrow.)
Except you, Baby Bear.  Rice cereal and sweet potato for you.

And finally, what better way to follow a tea party and a pancake breakfast?

Picnic, anyone?

Lord, thank you for lazy days and Sunday Snapshots.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Favorite Day of the Week

We have been learning the days of the week.

To help, we have drawn them out and assigned a special picture and nickname to each day.

For instance:

Monday = Preschool Day (picture: G-Bear's backpack)
Tuesday = Sesame Street Day (picture: Elmo) i.e. the day we get to be home to watch SS together
Saturday = Family Day (picture: Dad, Mom, G-Bear, E-Bear, Baby Bear)
Sunday = Church Day (picture: a church)

The other night at dinner, T asked G-Bear what her favorite day is.
Her answer, given all the fun days she has to choose from?

"Family Day!"

Oh, melt my heart.

Have a great Saturday!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thanksgiving Week 2011

Pumpkins on my porch, your days are numbered.

Turkeys decorating my window, welcome.

To those of you who bemoan the rapidly approaching holiday season, be warned.  
T has been secretly playing his new Christmas music for about a week.

It is hard to believe, but Thanksgiving is only a few days away.

We can't wait!

Bring on the turkeys!
E-Bear and G-Bear have done a great job getting us ready for Thanksgiving this year.  We have them to thank for our turkey and harvest decorations that currently adorn our home.  Last year, I enjoyed making our "Thankful Turkey" so much, that we have continued the tradition this year.  This time around, G-Bear and E-Bear each made their own "Thankful Turkey," and each day we add to our turkey in honor of something that we are thankful for.  I must say, our turkeys are already handsomely plumed!  

Thanksgiving party snacks
Both E-Bear and G-Bear have Thanksgiving celebrations on Monday. We are in charge of bringing snacks, so I was thrilled to find the following creative, fun, and yet simple ideas from One Charming Party and Family Fun Magazine.  Thanks to the great ideas below, our party snack menu will be popcorn, cheese cubes and fruit!

 The easy tutorial for the paper bag turkey can be found here, courtesy of One Charming Party.

Meanwhile, you can find tutorials for the "Fruit Gobbler" at Family Fun Magazine,

along with variation #1, "Fruit and Veggie Gobbler"

and variation #2, "Gobble Me Up."

We are going to be happy snackers at the party on Monday!  What awesome ideas!

Thankful Placemats
One final craft will help us get in the spirit: Thankful Placemats. For the craft, start with a large piece (11x17) of colored construction paper for the placemat.  Glue an 8x11 piece of thick stock paper in the middle, where the kids can write or draw things for which they are thankful.  Then, raid piles of old magazine, junk mailings and newspapers and cut out pictures of things for which you are giving thanks and glue them onto the placemat.  I love this one, because G-Bear and E-Bear can pick out the pictures and clue them on themselves.  Now they each have a special, personalized placemat to use at the Thanksgiving meal!  

What a great holiday.  Have a wonderful time counting your blessings this Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Grocery Bag

It's Monday, and you know what that means!  Time to get the meal plan ready for the week.  

Day One
Crockpot chicken with rice pilaf and 
sweet and savor spaghetti squash from Everyday with Rachel Ray
After 5 hours on HIGH in our slow cooker, roasting chickens taste amazing.
After dinner, pureeing the left over squash makes great baby food 
or easy prep for other awesome recipes like this or this.

Photo and squash recipe from Every Day with Rachel Ray

Day Two
Turkey, mushroom and lentil soup from Food and Wine Magazine
with broccoli slaw salad and cheddar biscuits
I'll use the left over chicken from the night before for this recipe.
Photo and soup recipe from Food & Wine

Day Three
with homemade bread
I use about half the olive oil called for in the recipe, but this still turns out great every time. 

Day Four
Meatloaf muffins from Cooking Light Magazine
with sweet potato fries and steamed corn

Photo and meatloaf recipe from MyRecipes

Day Five
Crockpot enchiladas from The New Homemaker
with spinach salad and apples
Our friends in G-Ville made this for us when we visited.  
I can't wait to have it again at our house.

Blessings on your kitchen this week!

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Tired Momma's Top Moments

The past two weeks of traveling and interviewing have left me exhausted.
I am happy to report that the munchkins remain energetic, flourishing, and bright-eyed each morning.

On Wednesday, when we woke up at home for the first morning in ten days, G-Bear and E-Bear said,

"Mommy, we want to go back to MoMo's house."

After breakfast they said, 

"Mommy, will you go to another long meeting today?"

I think they have been enjoying the perks of my interview season ;)

So, as we head into the weekend and take a step back to re-boot around here, 
I'll share my top ten lists from our travels and adventures:

Best Moments!

 MoMo & Papa's amazing hosting of one crazed momma and three happy campers.
They may have arrived home from Greece 12 hours after we descended on their house, but MoMo and Papa didn't miss a beat.  They fed, loved, cuddled and cared for us for over a week, despite the rarity of sleep around the house.  Praise the Lord for loving, energetic grandparents!

 Nana arrives home safely from China.
She's back!  She's safe!  She's amazing!

E-Bear's bathroom independence: boy, is this kid growing up!
Seriously, this guy is easy on his momma.

Getting all dressed up with the kids for the Alabama game to cheer on the team:
E-Bear is a little T (and loving it!) in his crimson jersey and Alabama hat.

G-Bear calling Nana to tell her the Bible story of Joshua, Caleb and Jerico:
"Nana, would you like to hear the story I learned at Bible school?"  My heart melted to watch G-Bear sit on her reading chair and recount the story of how "Joshua and Caleb trusted in God." 

Cold Shoulder Moments!

Forgetting the electric plug for the breast pump during an interview day.
Note to self: Eight hours without nursing or pumping is not a great plan, especially on a day when one should be focused and upbeat.  Try not to do that again ;)

Boooooo to the automated flushers in the airport.
Nothing puts a damper on potty independence like those nasty automated toilet flushers that spontaneously flush while little hineys are sitting on the seat.  By the end of our layover, I had three kids in tears, two refusing to get on the toilet seat, no one had tinkled and we were late for our flight.  Sheesh.  I would have given every dime in our bank account for a manual flush toilet.  Luckily for T there weren't any, or we would be broke.  

Alabama's narrow loss to "that purple team"
Enough said, but we cheered hard and still love our Crimson Tide.

"Fall back" and other time changes
Seriously, could we just pick a time zone and stick with it?  As the mother of small children, who have no concept of what time it is when they wake up in the morning, I am begging for mercy from lack of sleep! Is this "fall back" time change really necessary ? :)

All in all, these have been memorable and meaningful weeks.  We have a lot to be thankful for.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Underpants Prize

We've said goodbye to another set of diapers this week.  The Happily Ever Johnson crew has another member in underwear!  Congratulations to E-Bear, who chose Mater and Lightning McQueen for his new underpants.  E-Bear deserves crazy compliments for this giant milestone, one that he accomplished largely with the help of his teachers at preschool.  I wish I could say that I was the motivating momma, but I was mostly a sideliner this time.  Way to go, E-Bear!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Best Interview "Welcome" gift

I just finished week one of residency interviews.   I am really enjoying the chance to meet people and programs, reflect on possibilities, and imagine the future.   I also have a new favorite interview day "Welcome" gift:  the re-useable tote bag!  Who doesn't need another family snack bag or grocery tote?!   Plus, it's a gift that is generous, functional and green all at the same time.   Such a great idea!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

November Math

What do you get when you combine one cool, crisp, November day,

three happy Bears,

and a yard full of fallen yellow leaves?

Answer:  Hours of autumn fun!  

Happy November!