Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A President's Call to Prayer and Fasting

Recently, I came across this passage, part of a proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln, written 148 years ago today.  It is truly appropriate for the season of Lent:

"We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven.
We have been, these many years, preserved in peace and prosperity.
We have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no nation has ever grown,
but we have forgotten God.

We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace
and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us.
We have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, 
that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.
Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient
to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving Grace,
too proud to pray to the God who made us."

~President Abraham Lincoln
Proclamation appointing a National Fast Day
March 30th, 1863

As I first read this I thought, how bold of a President to call his nation to a national day of fasting and prayer!   I hope that I at least have the courage to commit myself to these acts this Lenten season, for the good of myself and my family.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Open Arms

Baby Bear,

In a few weeks we will welcome you,
our hearts can hardly wait.
Where now a belly is showered with daily kisses
bestowed by eager siblings,
soon may you rest in loving arms.
We love you already.

Waiting for Baby Bear

Thirty seven and a half weeks and counting.....

Monday, March 28, 2011

Grocery Bag

Welcome back to our grocery bag.  We have some of our favorites on the menu this week!

Day One
with basmati rice
Yum, this is one of our favorites, and way better than take-out.  
I add a pound of green beans along with the beef and use only 1/4 cup of oil instead of 1 cup called for in the recipe.  A definite must-try.

Day Two
African Peanut Butter Stew by Lunds & Byerly's 
with couscous and apple slices
I love this dish. I cut way down on the amount of chicken but leave the amount of veggies the same.
(I use no more than 1 lb compared to the 2.5 lbs called for in the recipe)
The flavors are delightfully complex and layered but not overpowering.  
Served with couscous, our kids love it too.

Day Three
Ham and Veggie Crustless Quiche from Finding Joy in My Kitchen
This is another five-star recipe in my book!  Full of veggies and fabulous flavor! 
I use my Cuisinart to ease in the veggie preparation, which also means the veggies are minced so small that the kids barely notice them in the quiche goodness.  Delish!

I love the rainbow colors.  The kids barely notice veggies that are minced in the Cuisinart.

Day Four
Honey Pecan Chicken Thighs from Southern Living Magazine
with roasted potatoes and carrots
This marinade is fabulous -- we gobble this up.  The chicken is delicious coated in minced pecans or course seasoned bread crumbs, so choose either coating depending on your tastes.  

Recipe and Photo from

Day Five
Vegetarian Chili from Two Peas and Their Pod
This is a new veggie chili recipe for us.  I can't wait to try it.

Recipe and photo from Two Peas and Their Pod

Blessings on your kitchen this week!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Trauma Call Survivor

We are so proud of our Daddy T today!  Last night he finished his final night of trauma call.  Today he walks out from his last day of work at our local trauma hospital.  After 5 long years of training and working there, it has become a special place for both of us.  The kids and I headed over to his clinic this afternoon and spent a special lunch celebrating with the department staff and other residents.

The 2 chiefs, their families, and the faithful junior residents.

Only a few more weeks of residency remain!  Hang in there, T, we are so proud of you!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Overheard in the house this week 9...

E-Bear, our budding elocutionist (seriously, two year olds come up with the the best material):
 "Mommy, we need to be careful when we eat our couscous.... ODDERWISE we might make a mess."

Discussing bathroom etiquette, as G-Bear sat next to me in the bathroom....
G-Bear:  "Mommy, why does Daddy close the door when he goes to the bathroom?"
Me:  "Well, sweetie, because he prefers privacy when he uses the bathroom and it is a polite thing to do."
Then, perhaps assuming too much:
"G-Bear, When you go to the bathroom at school, do you close the door?"
G-Bear: "No, I leave the door open so that I can feel the fresh air!"

E-Bear: "Mommy, I have a question."
Me:  "Ok, E-Bear, what is your question?"
E-Bear:  "My question is: I saw the snow falling outside the window.  Come look!"

Lovin' it!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Best Buddies

If there were a way to save moments in a bottle....

....these are a few I would save for my kids.  

Winter reading together:

 "E-Bear, would you like to come sit with me?  I will read you a story."


Sharing a coloring break while playing "Going on Vacation" with a full load of toys:

The other day G-Bear gave E-Bear a hug good-bye as we dropped her off at school.  G-Bear's teacher took notice and said, "you know, I have two that were like that at that age, and they are still close to this day."  Her words were like music to my ears.

may these two
best buddies remain, 
all the days of their life.

Lenten Progress

We're back!

There has been some serious internet fasting going on around here for the past 5 days.  I wish I could say I didn't notice that our modem was down for 5 days, but I am afraid I didn't bear it with as much graceful patience as I aspired to initially.  Fortunately, however, this is Lent, and we are all focusing on daily ways we can grow in faith, hope and charity.

Two weeks into Lent, we are all making progress in our Easter preparation.

Our prayer chain is growing!  

This has been a wonderful evening activity for our family.  It has also been a great way for T and I to talk about current events with the kids.  At one point, while looking at pictures of Japanese fire boats putting out fires in Japan, G-Bear surprised us by asking what we could do to help.  We talked about sending "circle money" to help people in Japan and also talked about how our prayers could help too.  We have lots of garland rings with prayers for the fireboats and Japanese people now, as well as prayers for family members and thank you's to Jesus for his love.

Our bean basket is filling up too! 

It might not look like much now, but each of the beans in this basket represents a special moment of obedience, good manners, generosity or helpfulness on the part of E-Bear or G-Bear.  While the beans look small, the effect of the the behaviors they represent has made a big difference in our daily life as a family.  Sometimes the kids get to put beans in the basket right away if their deed is done at an opportune moment while we are at home.  Just as special have been our evening reflections around the bean jar, when we talk about the good acts the kids have done and also about ways we can all improve the next day.  Both kids seem to take this really well.  I can honestly say that I have noticed G-Bear being more helpful to E-Bear, considering her tone of voice, and altering some of her behavior that we talked about the night before.  Even E-Bear's behavior has benefitted.  We have a long way to go, but for now I can't wait to see the pile of jellybeans on Easter morning knowing all the good they represent!

Our friday food shelf basket has been a fun way to focus on giving on our meatless Fridays.  The kids have colored lots of beautiful seasonal color pages for me.  Todd and I are striving for serious patience and charitable thoughts as we tackle internet outages and taxes together.  I am 11 bags into my "40 bags in 40 days" house cleaning goal.  And Baby Bear is due in just 3.5 weeks!

We have fallen short in many ways, but thank the Lord, He blesses our little effort with His limitless love.  We are living our Lenten days with the hope of Easter promises ahead.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Dr. Celebration

Tonight MoMo and Papa are hosting us for our traditional family Sunday night dinner, and we are having a true celebration complete with an amazing meal, internet access (ours has been down since Thursday) and cake.  We are all thankful that 4.5 years of medical school for me are over!  I will certainly have to share more reflections in the coming weeks before graduation.  For now, we will be celebrating with plenty of sleep, house cleaning, and playtime.  Here is a picture of me with our celebration cake.  E-Bear wanted to know why there weren't any candles.  He is always looking out for his momma :)

Thank you, Jesus!

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Internet, we miss you!

Our internet has been down since Thursday night, and I can't believe how much I have missed the world wide web!  Hopefully our ancient modem will be replaced next week and we will be back in internet business.  Until then, in true Lenten spirit, we will try to bear our wireless-less world with patience.

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Building Strength through Weakness

"It is good that you recognize your weakness.  That keeps you looking to Me, your Strength.  Abundant life is not necessarily health and wealth; it is living in continual dependence on Me."   
~Sarah Young, Jesus Calling  

What a great Lenten reflection this was for me today.  I started the week by staying up until 3 am two nights in a row to finish my last presentation of medical school.  As I finished my last powerpoint slide in the middle of the night, the program crashed, and I lost three hours of changes.  I wanted to scream because I was so tired.  I couldn't imagine how I could stay awake to redo my slides, much less present coherently the next morning and then come home and patiently parent my children with so little sleep in the previous 72 hours.

In that moment, my heart was reminded that this is the season of Lent, the season celebrating strength in weakness, the season extolling patient dependence over self-reliance.   It was for me a moment of choosing to trust in God's sustaining power rather than the adequacy of my ability.  The next morning, as I concluded my presentation in front of the department, there must have been 2 angels holding my eyelids open and 14 bolstering me upright.   When I returned home in the evening to E-Bear and G-Bear, they were blissfully content to snuggle and read with me on the couch, and dinner seemed to come together in a surprisingly collected way.

Oh, how the Lord blessed my trust in Him by blessing a day that could have been filled with setback.   This week, may we recognize the weakness in ourselves and trust in the power of the Lord.  May this season bring us to a point of greater dependence on Him.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Worn out

"Mommy, I am tired.  
I am so tired that my cheeks are tired and my head is falling over!"
~G-Bear, tonight at dinner

I think we are ALL worn out this week in Happily Ever Johnson Land :)

Grocery Bag

My last week of medical school has started out as a busy one, so I am a bit behind on posting our meal planning.  A few simple suppers have been key to getting us through.  I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and we will have lots to celebrate at the end of the week!

Last week I received a request for our favorite homemade tortilla recipe.  I must give credit for the recipe to my friend, SnoWhite, at her wonderful cooking blog, Finding Joy in My Kitchen

Day One:
Ravioli with homemade pesto from Sunset magazine,
steamed broccoli and berries
As E-bear would say, "DeeeeeWISHous!"

Photo and recipe from

Day Two:

from Cooking Light Magazine

One of our favorite homemade pizzas.  Seriously good.
Photo and recipe at

Day Three:
Short ribs in tomato sauce from The Pioneer Woman
with roasted carrots
A great meal to prep the night before, then it is ready to eat when we get home! 
Photo and recipe at

Day Four

Grilled ham and cheese sandwiches 
with fresh pears and steamed corn

Day Five
Wild rice stuffing from Cooking Light Magazine
with steamed peas and orange slices
A yummy meatless dish for our Friday dinner.
Photo and recipe at

Blessings on your kitchen!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Happy One Year Anniversary!

Our little Happily Ever Johnson Blog is one year old!  

May God continue to bless our family as we trust in His promises
and His Happy Ending.

Thanks for joining us along our journey this past year!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Pregnant Woman's Solution for the Common Cold

Ok, how did I get lucky enough to get my THIRD cold of the winter?

Not that anyone is asking or interested, but here is the timeline of my upper respiratory infections this season:

Cold #1: Parting gift from my pediatrics rotation
Thanksgiving to January 21st-ish
(No hyperbole, you can ask T, who had to sleep next to me coughing all night for nearly 7 weeks)

Cold #2: Stress-induced from Neurology exam
February 4th - 15th
(Finally went away while we were in San Diego.  Ah, vacation)

Cold #3: Board exam traveler's badge of honor
March 9th-present

Now, to be clear, I am not asking for pity.  In truth, these illnesses have really just been glorified annoyances.  But common colds can be especially irritating in pregnancy, when my usual armamentarium of OTC medications is more or less off-limits for daily consumption.  Without the nasal-clearing, mucus-moving, cough-containing power of modern day poly-pharmacy,  I have found myself in a cycle (for most of this winter!) of sleepless nights followed by longer illness followed by less sleep followed by (enter stage left) chronic cough, etc, etc.  

So, for the love of sleep and health, what is a pregnant momma to do?  

Tonight, in frustration, I confess that I was rummaging around in our hall closet hoping to find ANY OTC medication leftover from pre-pregnancy days.  Instead, I came across an old bottle of Little Noses saline spray and a recipe for homemade saline solution given to me by our pediatrician.


Medicine free, my nose is clearer than it has been in months!  

Here is the recipe for saline spray (ie special salt water).  I sucked it into my old Little Noses spray bottle, which allowed me to shoot it right into my nose.  I know it may sound gross, but it really works, all with no worries about medication during pregnancy.  I may start attaching the recipe to bottles of "Little Noses" pediatric saline spray and giving it as a shower gift to pregnant friends.  

Homemade Saline Nose Drops Recipe
 8 oz water
1/2 tsp salt

Bring to a boil in a small sauce pan.  Remove from heat, allow mixture to cool.
Using a clean dropper or nasal spray bottle, tip back your head or lie down with you head hanging upside down off the side.  Spray or drop 2-6 drops of solution into each nostril.  Blow your nose occasionally to clear.   Repeat as needed. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ash Wednesday 2011

"May Lent be for every Christian a renewed experience of God's love given to us in Christ, a love that each day we, in turn, must 're-give' to our neighbor, especially to the one who suffers most and is in need." - Pope Benedict XVI

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

My Kind of Marti Gras!

Happy Mardi Gras!

I fly to Chicago today to take my clinical skills Board exam tomorrow, so there won't be much opulence in my day.  However, in honor of Fat Tuesday I thought I would tell you about the place I WISH I could be with T today: Extraordinary Desserts, in San Diego!

T and I stumbled across this amazing restaurant when we were in San Diego recently.  
We still dream about it.

T's Bananas Foster dessert.  Oh how I wish I could make this for him!

It is the perfect place to go to celebrate Mardi Gras.  Don't worry about ordering a meal when you go.

Just order dessert.

They are all extraordinary.

There is no dessert menu, just cases and cases of desserts greeting you at the entrance to peruse and choose.
Trust me.

Rose petal-laden coconut cream tarts

Like I said, it's the perfect place to celebrate Mardi Gras.

Raspberry buttercream layer cake

The owner and pastry chef trained for over a decade at the Cordon Bleu in France and credits her exotic travels for the inspiration behind her extravagant creations.  There is no comprehensive dessert menu, because the temptations change daily and even throughout the day as she continually churns out new spectacular cakes, tarts, meringues, cookies, brownies, cupcakes.....

The coffee and tea menu is equally international and international, perfectly complementing the opulence of the desserts.  Dry samples of the available teas are even set out for scent testing so you can peruse them as you choose your dessert.

The triple chocolate truffle loaf
Can you tell that I had a hard time deciding what to order?

I can't even remember what this was called, but it looked amazing.

How about a meringue the size of your face stuffed with fruit and mousse?

Or an enormous neapolitan with layers of white chocolate cream and berries?

Or one of the chocolate layer cakes with chocolate shavings frosted with chocolate ganache?

Of course there is a whole menu of homemade ice cream and sorbet flavors if that is more your style.

So next year, skip New Orleans, St. Louis, and Miami, and celebrate Mardi Gras 
(or any other special occasion, for that matter)

You'll be glad you did.

Have a safe and blessed Mardi Gras!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Lent Preparations 2011

"Yet even now," declares the Lord,
"Return to me with all your heart, 
with fasting and weeping and morning;
and rend your hearts and not your garments."
Now return to the Lord your God,
for He is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in loving kindness
and relenting of evil.
~Joel 2:12-13

Everyday offers us a chance to grow closer to the Lord.

Ash Wednesday is on March 9th this year.
This week brings the beginning of Lent, a season that calls us to focus on our opportunity to trust and follow Jesus more as Easter approaches.

In honor of Ash Wednesday this week, I have tried to make good use of my earlier motivation to prepare for Lent.  I have been really encouraged to find many friends who are doing the same thing right now.  I have found their ideas and energy to be nothing short of inspirational, especially because I have never focused much on Lenten preparation before.  

The themes of Lent are prayer, fasting and giving.  With that in mind, I have tried to come up with ideas for us to do as a family that incorporate each of those elements in a special way.  


~Prayer Chain Garland:  I know, garlands are usually for Christmas, but this one will be for Easter.  Each day during Lent, the kids and I will write a prayer on a piece of colorful paper and then attach them one by one to make a prayer chain garland.  Depending on the day, we may write down our prayers for other people, a new prayer we learn together or a Bible psalm.  By the time Easter arrives we will have a long, flowing prayer chain garland decorating our living room.  I also like the idea that at the beginning of Lent our decoration will be rather sparse.  As Easter approaches, the decoration of our prayers will become more visible in our home, representing the positive effects of our prayers in the world.
~Jesus Tree coloring pages and Bible stories:  The Jesus Tree  is a beautiful Lenten Bible study idea for kids and families, which I learned about from Jessica at Shower of Roses.  I am not organized enough this year to make a Jesus Tree and ornaments to add to it each day.  But, I love the daily Jesus Tree coloring pages and Bible verses that she has posted for each day during Lent.  They will be a fun afternoon/evening activity for me and the kids as well as a good way to incorporate the stories of Jesus' life and ministry into our daily routine.  

~Prayerful reading: Last year I read Jesus Calling, by missionary Sarah Young, which I received from my mother-in-law.  Longtime visitors of Happily Ever Johnson will remember how much I LOVE this book.  For Lent I am hoping to start reading it again everyday, along with a few focused moments of morning prayer.  What a great way to start the day!


~Food shelf box: I don't expect the kids to notice the absence of meat in our Friday meals during Lent.  Instead, I plan to set out a box marked for a local food shelf.   Before we sit down to dinner each Friday I am going to let the kids go to the pantry and pick out a food item to put into the box.  It will give us the opportunity to talk about how thankful we are for God's blessings and for the chance to be a blessing to others.


~Jar of Beans: This idea comes from an old March edition of Family Fun Magazine that I read recently.  On Ash Wednesday, I am going to set out a large jar of dried beans on our coffee table next to a small, empty easter basket.  Each time one of us does a good deed or something nice to or for another,  he or she will get to go to the jar and move a dried bean from the jar to the basket.  I will explain to the kids that on Easter morning, when Jesus Is Risen, the dried beans will be replaced with jellybeans, representing the new creation we become through Christ: the old is gone and the new has come!  (2 Cor 5:17)

~Spring cleaning, 40 bags in 40 days: 

"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." ~Psalm 51: 10

House cleaning may not be as important at the spiritual cleaning we pray for during Lent, but it may be a great way to bring Lenten themes alive in seasonal chores.  This challenge is also inspired by Jessica at Shower of Roses, as well as several friend who have adopted it.  It is an especially appropriate opportunity for us this year, as we will be welcoming Baby Bear shortly before Easter and have a move to make this summer.  I have charted out a weekly plan of house cleaning during Lent, tackling a different part of our house almost every other day.  Along with the cleaning, the challenge is to pack up 40 bags of stuff over the 40 days to give away or discard.  That seems like a lot right now, and it will certainly require an exercise of generosity and total family participation.  But, I know that once Baby Bear arrives and we are packing for the move, I will be thankful for our Lenten effort.

Some special Lenten activities for us to look forward to include Friday soup suppers after Mass at our church, a very special birthday party for G-Bear on Laetare Sunday, and of course, Baby Bear's arrival sometime before Easter.

May this Lent be a blessed season, drawing us all closer to the Lord as we prepare for Easter.