Monday, January 30, 2012

Grocery Bag

We have some delicious favorites and a few new dishes to try.  Here is our dinner meal plan to get through the week.  

Day One
Veggie fried rice from Southern Living Magazine
with fruit salad
A familiar favorite that comes together in a flash.
Photo and recipe from

Day Two
Black lentils from The Indian Slow Cooker Cookbook
with couscous and romaine cranberry salad
I love this cookbook and the slow cooker methods!  Our kids gobble this lentil dish.

Photo and recipe from Indian as Apple Pie

Day Three
with homemade bread and pears
Photo and recipe from Kate In The Kitchen

Day Four
Tortilla strata from Cooking Light Magazine
with salsa, hummus and carrot sticks
This is delicious and hearty enough for breakfast or dinner.
Photo and recipe from

Day Five
Baked potato and broccoli soup from Southern Living Magazine
with homemade bread
Another family favorite!  I chop the broccoli up tiny, tiny 
and the kids hardly notice it in the rich, creamy soup.

Photo and recipe from

Blessings on your kitchen.

The interviews are done

Praise the Lord, we have made it through my interview season.

My last interview was today.  The kids and I returned home to T exhausted.  I was exhausted but elated from my last interview day.  The kids were exhausted and elated from the spectacularly fun day they had enjoyed with their cousins at Aunt K's house.  We celebrated by having dinner out, using a gift certificate from my sister and Uncle T.  Such a treat.

If there is anything I have gained through this interview season, it is opportunity.  If there is anything I lack at it's end, it is clarity on the right step to take next.  I am so grateful for our friends and family who have prayed for me, daily in some cases, throughout this season.  I am also speechless with gratitude for the people who invested in me, encouraged me and sacrificed to help me get where I am now.

"I will guide you.  I will turn darkness into light before you and make the rough places smooth." 
 ~Isaiah 42:16"

We are celebrating in a big way this week, and we'll have lots of fun celebration stories to share in a few days.  I can't wait.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Just out of reach

Do you ever have days when
no matter what new heights you scale, 
what you want in life still feels just out of reach?

Baby Bear understands.
So do I.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Overheard in the house this week #13...

Overheard in my bed on Saturday morning...
Me: "Oh, I feel COLD feet, those feet are toooo cold!"
E-Bear: "Silly Mommy, I don't feel any cold feet!"
Me: "That is because your feet are the cold feet on me!"

Overheard while getting out of the car on Tuesday night....
G-Bear: "E-Bear, look at the stars!"
E-Bear: "Oh!  There are so many I can't even count them!"

Overheard at dinnertime at the mall on Tuesday night....
E-Bear: "Oh, Chick-fil-a, I have missed you."

Overheard during dinner, while G-Bear and E-Bear were playing "T and B:"
G-Bear:  "How was your day today, sweetie?"
E-Bear:  "Bad."
(*Editor's note: The name of the roleplaying game notwithstanding, the above conversation was not a parroting of conversations overheard by little ears! Totally original!  T never says his day is bad!)

Overheard in the afternoon:
Me: "Can anyone see what Baby Bear is doing?"
G-Bear: "He is standing up over by the door, waving out the window and chewing on the car keys."

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Rainy Days and Tent Play

The sun just came out yesterday for the first time in a week.

T was gone for all but one day of that week.

Fortunately, Aunt Linda gave the kids a tent for Christmas.

The tent became a fixture of our living room on Rainy Day #2.  
It still takes up most of our living room.  
And I love it.

The Bears have played sleepover, 
tea party,
and endless chasing games in and out of the tent.  

The biggest peels of laughter are from the chasing games
when Baby Bear is doing the chasing.

 Baby Bear loves his sibs so much,
he just wants to be in on their action.

Lord, when I remember these rainy days,
let me forget the moments when I was crabby,
and tired,
and tripping over the bedding on the floor,

and instead remember the smiles,
the screams of delight,
the laughter,
the shaking tent,
the make-believe.

and Lord, thank you for these rainy days,
and our tent.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Grocery Bag

We have lots of warm, yummy meals to help us get through the last full week of February--I mean, January!  Here is my plan for our dinners this week.

Day One
Beef stew from Everyday Food
with steamed broccoli  and oatmeal irish soda bread
This is my go-to, easy beef stew recipe.  The flavors are awesome.  I sometimes store the ingredients in my freezer, dump them in a pot in the afternoon, and 2-3 hours later we are ready to eat.  I also only use one to two pounds of meat instead of the 3 pounds called for, and it turns out great every time.
Photo and recipe from

Day Two
Bacon mac from Cooking Light Magazine
with broccoli slaw salad
Nothing fancy, but quick and tasty for a weeknight meal.

Photo and recipe from

Day Three
Chicken tortilla pie by Happily Ever Johnson
with corn salsa and spinach salad
This dish is a quick way to use leftover chicken.
Photo and recipe by Happily Ever Johnson

Chicken Tortilla Pie by Happily Ever Johnson
5 corn tortillas
3/4 cup corn, drained (thawed if frozen)
1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, chopped
1 cup best quality salsa (I used Trader Joe's pineapple salsa)
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
3 eggs
1 1/2 reduced fat milk
1 tsp salt

1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
2.  Butter a 10 inch pie plate or cake pan, and layer the tortillas 
so that they cover the entire base and sides of the pan.
3.  In a medium bowel, beat the eggs, milk, salt and pepper until well combined.  
4.  Layer the corn, salsa, and chopped chicken evenly over the tortillas.  
Drop tablespoons of ricotta cheese evenly over the salsa layer.  
5.  Pour the egg mixture over the layered pie, 
and do not worry if some of the custard runs under the tortillas.
6.  Bake at 375 for 45 minutes or until the custard is set 
(when a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean).
7.  Enjoy!

Day Four
Pesto chicken mozzarella pizza with homemade pizza dough
with fruit salad and carrot sticks

Day Five
Shepherd's chicken pot pie by Happily Ever Johnson
with apple slices 
Save this recipe for when you need to use leftover mashed potatoes and chicken. 
Photo and recipe by Happily Ever Johnson

Shepherd's Chicken Pot Pie by Happily Ever Johnson
3 Tbs butter
1/2 cup carrots, finely chopped
1/2 cup corn, drained and thawed if frozen
1/2 cup peas or baby lima beans, thawed if frozen
1 Tbs fresh sage, chopped
1 Tbs fresh thyme, chopped
3 cups cooked chicken, chopped
3 Tbs all-purpose flour
3 cups reduced fat milk
1 Bay leaf
Salt, Pepper
3 cups prepared mashed potatoes
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese  (optional)

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2.  In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Saute the carrots, corn, and lima beans, with the sage and thyme until tender and cooked through, about 5 minutes.  Add chicken and saute until heated through, 2 minutes more.  Season well with salt and pepper.
3.  Sprinkle flour over veggies and chicken.  Slowly mix in the milk, one cup at a time, stirring well with each addition.  Add the bay leaf, season with salt and pepper.  Bring mixture to a boil and then reduce heat to low, simmering for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.
4.  Pour chicken mixture into a 10 inch pie plate or 8x8 baking dish.  Spread mashed potatoes evenly over the top.  Sprinkle with cheese, if desired.
5.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Blessings on your kitchen this week!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Baby Bear at Nine Months

He crawls, he eats puffs, he wakes up happy, he can get out of his bassinet


he's nine months old today!

Way to go, Baby Bear!

The nine month milestone is always extra special for me, because it marks the point at which my kids have lived longer outside of me than they did inside.  Ah, nostalgic moments.  But enough with the mushy stuff, because we have a real dilemma on our hands with our growing guy!  Now that Baby Bear can get out of his bassinet during certain *ahem* unhappy 11pm rants, I have to figure out where to put him in his crib to sleep!  Our room is quite and secluded, but there is zero space for his crib.  G-Bear and E-Bear's room has space for his crib, but I worry that his nighttime and early morning wake-up calls will wake them up too.  The playroom is an option, but then there is no place for T and I to hang out after the kids go to sleep.  EEK!  Our happy routine is all topsy-turvy now that our guy is getting so big.

Don't worry, we'll figure it out.  Let there be no doubt that we love our Baby Bear no matter how complicated the sleeping arrangements become!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

My reason to skip the snooze button today

"Be the kind of woman that, when your feet hit the floor each morning,
 the devil says 'Oh *%#@, she's up!' "

I read this quote on our good friend's blog and couldn't resist recording it here as well.  Some days I need extra motivation to skip the snooze button!  Each day is an awesome opportunity to do good for my family and for the world.   Oh that I would begin each day with thanksgiving, committing my day to the Lord!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Midweek Moments and Milestones


E-Bear came to rescue me last night while T was tickling me.
E-Bear: "Daddy, Daddy, stop THAT!  Stop tickling Mommy."
T, grinning:  "Why should I stop?"
E-Bear:  "Because, Mommy doesn't like tickles!"
T:  "How do you know that she doesn't like tickles?"
E-Bear: "Because, because, because I can't know!"

Even when he is at a loss for words, E-Bear remains our prince and defender :)


Three days before his 9 month birthday, Baby Bear has started clapping.
Now he delights us by clapping at mealtime, playtime, "So Big" time, and lots of times in between.
We are happy to applaud your right back, Baby Bear!


Today G-Bear brought home from school an igloo she made out of toothpicks and marshmallows. 
When she asked if she could "roast" them, I told her that we probably wouldn't.
However, I offered that if she was willing to share with E-Bear, she could eat her marshmallows for an after-lunch treat.  After lunch, G-Bear divided up her marshmallow sticks to share and enjoy:

G-Bear: "Mommy, everyone gets two.  Here are two for you, E-Bear.  Here are two for you, Mommy."
Me:  "Well thank you, G-Bear.  But why do you only have one?  There is one left here in your bowl."
G-Bear:  "I only have one because I am saving that one for Daddy so that he can have one."

My heart melted.  
She chose to have only one marshmallow stick to our two so that T could have one.
After everyone had enjoyed their marshmallows, I whispered to G-Bear,
"You know, sweetie, I bet Daddy would be happy to share his marshmallow stick with you."
G-Bear:  "Do you think so? Maybe I could have his and tell him about it when he gets home."
Sounded like a great plan to me :)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Home Sweet Home

We arrived home last night after yet another week away.   The past three months of our lives make us look like professional travelers.

I walked in the door and put Baby Bear down at the living room threshold. 
Then, I turned around to bring our bags in from outside the door.  
By the time I had brought the bags in, Baby Bear was no where to be seen. 
I found him around the corner in the kitchen.
He had crawled over to the refrigerator to play with his alphabet magnets.  
I guess I am not the only one who is glad to be home.

Last night, as we kissed G-Bear goodnight, T said, 
"G-Bear, ask mommy where you guys are going tomorrow."
"Where are we going tomorrow, Mommy?"  She asked.
"Nowhere," I replied.

Ahhhhh.  There is nothing like the blissfulness of a day at home.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Road to the Championship, Part Three

"I grew up in Alabama—possibly the worst place on earth to acquire a healthy perspective on the importance of spectator sports....A recent poll by the Mobile Register found that 90 percent of the state’s citizens describe themselves as college football fans. Eighty-six percent of them pull for one of the two major football powers there, Alabama or Auburn..... To understand what an absolute minority nonfans are in Alabama, consider this: they are outnumbered there by atheists."  
~Excerpt from Introduction to Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer, by Warren St. John

Bama Nation celebrating their champions.

An unbelievable number of fans descended on New Orleans for the BCS Championship last week.  G-Bear noticed an imbalance in the ranks as we walked down the street:  "Mommy, we aren't getting as many "Roll Tide"'s as we did yesterday."  It was true, there was more purple than crimson in the crowds, but we still managed to have a great time.   We ate lunch outside with live jazz on the French Market.  While the Bears rested in the afternoon, T and Uncle L went to cheer for the Tide players as they boarded the buses for the game.  Before we knew it, the sun was setting over New Orleans and T and I were joining Uncle L and Aunt H to make the long-anticipated walk to the Superdome.  

T and Uncle L celebrating their second 'Bama championship together.

While we went to the game, the kids stayed with Nana and her friends at the hotel.  Our apologies if you were on our floor of the hotel that night.  Every time Alabama scored, Nana and the kids ran down the hall with their shakers, cheering at the top of their lungs.  G-Bear didn't fall asleep until after 11pm, despite the fact that her body was still on Eastern Standard Time.

It was incredible to experience the excitement and jubilation of Alabama's win over LSU.   In his book Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer, Alabama superfan Warren St. John explores superfan-dom by asking "why something so removed from our lives--something that doesn't affect our jobs, our relationships, or our health--affects us so emotionally." (Introduction, p.16)  I can't say I understand it, and I agree with St. John's conclusion that it's not rational.  But as I stood next to T at the game, his knuckles white and frozen around the stem of his shaker for the first three quarters,  I was transported to a different time -- a time when he was six years old, wore a superman cape, and watched 'Bama games with his dad.   I realized how much the team and the game meant to so many people, including the tornado-ravaged towns around Tuscaloosa.  As a caller to the Paul Finebaum radio show said the next day, "I am a 'Bama fan here in Rhode Island, and nobody here seems to get it."  And I realized, as I stood there next to T, that I really wanted 'Bama to win.  And I loved it.   

Roll Tide.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Road to the Championship, Part Two

"Every fan likes to think that they helped their team win the game.  
In our case, we're sure of it."  ;)
~The Happily Ever Johnsons celebrating the 2011 Crimson Tide

When we stepped out into New Orleans last Sunday, we looked the part.  T and I were wearing our matching houndstooth pants and skirt, respectively, which were Christmas gifts that we had found for each other not knowing that the other had the same idea.  Baby Bear was dressed in his new Big Al costume (the Tide's mascot -- thanks, Nana!).  E-Bear was dressed in his new Alabama sweat suit, and G-Bear was proudly wearing her new 'Bama cheerleader outfit.  As we walked down the street, shakers in hand, we shared a common greeting with the ubiquitous roaming Alabama fans:  "Roll Tide!"  The kids got so good at saying it and enjoyed giving out 'Roll Tide's' so much that G-Bear later described this as her favorite part of the weekend.  Even the LSU fans were sweet to our crew:  "aw, aren't you the cutest Tiger Bait ever!"  Whenever we passed a purple Tiger flag, G-Bear would look at T and me, then give us a wink and a playful thumbs down.  

We took New Orleans by storm.  

We had beignets and cafe au laits at Cafe du Monde,

 then attended church at Immaculate Conception downtown, and visited Jackson square, ESPN Game Day and the St. Louis Cathedral.  

We delighted the balloon vendors with our enthusiasm, and they delighted the kids with amazing creations
(Elmo for E-Bear and a red/white Ariel mermaid for G-Bear!), 

Notice that G-Bear is levitating with excitement.

and then took in the sights and sounds along the lavish Rue de Royal. 
(Sorry, no Bourbon Street for us.) 

We enjoyed a spectacular brunch with Uncle L and Aunt H at Antoine's, complete with jazz singers and a personalized Baked Alaska dessert that had the rest of the restaurant swooning.  

We ordered it 24 hours in advance, and boy, we were so glad that we did.
Finally, while the rest of the adults were out for dinner, T and I took our bears on a city-wide trolley tour to complete our evening.  We all had a great time, even when we got stuck in a downpour while waiting for a trolley to take us back to our hotel.  Hey, it was a small price to pay to maintain our super-fan status!

As we crawled into bed at 11pm on Sunday night, we knew our work had only just begun.  Then next day would be game day.   We knew we had to stay committed to make sure our team maintained it's edge. ;)  E-Bear slept in his Alabama football jersey to ensure sweet dreams.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Road to the Championship, Part One

"Every fan likes to think that they helped their team win the game.  
In our case, we're sure of it."  ;)
~The Happily Ever Johnsons celebrating the 2011 Crimson Tide

Last Saturday our alarms went off at 5am.  T and I had slept 3 hours the night before.  E-Bear came stumbling out of his room, still half asleep.  G-Bear rolled over and said, "is it ok if I just lay here in bed for a few more minutes?"  But none of us were crabby.  As we hopped in the car with our friend and airport chauffeur extraordinaire, Mr. Peter, we were already cheering.   We were on our way to New Orleans to help cheer for our favorite team, the Alabama Crimson Tide. 

Two plane flights later, we were in Birmingham and on the road with our Nana to the Big Easy.   When we stopped at the Chick-fil-A in Meridian, MS, it felt like we had pulled into an Alabama tailgate party right outside Bryant-Denny Stadium.  The restaurant and parking lot were overflowing with 'Bama fans headed to the city.  Never mind that the game was still over two days away!  The kids loved picking out all the Alabama A's as we traveled.  At home it is a big, rare deal to see another Alabama A!  Here, there were 'Bama fans like us everywhere!  

By the time we pulled into our hotel, we had been traveling for over 14 hours.  We had waited for an hour to get off at our exit in Saints game-day traffic.  But as we crawled into bed after our pb&j hotel room dinner, none of us were complaining. We were ready to rise, shine and cheer on the Tide again the next day.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Roll Tide

Not only is this an appropriate post title given our favorite team's win yesterday, but it has also been our favorite greeting to friend and stranger alike for the past three days.  That's right, the dearth of Happily Ever Johnson postings is due to our journey to New Orleans, where we cheered our team to victory over the course of a three day weekend.  We have lots of fun memories and moments to share, but for now we are basking in the glow of the Tide's win.  As I said to T this morning, "it's ok, you can get out of bed, we really did win last night, and our team is still the national champs."

So happy for the players, Tuscaloosa, and Tide fans everywhere!  We have enjoyed the ride this year!

Friday, January 6, 2012

On the twelfth day of Christmas

For the twelfth day of Christmas, a priceless memory:

twelve "happy pifnies!" 

This is E-Bear's renditions of "Happy Epiphany," which is how he greeted everyone today:  his preschool director, his preschool teacher, the office manager, three maintenance men, our neighbor, his toy truck, G-Bear, Baby Bear, and myself (twice!).  

eleven threads adorning,
ten strings of tree lights,
nine Moravian cookies,
eight hours of playtime,
seven resolutions,
six nights, scant sleeping,
five first time puffs!
Four at St. Nick's feet,
three playmates,
two crawling buds,

We have had a wonderful Advent and Christmas season and hope you have too.  I am already excited for Christmas next year!  Happy Epiphany!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

On the eleventh day of Christmas

For the eleventh day of Christmas, a photo memory:

Eleven threads adorning,

ten strings of tree lights,
nine Moravian cookies,
eight hours of playtime,
seven resolutions,
six nights, scant sleeping,
five first time puffs!
Four at St. Nick's feet,
three playmates,
two crawling buds,
and a joyful, thankful family!

A tribute to our lovely 2011 tree!  The freshest one yet!

Tonight, T and I took down the tree.  Sniff, sniff!  In the process of taking down the ornaments and lights, we noticed a few rouge decorations that hadn't yet caught our eyes.  Small, one-to-two-inch pieces of yarn had been carefully cut and laid across the lower pine branches.  A few had even been tied around ornaments to help them stay on the branches. Sweet G-Bear, our craft and ornament aficionado, had mentioned several times this season that we didn't have enough ornaments decorating our tree. Apparently, she had taken it upon herself to partially remedy the problem.  T's childhood family friend, Renee, who has a tradition of giving us an ornament every year, would have been proud of G-Bear's work.  The care with which the threads had been cut (all similar sizes) and placed on the tree (or tied to ornaments) melted our hearts (which must have been stone-cold and grinchy to take down the tree in the first place).  

And so sitting here in our living room bare,
we give thanks for our tree and our sweetest G-Bear.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

On the tenth day of Christmas

For the tenth day of Christmas, a priceless memory:

ten strings of tree lights,

nine Moravian cookies,
eight hours of playtime,
seven resolutions,
six nights, scant sleeping, 
five first-time puffs!
Four at St. Nick's feet,
three playmates, 
two crawling buds,
and a joyful, thankful family.

We love our Christmas tree.  It is the perfect size, with the top just brushing our ceiling, fitting perfectly in front of our mantle.  T has taken great care of its maintenance for me this year, and since we live in NC where most of the trees are grown, it is the freshest we have ever had.  Our strings of rainbow lights twinkle all day long.  Our kids placed each ornament with extra care this year.  Our friends' and family's Christmas cards adorn the branches.   

I am just like my mom in that I start  to get crabby when it is time to take down the tree.  Today I learned that my son is just like me too.  As we returned home from preschool today, we came upon a city service truck picking up the discarded trees on the curb.  I stopped to ask him if they would be picking up trees again, as we have not yet taken ours down (c'mon, people, twelve days of Christmas, right?).  He reassured me that they would be making rounds again next week.

As we pulled away, E-Bear asked, "Mommy, what were you saying about our tree?"  When I told him that we would need to take our tree down soon because it was getting too old to live at our house anymore, he started to tear up.  "But Mommy," he said, "I love our tree."

What could I say?  I love our tree too.  Then G-Bear joined in.  We all had to wipe a tear away.  

So here I sit, in our dark living room, next to our tree with its lights shining brightly.  We'll treasure these last two days with our tree.   On Friday it must come down, along with our ten strings of lights and our ornaments, and we'll all have to say goodbye until next year.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

On the ninth day of Christmas

For the ninth day of Christmas, a tasty memory:

nine Moravian cookies,

eight hours of playtime,
seven resolutions,
six nights, scant sleeping,
five first time puffs!
Four at St. Nick's feet,
three playmates, 
two crawling buds,
and a joyful, thankful family!

Our area of North Carolina is marked by the cultural traditions of the Moravians, who settled in North Carolina in the mid-1700's in search of religious freedom.  We have been delighted to encounter the Moravians and their traditions for the first time since we moved last summer.  I have been especially attracted to the Moravian traditions surrounding Christmas.  We have encountered Moravian stars (thanks to Nana, ours will light up our porch through Epiphany), Christmas Teas and Love Feasts, Christingle candles (G-Bear received one at her preschool Christmas Tea this year), and perhaps most deliciously, Moravian cookies.  

Our favorite bakery in town in Dewey's, which makes cakes, pastries, and especially delicious Moravian classics.  One of our favorite ways to treat our kids is to take them to Dewey's and let them each choose a cake square, which cost about a dollar.  T and I have come to love their Moravian cookies, which are out of this world.  We gave them as hostess gifts during Advent and brought them to our family Christmas gatherings.  They are so thin and delicate, yet are packed with a perfect flavor and sweetness that taste like Christmas melting in your mouth.   I could eat a whole box, especially the chocolate-dipped kind topped with crushed peppermint.  Thankfully, even though they taste amazing, they are so thin that you can eat 9 cookies for about the calories of a granola bar.  I'll take these cookies over a granola bar every time.
Tonight, T and I took the kids to Dewey's for a special treat night after dinner.  The kids chose pink lemonade cake squares: pink cake with yellow lemon frosting.   T and I chose two boxes of Moravian cookies, which are conveniently on post-holiday sale for 50% off.  So here we sit, herbal tea in our coffee cups, munching away on Moravian cookies.   In keeping with the current day of Christmas, I only ate nine.  Just kidding.