Thursday, March 29, 2012

This Day in Happily Ever Johnson Ice Cream History

Our picture of Baby Bear enjoying his first ice cream reminded Aunt A of G-Bear, and she sent us this picture. This is evidence that our love of the dairy dessert is long and well established. The great part about this pic is that E-Bear is enjoying ice cream too, but from inside my tummy.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

First Licks

Last night we took a family trip to Dairy Queen.
Being from Minnesota (the International Dairy Queen headquarters!), 
we know DQ delights very well.

Baby Bear was eyeing my cone and smacking his lips.  
He was the only one without a treat.
Until I finally caved.

Like mommy, like little buddy.

You scream, I scream, we all scream for ice cream!

Spring in NC

We have never experienced spring in North Carolina before.  
By all reports, we have hit the jackpot.  

The view from our porch and window: a glorious Yoshino Cherry Tree.
Our March here in North Carolina reminds me of summer in Minnesota: both are idyllic.  The string of 70-80 degree days here has been so spectacular (and early!) that locally grown strawberries already grace the shelves of our grocery stores.

Today we walked to the park to enjoy the flowering trees.  
Our neighborhood is awash in brilliant color!  

It is as if the whole world wants to remind us: 
"Lent is coming to an end, Easter is almost here!"

 The Dogwood blossoms remind us that Easter is near.

All along our walk, petals were blowing in the breeze, falling all around us.
G-Bear said, 
"Mommy, it looks like you and Daddy are in a wedding!"

The gratuitous beauty of spring is awe-inspiring.

And, do you remember this rose bush?  

Quite the stunning difference, no?
It remains my daily reminder that after the pruning of Lent, Easter blooms,

The amazing Kwanzan Cherry blossoms. 

and Christ wants to bloom in all of us. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Grocery Bag

Let's call this week the calm before the storm: the awesome storm of April, that is.  April brings Easter, three family birthdays, travels and family visits.  For now, I just have to get us through March.  Here is my dinner plan to help us make it through this final week of Lent.

Day One
Salsa verde chicken with dumplings from Pam Anderson's Perfect One-Dish Dinners
with strawberry spinach salad

Day Two
Corn and edamame chowder from Everyday Food Magazine
with broccoli slaw salad and dinner rolls
Photo and recipe from

Day Three
Fettucini Alfredo with bacon from Cooking Light Magazine
with romaine salad and breadsticks
Photo and recipe from

Day Four
Sweet & sour pork stir-fry from Everyday Food Magazine
with basmati rice
Photo and recipe from

Day Five
Veggie fried rice from Southern Living Magazine
with napa cabbage, cilantro and sesame dressing salad
Photo and recipe from

Blessings on your kitchen this week!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Five in the Kitchen

Our kitchen is very small.

I am not being critical, I am making a statement of fact.

The surest way to make a kitchen feel smaller is to pack a whole family of cooks into it.

Last night, that is exactly what we did.

T came home from work with milk and a pound of pasta for me,
rice cereal for baby bear,
and brownie-cookie bar mix for E-Bear and G-Bear.

We all swooned over him in our own way.

As I finished dinner, Baby Bear on my hip, T and the Bears made brownie-cookie bars.

There were two kids at the counter in the tower.  This takes up half of our floor space.
Two adults maneuvered around the tower between the stove, microwave and sink.  Envision lots of passing of utensils, ingredients, dishes.
One Baby was happily squeezed onto a hip in the midst of the action.  The dude doesn't like to miss out on the fun.
Keep in mind with this set-up: there is no opening the refrigerator, no loading the washer, no accessing the pantry cabinet, and no opening the counter cupboard, lest you boink someone's head.

Too many cooks in the kitchen?  No way.  I loved it.  I loved it even when one of the cooks, vigorously mixing, dropped cocoa & flour onto the floor and we had to break for a 'sweep-the-kitchen' break.  Both dinner and dessert tasted great.

By the way, God bless the inventors of the brownie-cookie mix.  It was a perfect treat for the Bears to make with their dad.  Two separate pouches, one for each kid to make, combined into one delicious dessert: what could be better?  E-Bear made the brownie base and G-Bear made the cookie dough top.  It was hard, finger-licking work.  At one point, T tried to advise E-Bear against finger-licking because of the raw egg in his brownie batter.  E-Bear replied in ernest,
"But Dad, there was chocolate on my fingers." 
Ah, so true, what else could he do? 

After dinner on the porch, we walked up to play at the park with our dessert in tow.  As we munched our brownie-cookie bars at the picnic table, G-Bear announced:
"I would like thank everyone who helped me make these cookie bars.  These are delicious!"

Someday, if I am enjoying a kitchen that allows me to open both the refrigerator and washer at the same time, I'll remember the fun we had in this one.  And I hope on that someday, when we have all that extra space, that my whole family is still cooking with me in the kitchen.  

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Eleven Months of Baby Bear

He crawls,
he babbles,
he furniture-walks,
he rides contented in the carrier, both front and back,
he giggles at his sister and laughs with his brother,
he snuggles his green blankie,
he sits and knocks at the door where his siblings are playing,
he wrestles with G-Bear,
he races with E-Bear,
he's up once a night but goes back to sleep,
he wants what you have,
he won't be distracted,
he feeds himself,
he eats and eats and eats and eats,
and he terrorizes my shelves and cabinets.

He's a "silly moose,"
a "monster man,"
and our "'lil buddy:"

he's our Baby Bear, and he is eleven months old!

Next month is the big ONE.  I can't believe how quickly time flies.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Grocery Bag

Day One
Curried red lentil soup from Whole Living
with homemade bread 
My kids skip the cilantro, but they love to sprinkle cherries and make designs in their soup with the coconut milk.  While this soup has been a hit at our house, I dial back on the curry powder to adjust for younger, tamer palates.  
Photo and recipe from Whole Living

Day Two
Chicken, pesto and mozzarella pizza
with broccoli slaw salad and pears
We love our homemade pizza dough and the flavors on this pizza.

Day Three
Lemon tortellini with peas and prosciutto from Everyday Food Magazine
with napa cabbage, orange and sesame dressing salad
Photo and recipe from

Day Four
Slow-cooker sausage lasagna from Everyday Food Magazine
with spinach salad and apple slices
Photo and recipe from

Day Five
Pesto pasta from Cooking Light Magazine
with french bread
Homemade pesto easier than you might think.  This is a fast and simple Friday meal.
Photo and recipe from

Blessings on your kitchen this week!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

March Milestones

Around our house,

you might find a big girl typing her name

or writing her words by herself;

Found this on my refrigerator, a special delivery from our hard-working G-Bear.

during mealtime, 
where once a baby sat, we now find a little buddy,

eating meals by himself like a big kid
(it's a first with pears, pancake and potatoes!);

and should you like to venture out from the safe confines of home, 
you may want to take E-Bear along,

he'll show you how to bravely conquer our epic flight of stairs 
without a hand or handle.

Each of these milestones represents a task that used to draw requests for my assistance.  There are so many more like these!  Whether setting the table, cleaning up, helping with dishes, inventing new games, getting into new mischief, advancements abound around here.  These three are stretching their wings daily.  They will be flying on their own before I know it.   Fortunately for me, I recently came across this inspiring poem here.  I quickly wrote it out and taped it to my entryway closet door:

Oh Lord,
Give me patience when wee hands
tug at me with their small demands,
and give me gentle, smiling eyes,
keep my lips from hasty replies.

And let not weariness, confusion or noise
obscure my vision of life's fleeting joys.
So when, in years to come my house is still -
no bitter memories its rooms may fill.
~Author Unknown

In the spirit of this poem and the season, I am trying to thank God each time someone tugs at my leg or calls for my help during the day.  I am far from perfect in this, but my attempts have done wonders for my presence of mind in our daily interactions.  Goodness, I love these Bears.

Friday, March 16, 2012

On gardening and Match Day

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  
He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, 
while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, 
so that it will be even more fruitful."  
~John 15:1-2

One of our community rose bushes.

Back in January, I was shocked to see that the large, lovely rose bushes outside our community office had been reduced to pathetic-looking stubs.  As I am not educated in the ways of gardening, I assumed that this was a travesty.  I found out later, from our office manager, that the rose bush branches had been intentionally hacked off.  "Oh, that?" He said, "we just had them pruned so that they'll blossom this year.  Just wait, you'll see, they will be beautiful come springtime."

Three weeks ago, February 22nd, was a difficult day in my life.  That Wednesday was the deadline for all residency applicant rank lists to be submitted for the medical residency Match.  The deadline came and went: I chose not to submit my list.  It was not that I had fallen out of love with medicine.  In fact, after a long season of interviewing, months of prayer and deliberation, I was excited for the next step of my training, thrilled to serve others as a physician.  But, as I reflected on what I would miss with my children, in our family life, moments that I couldn't get back, responsibilities that would have to be delegated, I was faced with an unshakable, interior disquiet.  My restlessness increased as I realized that I couldn't be a resident and, at the same time, the kind of wife and mother that I want to be.  I wanted to have both medicine and motherhood my way, and I couldn't; not right now, anyway.  For now, it was time to make a choice.  Regardless of the decision, my choice would result in giving up something that I loved, and that would be painful.

So on the day of the deadline, as I passed by those stubby rose bushes on my way to get our mail, my eyes filled with tears.  I realized that my life, too, was being pruned in a major way.  The Master Gardener had entered the garden of my life with giant loppers, and as much as I wanted to trust His expertise, I resented feeling just as naked as the stubby plants before me.  

In his book, God's Power to Change Your Life, author Rick Warren puts it this way:
"Professional pruners will tell you that most people are too timid when it comes to pruning.  I used to think that pruning was going in and gently cutting off the little dead pieces.  Not so.  The live stuff needs to go too - branches, leaves, and flowers.... 
....Here is my point: most of us think that when God prunes us, he cuts off the sinful and the superficial, the deadwood in our lives.  He does do that, but he also cuts off stuff that is alive and successful: a business that is going great, a satisfying relationship, good health.  Some of that may get whacked off for greater fruitfulness.  It is not just deadwood that goes.  God often cuts back good things too, in order to make us healthier.  It is not always pleasant, but pruning is absolutely essential for spiritual growth.  It is not optional.  Remember, God is glorified when we bear "much fruit" (John 15:8), and that requires pruning.  We must remember that the loppers are in the hands of our loving God.  He knows what he is doing, and he wants the best for us.  If you are a Christian, you are going to be pruned.  Count on it."  ~From God's Power to Change Your Life, by Rick Warren

Today is Match Day, the day when residency assignments for the coming year are revealed.  I anticipated for months that today would be a big day for me and my family, and I suppose that it is, but not in the way I expected.  Today is a big day because of what is not happening for me, so that so much more can happen for us.

In the weeks since withdrawing from the Match, I have been reminded of how great God's plan is for our lives.  He promises in Jeremiah 29:11:

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, 
"plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." 

Do I trust God for this?  I am trying.  In the days following my decision, I wrestled with real sadness and feelings of regret.  T wisely pointed me to the following short film entitled, "My Garden," by former pastor Ed Dobson.  The film describes the transformation of his life since the disease ALS ended his formal pastoral ministry.   His story helped me understand myself better.

As each of us walks the road of life, our path is often rough and dark.  God promises to make the road before us both light and smooth (Isaiah 42:16).  I don't know what is ahead, but I know that God's good plans for me are there.  I trust that a loving God is holding the shears that just pruned residency from the next year my life.  

The kids and I went to get the mail today.  We passed by the rose bushes.  I would not have believed it had I not seen it with my own eyes: the stubby bushes are covered with leaves and buds.

I, too, now pruned, am ready to bloom.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Two Years of Happily Ever Johnson

Today is a special anniversary in Happily Ever Johnson Land.

Our little blog is two years old today!  

493 posts,
almost 50,000 visits,
and many memories later,

we are still awaiting God's Happy Ending, 
and giving thanks for everyday.

Thanks for joining us!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Hard at Work

It's Lent.

We are all hard at work around here, 

and with God's help we are growing, giving, helping, changing.

Everybody pitching in to "help" Dad!

Thankfully, Daddy was home yesterday to help us fix the table too!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Grocery Bag

This weekend, while on retreat, I was reminded of the importance of family meal time.   Our families can represent a precious hope for the world.  This makes family mealtime a tremendous opportunity, because it is a chance to come together, grow together, a chance to love, be loved and learn to love others.  Goodness!  Whereas before I may have just wanted to get food on the table, I suddenly want to make the most of each precious meal opportunity!  This doesn't mean that my meals need to be fancier or more expensive.  But it renews my desire to put effort into making dinnertime a special family time, which in turn makes me grateful for the habit of meal planning.   Our meal plan (ideally!) results in easier, less hectic dinner preparation, more nutritious meals and, overall, a more enjoyable experience for everyone.  It's not perfect, nor is it a guarantee, but it is a start, a step in the right direction.

This week, I am finding renewed joy and purpose in the challenge of planning for our family meals.  Here is my plan for the week, along with my prayers that God would bless all of our family meal times.

Day One
Slow-cooker pulled pork from My Recipes
with creamed corn, spinach salad and cheddar-herb biscuits
Here is a meal full of T's favorites!  
It's a way for me to say 'thanks' and 'I love you' for all his help this weekend while I was away on retreat.
Photo and pork recipe from

Day Two
with israeli couscous
I find success with my kids by separating out the salad ingredients on their plates.  This salad is full of ingredients we will all enjoy!
Photo and recipe from

Day Three
Salmon, rice and bean salad by Happily Ever Johnson
This is a tasty way to use either freshly cooked or left over salmon.

Salmon, rice and lima bean salad by Happily Ever Johnson
Serves 2 adults and 2 kids
4 oz cooked salmon, flaked
1 1/2 cups steamed baby lima beans
4 cups cooked basmati rice pilaf blend  (such as Trader Joe's)
4 Tbs. balsamic vinegar dressing

Toss ingredients in a large bowl.  Serve warm or chilled.

Day Four
with broccoli slaw salad and apple slices
Photo and recipe from Tasty Kitchen

Day Five
Mediterranean Bean Salad from Food for My Family
with tortillas and oranges
Photo and recipe from Food for My Family

Blessings on your kitchen this week!

Sunday, March 11, 2012


I am back home after a 48-hour silent women's retreat.

The past three days have been a re(al) treat from the Lord in my life.

T returned from a multi-day work trip shortly before the retreat began.  He was sick and exhausted, but heroically took over for me at home so that I could go, not once making me feel guilty about leaving.  What a gift he gave me!

This was my first time away on a retreat by myself since becoming a mother.  I wondered, would the silence be unsettling?  Refreshing?  It was exactly what I needed, making space for God to do His work on me.  

The priest said today during his final comments,
"Let there be no doubt: the person who should benefit the most from your spiritual growth this weekend is your husband;  then, your children, your neighbor, the world."

Lord, help me put this growth into practice!

As I look toward the coming week, I am realizing that the halfway point of Lent is upon us.  Easter will be here before we know it!  No matter how we are doing in our works of prayer, penance and giving, there is still time for change and room for improvement.  God has so much to show us and so much to do through us, if we let Him.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Fellowship Milestone

For those of you who are not up on the latest in college basketball, this week marks the end of many teams' seasons.  This is huge in our life because T has been covering our local ACC basketball team as part of his fellowship year, and man, do these ACC teams travel a lot.  T is coming home tonight as I write this, and I couldn't be happier.  Of course, the fact that T is coming home now rather than Sunday night means that his team lost their game today.  *Sigh*  I am sorry to say that I am happier than most local fans tonight.

So, tonight, a toast to "Doc" T, his fellowship milestone, and the team he has enjoyed covering this season.