Saturday, November 30, 2013

Giving Thanks 2013

Last week, G-Bear quizzed me, "Mommy, did you know that 'Thanksgiving' is a compound word?"  "Yes," responded E-Bear before I could answer, "because it could be changed around to 'Giving Thanks."  Clearly, there had been some coaching going on, but I was impressed.  But no matter how you say the word, we have had a wonderful time giving thanks this Thanksgiving.

This year, we celebrated at the cabin.  

We spent Thanksgiving morning eating apple cake and making pilgrim napkin rings 

and Thankful Turkeys.

We romped in the woods with loved ones.

We peeled carrots, 

mashed squash, 

chopped brussels sprouts,

 and pureed sweet potatoes like true pilgrims.  :)

After the turkey was carved, 

it was time to feast.  

E-Bear loved the turkey, G-Bear loved the mashed potatoes, 
Buddy Bear loved the cranberry, and J-Bear even tried some sweet potato.

But that wasn't all.

This year, the kids put on an after-dinner production of the First Thanksgiving.
I was the narrator, E-Bear and G-Bear were pilgrims, and Buddy Bear was Squanto.
It was a hit!

We also continued the tradition of the annual After-Thanksgiving puzzle.
(Some people shop on Black Friday.  We puzzle.)
This year, it was a Disney special with 1000 pieces. The puzzle took us 2 days.  
Everyone pitched in (including all of the kids!), and it was a great pastime as always.

There was also a bit of football to watch.  We won't say much more about that.

There were some fireworks to watch as well 
(Those turned out better than the football).

All in all, we are feeling blessed and grateful for family, friendship, and full lives.  We also come away from our family weekend feel compelled to share our blessings with others. 

Could there be a better segue into Advent?

Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Faithful Departed

Ah, November, you are rapidly coming to a close.  Before Advent takes over, I want to take a moment to note a special family tradition that we started this November, in hopes that we'll continue it for many years to come.

During the month of November, beginning with All Saints and All Souls Days, the Church takes time to celebrate and remember the faithful who have passed before us in life.  We are in turn encouraged to remember deceased loved ones in a special way.

This year, T suggested that we set aside a night each week to remember one of our departed family members with a special meal.  Each Friday or Saturday in November, we have dedicated a family dinner to a loved one, chosen a reminiscent menu, and shared slideshows, pictures and stories during the meal.  We finish with a special dessert and, most importantly, special prayers.

We started the month with a dinner in honor of Dee (T's dad) and Grandma Cookie.  We had steak (Dee always told everyone to get the steak when he was treating), creamed corn and Schubert rolls, and the cookies and whipped cream for dessert.  When we finished our slideshow, Buddy Bear said, "that Dee, he a funny guy." G-bear was interested to see the pictures of herself as a baby in Grandma Cookies arms.  E-Bear said it was his new favorite meal.

Week two we celebrated GG Isabel with pasta and brownies (because she was known to love a good dessert). It was wonderful to give the kids their own chance to share memories of GG, since we last saw her just 18 months ago.

For week three, we were traveling to Chicago as a family for a friends wedding, but we didn't want to miss a celebration.  So, we made the most of it and got Happy Meals at McDonalds in honor of my Grandpa Dick, who loved to take his grandkids to McD's.  The kids loved telling friends over the weekend that we had celebrated great grandpa at McDonalds.

Which brings us to this weekend, when we celebrate my grandma Luverne together after Thanksgiving.  She loved liver and onions, which I probably won't be able to make.  But, hopefully, MoMo will be able to tell some wonderful stories about Grandma to make up for it.

Regardless of who we are remembering, our prayer at the end of the evening has been the same:

"Lord, now let your servant go in peace; your word has been fulfilled: my own eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared in the sight of every people: a light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel (from Luke 2:29-32).  
            May the Angels lead you to paradise; may the martyrs come to welcome you and take you to the new city,  the new and eternal Jerusalem.  May the choirs of angels welcome you. Where Lazarus is poor no longer, may you have eternal rest." (from the Antiphons of Commendation)

We are so thankful for generations of loving family members who have gone before us.  Lord, thank you for their examples and love.  May they rest with you forever.

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving Week 2013

We've decorated the house.
We've stocked the fridge.
We're getting ready to travel over the river and through the woods.

Here in Happily Ever Johnson Land, we're ready to welcome Thanksgiving!

I enjoy making a big deal over Thanksgiving as a family.  
What better way to prepare for Advent than to begin with grateful hearts?  
Here are a few of our plans to help make this week extra special, in a thankful sort of way.

What we'll be making:

This is now a three year tradition in our family.  Each year they are a little different and always special.  E-Bear has already asked when we'll make our Thankful Turkeys and what they'll look like this year.  We'll see.....

~Pilgrim napkin rings~
A gift from MoMo, these cute napkin rings are from Paper Source and will be a fun addition to the Thanksgiving table.  The kids can't wait!

What we'll be cooking:
I am so excited to contribute to Thanksgiving dinner!  Hopefully, we'll give J-Bear her first meal too.

Just like Grandma Cookie used to make.
The Pioneer Woman recipe that can't be beat
Brussels in bacon is a delicious combination
A technique that is so easy and so delicious.

What we'll be reading:

~Bear Says Thanks, by Karma Wilson~

This is a sweet rhyming children's book, reminding us to be 
thankful for others and eager to give in return.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving week!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Conclusion to the Year of Faith

Yesterday was the feast of Christ the King.  The feast day is normally notable because it brings the end of the liturgical year and heralds the coming of Advent in only 7 short days.  This year, it also marked the conclusion of the Year of Faith.  Last year, Pope Benedict inducted the Year of Faith, calling all Christians and indeed, all people, to make time to seek and grow in a walk of faith with the Lord.

The Year of Faith provided me a focus and a goal at numerous times during the past year.  I am already a bit nostalgic at its passing.  I challenged myself to pray more earnestly for myself and others, attend daily Mass more often with children in tow, and talk more openly about matters of faith with my children and acquaintances.  But, as with the turning of any page, I look back and I wonder, 'did I take full advantage of the opportunity?  Could I have grown more?  Did I make enough of a difference?"

The answers to those questions are inevitably 'no, yes and no.'  But, there is good news.  Our walk of faith, and our opportunities to share it, doesn't end with the Year of Faith.  Pope Francis touched on this yesterday during his message at the closing Mass of the Year of Faith:

"Jesus’ promise to the good thief gives us great hope: it tells us that God’s grace is always greater than the prayer which sought it. The Lord always grants more, he is so generous, he always gives more than what he has been asked: you ask him to remember you, and he brings you into his kingdom! Let us go forward together on this road! "  ~Pope Francis, November 24th 2013, Closing Mass for the Year of Faith

When we look to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, we are at the beginning, not the end, of a journey.  As the Year of Faith ends, the road is still long, there is still work to be done, faith to be found, and love to be lived.  He remains with us to help us on our way.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Overheard in the house this week....

Overheard in the kitchen over the weekend.....

T:  "Hmmm, there is a new IMax movie about bioluminescence.  That sounds cool."

G-Bear: "What does that mean?"

T: "It's a show about bugs and animals and plants that glow.  Can you name an animal or bug that glows in the dark?"

G-Bear:  "A firefly!"

T: "Right!  Or, a glow worm."

Buddy Bear:  "Or a pteranodon."

Friday, November 15, 2013

Hooray for Chick-fil-a

The impossible has happened in Minnesota……

….we have a Chick-fil-a!

We made our inaugural visit on opening day.  I think we'll be eating a lot more chicken.

It will be our pleasure ;)

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A brother's love

Yesterday, while driving home from dropping off E-Bear at school, the following conversation occurred......

Buddy Bear, looking out the window and pouting:
"My MAD."

"Buddy Bear, why are you mad?"

Buddy Bear:
"My mad because E-Bear go to school."

"Buddy Bear, why does that make you mad?"

Buddy Bear:
"Because my love E-Bear."

Monday, November 11, 2013

Grocery Bag

Day One
Shrimp in coconut curry from Everyday with Rachael Ray
with couscous and grapes
One of my favorite quick "curries."  Start to finish, 30 minutes.
Photo and recipe from Everyday with Rachael Ray

Day Two
Roasted butternut squash soup from Cooking Light Magazine
with homemade rolls and spinach salad
A new soup that will be perfect tomorrow when the temperature drops
Photo and recipe from

Day Three
with spinach salad
We'll make the bacon variation :)
Photo and recipe from

Day Four
Saag paneer from 101 Cookbooks
with basmati rice and broccoli slaw salad
A favorite prep-ahead dish for busy nights

Day Five
Ribeye steak from Martha Stewart
with Shubert rolls, creamed corn and mixed green salad
A dinner in honor of Dee and Grandma Cookie
Photo and recipe from

Blessings on your kitchen this week!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Our Super Speller

Recently, G-Bear confessed to us that she likes to get 100% on her weekly spelling tests.  She is working really hard in first grade this year.  Her hard work is paying off.   We have noticed amazing milestones in her reading and spelling abilities.

But, I have to admit, G-Bear's spelling prowess causes me some problems too.  Up until now, I have enjoyed the luxury of being able to communicate privately with T in the presence of our children by spelling out words to make our conversation harder to follow.
"Should we get a T-R-E-A-T?" 
"Do you know if it is D-O-N-U-T S-U-N-D-A-Y today after Mass?"  
"Yes, today we'll see the doctor and get V-A-C-C-I-N-E-S this afternoon."  

Well, now our Super Speller's ears perk up when she hears a word spelled out.  Not only is G-Bear able to decipher most words that I am trying to spell for T, if she finds a word too challenging she'll draw everyone's attention to our conversation by asking me what I just said!  Clever girl!  

I am trying to accept the fact that our days of private conversations, at least when our kids are around, are over.  We'll adapt, I am sure.  But until we do, I'm determined to celebrate the spelling successes rather than pout over privacy matters.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Jumping for leaves

This past weekend we managed to collect the remaining leaves in our yard before the first snow of the season.  We raked a humongous pile.

E-Bear and G-Bear set to work doing what kids do best: jumping in the leaves.

We couldn't contain our giggles.

The dives where worthy of perfect "10's"!

Oh my, what fun!  Just don't tell Buddy Bear, the poor guy was napping the whole time.  

After our jumping escapades, it was time to fill up our leaf bags and visit the compost pile.  The mountain of leaves at the compost was legendary.  Seriously, it was a nirvana for leaf lovers.  

E-Bear and G-Bear helped unload the leaf bags.

Great job, team!

Our tree worked so hard to make those leaves all summer, and now the last are raked and gone! *Sigh*.  I would be sad, except that it snowed today, and the kids were just so excited.  Colder days are ahead of us, and we'll surely enjoy them too.

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Monday, November 4, 2013

Grocery Bag

Colder weather this week, snow in the forecast, swimming lessons and evening school conferences....sounds like November to me!  Here's our menu plan to make sure we enjoy family dinner together.

Day One
Warm lentil and potato salad from Southern Living Magazine
with steamed peas and pesto toast

Day Two
Bacon and broccoli pasta from BBC Good Food
with apple sauce
Photo and recipe from BBC Good Food

Day Three
Sausage and lentil soup from Everyday with Rachael Ray
with bread maker breadsticks and spinach salad
Photo and recipe from Everyday with Rachael Ray

Day Four
Parmesan tortellini 
Photo and recipe from Summer Tomato

Day Five
Sweet potato tortilla pie from Vegetarian Planet
with corn salsa and spinach salad

Blessings on your kitchen this week!