Monday, November 24, 2008

It's Turkey Time!

Are you ready for this week? Thanksgiving for a foodie means that I usually spend most of the week preparing for the big day. This year, my sister and mom are in town, so we'll be working together, which makes it much more fun and less work.

My favorite day of our preparation is Wednesday--Pie day. My mother-in-law makes her delectable pumpkin pies and then we Johnson women go to town on the others. The photo to the right is the fruits of our labors last year: an apple, french apple, apple-berry sour cream, toasted pecan, pumpkin cream cheese, and lemon and toasted coconut meringue. My Johnson family (the family I was raised in) are also HUGE boysenberry pie fans. We almost always buy ours at Marie Callendars, but the past couple of years I have been less-than-impressed with the quality. This year, I have bought the berries and we'll be making a couple of berry pies, all the apples that we did last year, and a banana cream. Although the pecan pie is delicious, it is so rich that you can't try several kinds, which means that it gets neglected, so I'll wait and make it at Christmas or next year.

The Johnsons are also traditionalists when it comes to the Thanksgiving meal (as are my in-laws,) so we don't fiddle much with the recipes, except to perhaps add a new side dish here and there or toss in an extra pie. But there absolutely must be a roasted turkey (and most years Jared also deep fries a turkey--mostly so he can have a good excuse to fry everything in the house the next day when they're watching football.) Alli is doing the turkey this year, so Thanksgiving morning will feel downright leisurely around here. We also make a traditional onion-celery-sage stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, candied yams, a raspberry jello-sour cream salad, and these rolls:
One of the crowning dishes is the citrus-cranberry relish. Sure, it's just a side dish and you generally only eat 1/4 cup or so, but it is so beautiful on the plate, and the sweet and tart of it pairs so well with the turkey. There is nothing better than a leftover turkey sandwich on homemade whole wheat bread with cranberry relish smeared all over it. Yum.

What dish or dishes can you not go without on Thanksgiving?

If you are interested in trying a new recipe at your Thanksgiving table this year, this is a great one. And it can be made on Tuesday or Wednesday, which is always nice. Bon Appetit!

Johnson's Cranberry Relish
  • 1 bag fresh cranberries
  • 2 red apples
  • 2 large oranges
  • 1 lemon
  • 1-1 1/2 cups sugar

Core apples. Zest the citrus and reserve zest for later. Peel oranges and lemon, removing as much of the white pith as possible. Grind cranberries and other fruit together, using an old fashioned CLEAN meat grinder. Or use your food processor, but keep it chunky, not pureed. Add sugar to taste (my mom likes it tart, but my in-laws prefer it sweet). Add citrus zest. Best if made a couple of days ahead, which you want anyway when you’re making Thanksgiving dinner!

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Aubrey, my one-time mission companion, tagged me for this Sevens meme.

Seven things to do before I die:
1. Learn to keep my temper and hold my tongue.
2. Take my husband and kids to Palmyra, NY and Nauvoo, IL (they've never been.)
3. Take my mom to Israel. She sent Alli and me years ago and we pledged we'd take her there someday.
4. Get out of debt!
5. Spend some quality time in Europe.
6. Serve another mission or four with my husband.
7. Find a fudge recipe that likes me as much as I like it.

Seven things I cannot do:
1. Go to bed with a messy kitchen. (Okay, it happens on rare occasions, but it really pains me.)
2. Cartwheel.
3. Dive head first. (Now you really know what a clutz I am.)
4. Go hours at home without checking my email.
5. Give up sugar.
6. Run a mile. Maybe someday.
7. Travel as much as I'd like to.

Seven things that attracted me to my husband:
1. His singing voice.
2. What a great, hard-working, rule-keeping missionary he was.
3. His sense of humor.
4. His dreams for the future.
5. His love for children.
6. His passion for the gospel.
7. His strong hands.

Seven things I say most often:
1. "Don't wipe your nose on your shirt."
2. "Don't tip your chair."
3. "I love you."
4. "Not until you've cleaned up this mess."
5. "Just a minute."
6. "This is the last blog I'm reading and I'll stop."
7. "I'm sorry I said that."
(Oh well, at least I say "I love you" a lot.)

Seven Books I love:(besides those on this list)
1. A Wrinkle in Time
2. How Green Was My Valley
3. Anne of Green Gables series
4. Emma
5. The Chronicles of Narnia
6. The Goose Girl (just finished it today)
7. The Giver

Seven movies I could watch over and over:
1. Meet Me in St. Louis
2. The Sound of Music
3. Charade
4. White Christmas
5. The King and I
6. Fiddler on the Roof
7. My Fair Lady
(I only own #4 and 6 if you're looking for Christmas ideas!)

Seven people I'm tagging:
1. Janet
2. Christine in Istanbul
3. Sonja
4. My sister who never posts on her blog anymore
5. Ashley
6. Judy/Cammi
7. Sea Star

Friday, November 21, 2008

Christmas wishes and toddlers

The other night at dinner, we were going around the table, telling what we wanted for Christmas. The boys each named off their items (a pirate shirt, lots of Legos and Star Wars things, an anti-gravity car, anything remote control, blah blah blah,) while Jared and I listened. We got around to Bronwen and asked her, sure that she didn't have a clue what we were talking about.
  • Me: What do you want for Christmas, Bronwen?
  • Bronwen: Um, I nno (I don't know). Uuh, dresses (as she rubbed her belly. This means clothes.)
What?! Did I hear that right?
  • Me: You want some new clothes for Christmas?
  • Bronwen: Yesh.
  • Jared: We are in so much trouble!
So there you have it. Our not quite two year old is already requesting new clothes for Christmas.

Jared may take it as a bad sign, but I'm thrilled. My boys have stopped wanting clothes years ago (unless the clothes have a character on them, which I am generally opposed to.)

And by the way, one of my favorite baby girl brands, Baby Lulu, showed up at COSTCO this week! I had a hard time narrowing it down to one outfit, but now that Bronwen has expressed her wishes, maybe I should go pick out another! Go see if your Costco has them.

Here she is in my adorable Target clearance rack find: this printed corduroy dress. She was not interested in having her photo taken, even if it was for Nana. Those terrible twos are on their way!

And here's a glimpse of what we'll be doing today.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Isn't She Lovely?

I just got some pictures back from a photo shoot that Nicolette did a couple of months ago. Here are a few of my favorites of our little girl, then aged 19 months.

And a few of the other supporting characters in our family (the photo shoot was just going to be Bronwen, but they obliged the photographer for a few minutes. Too bad by then, the baby was DONE and refused to sit still or be cute. Oh, well. I'm not doing a Christmas card this year anyway. I sacrificed Christmas cards on the altar of eliminating stress this year.)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Update on the HH Challenge

I am so excited that we already have 14 people (counting me) participating in our Holiday Healthy Habits Challenge. It's not too late to join us. Read my last post to find out how--you get to choose your own goals this time. We'd love to have you come improve with us.

If you are participating, or if you'd just like to watch us as we go along, I've set up a new blog for us to track our progress. Each day I will post (I'm scheduling these ahead of time, since I know I won't be able to post every day) and each participant will leave a comment, reporting on how their goals are coming along that day. We can cheer each other on there, encourage each other, and be accountable.

Please be patient while I get this blog up and running. At the moment, I don't have all of our participants listed there, but I will soon. And in the meantime you can still comment.

I'm looking forward to this. I really want to avoid my usual holiday frenzy/gluttony/stress case ways and I'm thinking that regular exercise, consumption of things that came from the ground, and scripture study may possibly help with that. We shall see.

And if you participated in the last challenge and haven't ponied up your money yet (or finished filling in the spreadsheet), DO IT NOW, please!:)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Join Me

Okay, so by now it's pretty obvious that I didn't start a new Healthy Habits Challenge on November 10th. But I really need your help to get through the holidays without putting on 15 pounds and being a grumpy, stressed out mama. So here's my plan:

Let's face it--this is the time of year when we are already spending more money than usual on gifts, cards, decorations, wrapping, baking, special clothes, and convenience foods because we are so busy. So who wants to sign up for a challenge that might cost them more money? My Christmas gift to you is that this challenge isn't going to cost you a dollar.

I understand that for some of you, that means that the motivation is lacking. But I'm thinking we just need to support each other and be accountable through this troubling time, when we throw caution to the wind and stop taking care of ourselves.

So I am issuing a challenge for us to start or continue some healthy habits from now until the New Year. We'll log in and record for all to see how we've done, each day if possible. We'll leave encouraging notes for each other. We'll coach each other along. We'll help each other from looking like this at the end of the season:

Now, what I propose is that each person leave a comment, telling me what their healthy habit goal is going to be. I am going to strive for 5 days of exercise, a 7 days of personal scripture study, and at least 5 days where I eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each week. Your goal could be the same as mine, or yours could be to write down everything you eat, only have one treat a day/week, run a certain number of miles a week, etc. Please set a goal that will challenge you a little but that is reasonable to achieve at a busy, decadent time of year. I'll make up a spreadsheet and make it available on line where you can record your progress each day. (I'll put a link to it in my sidebar). I'll start it on Monday, November 17th, but if you read this after that and still want to join us, just leave a comment and you can start then.

Hopefully, this will help us get ready to really challenge ourselves in January to develop the healthy habits we've been missing in our lives. I am cooking up something bigger and better for that one, and the people who participate in this freebie challenge will have an advantage in the 2009 challenge.

So join me. Commit to being a little better at something in November and December--or at least to not let your usual habits slide. It will feel so good, and I'm hoping that it will make up for some of the Christmas cookies that I will be eating along the way!

(I borrowed the overindulgent cat photo from this blog.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Ian's New Obsession:

Facial Hair.

I blame his Uncle Evan, whose wacky sense of humor includes growing hideous facial hair for fun.

I keep telling him that this is no way to find a wife. But apparently, he's not interested in what I think. Sigh.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Musings and Ramblings

I was a little uncomfortable with all the "atta girl" comments in the past few days regarding my work on Prop 8. And after re-reading my last post, I fear that it may have sounded like I was asking for them. I just want to take a moment to say that this effort passed because of the sacrifice and work of over 100,000 people like me-- and many of them did much more than I did. I was a little drop in a big bucket, but felt compelled to share some of the ins and outs of how our grassroots effort brought about success.

It has been exciting to be a part of something so much bigger than myself, yet something that I care so deeply about. And though I object to the claims that the LDS Church was overstepping its bounds by calling its members to get involved and to "give [their] best efforts" to helping Proposition 8 pass, I will admit that I don't think it would have passed without the involvement of so many members of the Church. We have the spirit of volunteerism and consecration, but also the organization already in place to participate effectively in a grassroots effort.

And yet, this was not passed by Mormons alone. We are responsible for a very small percentage of the population here, and were a part of a larger coalition of other churches. It was a privilege to work alongside other people of faith, who saw the long reaching impact on our society and children of preserving traditional marriage.

With that being said, some reports I read (and the tasteless commercial that aired on the day of the election) accused the "Mormons" of trying to force our beliefs on others in regards to same sex marriage. Um, the last time I checked, Californians were free to choose and vote as they see fit. Those who rallied around Prop 8 were striving to educate, but we were instructed to never argue or to become heated in any way when talking to our fellow citizens about this issue. I fail to see how our involvement in speaking out to defend what we believe in is any different from the people of the gay and lesbian community speaking out about what they believe to be their right. We have the same freedom of speech and freedom of religion that they enjoy.

I know that some call us old fashioned for our beliefs. Chastity is not in vogue. Modesty? An archaic ideal, rejected even for our young daughters and not just for adults. Integrity also seems to be fading fast as a sought after quality, as cheating is on the rise from elementary schools to universities to Wall Street. But I am thrilled that the majority of Californians (arguably one of the most "progressive" states in the Union) still believe in marriage between a man and a woman. Those marriages may not always be perfect. Too many end in divorce. But it is the fundamental building block unit of our society (not the individual--the family) and we need to be striving towards the ideal that every child deserves a mother and a father who are married to each other and completely loyal to one another. Children thrive in that environment. They develop healthy attitudes about relationships, sexuality, and their own self esteem. They desire to have a marriage and family of their own someday. And thus, society prospers and continues on.

And that's the bottom line.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

We did it!

Yesterday was the pinnacle of two and half months of work, sacrifice, and blogging about a political issue!:) Election Day.

I volunteered to be a poll watcher at one of our local precincts. I rose at 5:00 and got ready for the day, praying that the downpours of Monday would be over. I piled my bleary eyed kids into the van, picked up a box of donuts, and was at my assigned polling place by 6:30. My instructions were to set up a YES on 8 table near by polling place, (but of course within legal limits, which are 100 feet from the polls.) I chose a spot farther away because I didn't want anyone to feel intimidated or irritated by my presence, but wanted to be available if people needed clarification on the proposition. (Although you'd have to live in a cave in California if you didn't know that Prop 8 was about marriage, the wording on the ballot was very confusing thanks to our Secretary of State, and we wanted people to go in remembering that a "yes" vote was for traditional marriage.) My kids sat in the car, snarfing donuts and watching a movie until my friend Nancy came to pick them up.

By 9:00 we had decided that there were better uses of our time (as I had people there to help me once it wasn't dawn) and so I continued to check the polls hourly while our other volunteers canvassed the precinct, visiting the homes of people who had pledged to vote Yes and reminding them that it was election day. Those who weren't home got a door hanger with their polling place printed on it. By 4:00, I'm pretty sure that every potential YES voter in all seven precincts that our team was watching had had their door knocked.

At 4:00, we moved to our call center and had a new flood of volunteers in addition to the poll watchers like me who had been going all day. We set up in Jared's office, which is closed on Tuesday afternoons. There were people all over the place, using their cell phones. Our goal was to call every voter until they had voted (with our lists including likely YES and definitely YES voters.) We had some food donated by some good people who wanted to help, and at least 20 people calling through our lists. As people told us they had already voted, we crossed them off the list. When an entire page was crossed off, we did a little dance and shredded it. By 7:30, every page was shredded (at 7:15 we started leaving messages for those who were not picking up the phone, which was about 10% of our list). By 8:00 we were locking up the office and heading home.

Pushing through exhaustion, a few of us decided to go to the Protect Marriage victory party that was being held in Sacramento. I was really hoping for shrimp, but was disappointed! However, we got a chance to cheer and mingle with other supporters while the initial results came in. When it was clear that we were well ahead but that there was a long way to go before all the votes were counted, we left, trying hard to stay awake for the drive home. (Here's a picture with Christine. You might ask why I would post a picture of myself looking tired and harried next to my gorgeous friend. I just didn't remember to pull out my camera earlier in the day, so these are the only pictures I can come up with. At least one of us looks great!)

This morning our local news stations seem hesitant still to call it a victory. With 98% of precincts reporting and with 53% voting YES and 47% voting no, they are saying it is still "too close to call." Hogwash. They called the presidency much earlier than that! Here's something that I found from that almost infers that the proposition may have passed.

This post is not about gloating and being a poor sport, Mom. It is breathing a sigh of relief that the work of so many people for a cause that we deeply believed in has paid off. I am sorry that a victory brings pain to others. I want so much for them to understand that we hold no ill will towards them personally, but that we disagree strongly about the appropriate guidelines for and definition of marriage. Perhaps because our perspectives are so different, that has been nearly impossible for those voting NO to understand.

I do hope that we will be able to live together peaceably after this. Much like presidential elections, (which sometimes your candidates lose and sometimes they win,) when the election is over it is time to put away divisiveness and remember that we are all Americans. We are so blessed to live in a place where democracy rules, even though it doesn't always go the way we had hoped. I pray that it will be so.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Where Have I Been?

I feel like this blog is my long lost (or at least neglected) friend of late. Things have just been so constantly busy around here that I have little time to read or write blog posts. And I miss it! Yet I'm not sure exactly what I could have cut out these past couple of weeks. Here is a glimpse at what we have done in the last 7 days. Obviously, little time has been spent at the computer. To those of you who think that I have turned my back on your blogs, please know that I will make it back!

So, here are a few things that have been keeping us busy:

Soccer. Luckily Unfortunately, today's games were rained out. But last Saturday we had two soccer games. And we are at the point in the season where almost everyone wishes it would just be over!:)

Prop 8. We've been to rallies, town hall meetings, and phone banks trying to spread the excitement and educate people about Prop 8. We've been to training meetings and planning meetings. We've been talking about this so much with everyone that we know that I'm not sure what we'll talk about after Tuesday (don't forget to vote!) We are in the final days now. The final days of calling the people who promised to vote yes until they get to the polls. The final days of waving signs on street corners. The final days of knocking on doors and shaking hands.

Cub Scouts. Kimball's pack had a great meeting at the library. Although we go to the library regularly and check out our limit of 50 books, Kimball didn't have his own library card yet. Well, he does now. The librarian also showed the boys lots of new books that were just up their alley. Kimball came home with a few of her suggestions, including books about gross things, books about spooky things, books about world records. . . . yes, he still loves books. He also participated in retiring the flag at the library that day. And no, I have no idea where his neckerchief and slide are. Thanks for noticing he wasn't in full uniform!

Homeschool. We are busy learning about the ancient Greeks. Among other things, this week we learned about the Greek alphabet and tried writing our names using it. We also adorned Grecian urns with drawings of mythological stories, had our own Olympic games, and brushed up on the Odyssey, which we read together last spring.

Halloween. Duh. We had a ward trunk-or-treat plus our annual Halloween open house, inspired by our dear friends, the Renoufs. (You can read about our tradition here.) Yesterday the forecast called for rain, so we set up the shade tarps just in case. The rain stayed away until about 8:15, over two hours into the party. We had a good turnout, especially given the weather, and fun was had by all. One Tinkerbell even managed to sleep through a good part of it before awaking to play with her friends.

Kimball agreed to be a clown for the trunk or treat, but for Halloween night, he had only one wish. He had to be Howard Carter. (Go ahead and click the link. You have no idea who Howard Carter is--admit it! I didn't.) With his nana's help, he and Henry turned their room into an Egyptian tomb, complete with hieroglyphics, paintings of Egyptian gods, and a sarcophagus. He led our guests on expeditions back to the tomb, where his lantern was the only light, and explained all the details of the paintings to them. He was absolutely adorable!

This Bon Jovi wannabe grilled and served hot dogs and corn dogs all night (after cleaning my house and setting up tables, chairs, and tarps for me.) This annual gig couldn't be done without all his work.

Our little ballerina proved to be quite the party girl.
After the initial phase where she bolted out the open double doors and towards the front street multiple times, she finally figured out that the fun was to be in the thick of things. She flitted about, visiting everyone, charming people into taking the wrapper off of a lolly for her every time one ran out. (The clever girl had quickly discovered where the trick-or-treat bin was.) She was thrilled when any of her friends arrived, like her cousins, Lydia

and Isaac, or her BFF, Cali. She refused to go to bed until our guests were gone, even though it was long past her bedtime.

Ian, on the other hand, is famous for getting dressed for bed halfway through the party and he lived up to his reputation this year. Henry was thrilled to not have his mom policing his food (although he kept asking me before he ate anything, not quite catching on that I was going to let him eat whatever he wanted that night.) He paid for it this morning, though, by puking the chocolately contents of his stomach at 8:00 am. It's a good thing that at our house the candy disappears on November 1st. We get our fill before then.

I'm hoping that after the election on Tuesday I'll have some time to write and read blogs more often, but I'm not making any promises. November is not known for its unhurried ways around these parts. It's pretty much a whirlwind from now until January 2nd. But please stick with me. I'll try hard not to neglect you if you'll still check in once in a while!