Thursday, May 23, 2013

Three Things Thursday

Thing One: Google Reader Replacement!
For those who have been looking for a replacement for Google Reader, look no further! has come to save us. It's formatted just like Reader, automatically transfers all of your RSS feeds, is actually more user-friendly than Reader, and takes less than five minutes to sign up. Amazing.

Thing Two: Book Rec!
I just finished a beautiful novel called The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker. The author is German, and although the book was translated into English, it lost none or very little of its craft of language, and I loved the voice throughout the novel--both sentimental and raw. Set in modern Burma, the book tells an unusual and intense love story full of passion, pain, and mystery, and leaves enough questions throughout that I didn't want to put it down. In fact, the next to last page surprised me despite the fact that I was trying to figure out part of the mystery all along. Many thanks to my sister-in-law for giving me this book; she and I both read it and both our copies are now loaned out.

Thing Three: Sermon Rec!
I've been listening to a lot of sermons lately for my devotional times each morning because often the only uninterrupted morning time I have is when I'm up a little before Moo trying to put on my face and clothes, which I can do while listening to a sermon. Anyway, this one in particular captured me this week and is worth your time if you have 30 minutes (or three blocks of 10 minutes, which is how I ended up listening to all of it). Follow the link above and choose the "Workers in the Vineyard" sermon from April 21 preached by Brian Salter.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Moo update: 18 months

This boy has my heart. And I'm loving the 18 month stage. Lots of communicating, sleeping well, being on the move, and being downright hilarious--I'm all about that. (Also a lot of teething, tantrums, and picky eating, but whatever.)

Here's what he's up to these days:
  • Anything with wheels still tops his list of favorite things, which works out well since his daddy shares that love. School busses are the current favorite, but tractors, trucks, cars, strollers, and motorcycles are also up there. Today we read a book about busses while listening to "The Wheels on the Bus" and holding a toy bus--all at his request.
  • He may have been a late walker, but he's an early talker. He says just about anything we ask him to, puts two and three words together regularly, and seems to know a few new words every day.
  • He still loves stuffed animals. A large part of his day is spent wrestling or snuggling his little furry friends or handing them to me for safe keeping while he plays with something else.
  • He's starting to sing and can fill in words to "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and "Jesus Loves Me"(sort of) on tune.
  • He loves all water. I practically had to hold him back from walking straight into a pond the other day with his shoes on, and he loves to "water the plants" (and himself) with the hose. 
  • He has a great little sense of humor and loves to have an audience.
  • He has a soft heart toward others, often expressing sympathy for whatever emotion they're experiencing.
  • He's a little helper--vacuuming, throwing trash away, digging in the garden, sweeping, paying with credit card, cleaning up, mowing the lawn, etc.
  • He loves to play in our cars and pretend he's driving by pushing all the buttons and turning the steering wheel.
  • He's starting to have a few friends and asks for them by name.
  • He's stayed in the 95th percentile for height and 50th for weight.
  • He's obsessed with playing hide and seek.
Here are a few more pictures since I just can't get enough of him:


This boy LOVES his daddy.

The rare family picture

Totally soaked and loving it.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Update on Hannah

First, many thanks to all who have taken time to comment on, pray for, and think of my sister Hannah following her horrific accident just 15 days ago.

Many of you have asked more about what happened. I apologize for being so cryptic in my last post, but since we really didn't know, I didn't want to hypothesize too much. BUT. To answer some questions, she wasn't texting and she hadn't been drinking. It was a drizzly evening going down a mountain and around a nearly 90-degree turn. We think there are two probable explanations: either the truck hydroplaned and she lost control of it quickly since it was such a sharp turn, or, as the tower thinks, one of the wheels came off the axle and that caused her to lose control of the truck.

Either way, she's alive.

As for her recovery, she's doing better than expected. Her doctor allowed her to take off the turtle brace after just two weeks (something we thought she'd be in all summer) and has cleared her to do whatever she feels comfortable doing. Most activities still cause her a lot of pain, but she can't injure herself further by being active, so she's slowly getting back to normal. Her teachers have been incredibly understanding and generous, so she's not having to feel the stress of school on top of dealing with a concussion. She's going to be in pain for a while, but she's doing remarkably well and gaining strength each day.

I got to see her this past weekend and was so grateful to (gently) hug her neck and tell her how much I love her. God is good.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Three (New) Things Thursday

New Thing One: haircut
What began as a trim turned into four inches, but I'm okay with it, actually. Kind of a nice summer change and I'm enjoying how fast my hair dries. No picture yet since my hair is in a ponytail almost every day. If I tweeted I'd say: #lifewithatoddler #notworthit #runningaroundoutsideallday.

New Thing Two: iPhone
Yes, we've finally joined the 21st century in the Johnson home! Thanks to old flip phones that were dropping calls and dying quickly, and thanks to free upgrades to iPhones, and thanks to years of friends nagging us, we made the jump. Of course, there's no turning back. And we love them. And we have to be careful about how much we turn to them in times of boredom or what have you. And they're wonderful. Did I already say that? Seriously. 

New Thing Three: Zucchini Mini Muffin recipe (Cooking Light, May 2013)
Y'all. I want to eat these every day of my life. They're that good. Best of all, besides a zucchini, which I don't have on hand regularly, the rest of the ingredients are probably in your pantry...or your neighbor's pantry. I didn't have a mini muffin pan, so I just made them the regular size (makes 8-9) and baked them for 5 minutes longer than the recipe called for. I also added carrots when I made them for the second day in a row because I didn't have enough zucchini left. I think I liked them even better with the carrots added. If I were you, I'd go ahead and double or triple this recipe. Eight muffins lasts exactly eight hours at our house.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Why I believe in miracles

Sunday, April 28 isn't just another day anymore; it's become a day with significance because it's the day my sister should have died in a horrific car accident and didn't.

Last Sunday night, my sister Hannah, almost 18, was driving down the mountain (they live on a mountain) to meet a friend for a late dinner. No one's sure exactly what happened and Hannah doesn't remember much either, but the truck flipped several times and slammed into a tree on the driver's side. She was near the bottom of the mountain that had some residential areas, so someone saw it happen, called 911 immediately, and ran to help her. For nearly an hour, she was upside down as the paramedics tried to get her out with the jaws of life, first through the passenger's side, then through the driver's side. When both were unsuccessful, they finally landed on pulling her out the back window, which somehow worked.

She shouldn't be alive.

In fact, the tow truck guy said that the only area that wasn't crushed in completely was exactly where she was sitting, which is a miracle when you look at that picture above. Here's a picture the tower took:

I still don't know how her head wasn't crushed.

If I saw that truck being towed down the road, I would have thought the driver was killed for sure, or at least paralyzed.

And here's the miracle: My sister left the hospital 36 hours after she was wheeled in. 
Yes, she has injuries. 
Yes, she's in pain. 
Yes, her recovery will be long and arduous. 
She's here. 
She didn't have to have surgery. 
She has all her limbs. 
She has full brain function. 
She should make a complete or near-complete recovery. 
Praise the good and gracious and powerful Lord Jesus!

For now, she's sporting an upper body brace that she has to wear all the time to help a compression fracture in her back heal. She's walking with a walker to help her fractured pelvis, cracked rib, and bruised lung heal. She's taking pain meds regularly to help her cope with all over pain from being flipped in a car and slammed into a tree, and to help her sleep.

She's also a picture of strength. She doesn't think it's true, but it is. I've known it forever, but she's showing it now in this difficult place, displaying her strong character, fighting for her own recovery, longing for others to have the spotlight instead of her, appreciating her moments afresh, and taking one day at a time, with a smile when she can. I'm so very proud of Hannah and am unspeakably grateful for the miracle of her life.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Herbs and Spices

One of you asked about herbs and spices--whether I use fresh or dried, how much, what I use them for. Great questions. Keep in mind that I'm no expert, but I'll tell you what works for me.

The spices listed on the previous post were just the skeleton--the ones that show up all the time in recipes and the ones I turn to when trying to add flavor to a dish. Here are the bare bones spices I recommend: salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, basil, oregano, chili powder, cumin, parsley, rosemary, and cinnamon.)

To answer your question about fresh or dried, here's my take: fresh always tastes better. HOWEVER, I rarely use fresh when cooking because a) I only end up using part of it and having to throw the rest away, b) it's quicker to use dried because you don't have to chop anything, and c) it's a little cheaper in the long run. I do grow basil and rosemary in my garden because I use those so often and like how they look in my yard, but that's about it for what I use fresh on a regular basis.

As for how much to use, the general rule is that you use three times the amount of fresh herbs as dry herbs. So, if a recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of fresh basil, you could substitute 1 tablespoon of dried basil with similar results.

Other spices in my kitchen that I use enough to justify having them:
paprika, ground (cayenne) red pepper, thyme, ground mustard, ground nutmeg, dill weed, ground ginger, garlic powder, garlic salt (I usually make my own--1 part garlic powder to 3 parts salt), Tony's Creole seasoning.

As for how I use those spices, I'll give a sampling of possibilities for each spice listed so that this post doesn't turn into a novel. Also, items with a ** mean you can use them more liberally; items with a * mean you should use them sparingly since a little bit goes a long way. Typically, when you have a recipe, use the amounts and spices they recommend the first time you make it; then adjust to your liking or make substitutions as you want to after that.

*salt & pepper: I pretty much use these all the time. I'm fairly sparing with both because you can always add more later if it's not enough.
**Italian seasoning: Obvious addition to many Italian dishes, but also great for soups, stews, and baked or crusted lean meat (chicken/fish) recipes.
**basil: This is good on italian dishes, salads, raw veggies, and even sandwiches.
**oregano: This is good on/in just about anything--Italian dishes, salads, breads etc.
*chili powder: Use in any Mexican dish or as part of a homemade rub.
**cumin: Use in any Mexican dish or as part of a homemade rub.
**parsley: I use this a lot in savory recipes like lasagna.
*rosemary: Toss root vegetables like sweet potatoes with olive oil and rosemary and bake at 375 for about 30 minutes or until soft--delicious! Also great in bread and on chicken.
*cinnamon: How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Use it to make cinnamon toast, add to french toast or pancake batter, include in muffin or bread mix and homemade granola, use as part of a homemade rub, or sprinkle on a bagel topped with cream cheese.
**paprika: This is way more than a garnish for your grandma's potato salad; use it to make your own taco seasoning along with chili powder, cumin, and a few other things (lots of easy recipes online).
*ground red pepper: ATINY bit goes a long way, so be warned! Add to soups and rubs for an extra kick of flavor.
**thyme: Easy to throw into spaghetti sauce, sprinkle on baked chicken, etc.
*ground mustard: Some casseroles call for this.
*ground nutmeg: Great for baked goods around the holidays like pumpkin bread, muffins, & cookies.
*allspice: Great in the fall for pumpkin bread. I use this VERY sparingly because it has a bitter flavor.
*dill weed: I use this in my homemade bread. Also great added to Greek yogurt for dipping sauce for gyros or other Mediterranean food.
*ground ginger: I don't use this often and I really can't remember why I have this, but I've used it enough times that I definitely think it's good to have around, and I've substituted this for fresh ginger (not the same, but it usually gets the job done).
**garlic powder/garlic salt: Sprinkle on buttered bread and toast in the oven for homemade garlic bread, add to guacamole, include in a meat marinade, sprinkle on steamed veggies; also an ingredient in lots of recipes
*Tony's Creole seasoning: sprinkle on veggies like broccoli before broiling in oven, include in jambalaya, or add to meat just before grilling. Use this like salt, though; a little goes a long way.

Hope that answers some of your questions! Keep 'em coming! And stay tuned for my all-time favorite recipe using cream cheese and cinnamon. Yum!