Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Kitchen Connection

James and I were discussing our favorite foods the other day. While Meatloaf and Dressing stood firm at the top of my list, I felt compelled to add last week's Pumpkin Bread Pudding. The baby brother detected a pattern to which I had been oblivious.

"Cari, I think you would like anything as long as you mix it with bread and egg and bake it."


If you share my delight in baked breadiness...

From Aunt Jeannie who swiped it from Aunt Jacque:)
16 servings

8" pan of cornbread
8 slices of day old bread
4 eggs (raw beaten)
1 medium onion -chopped
1 cup celery chopped
1 1/2 T sage
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 cans cream of chicken soup
2 cans chicken broth
2 T butter

Saute onion and celery until limp
Crumble breads
Combine all ingredients except butter
Pour into crock pot and dot with butter
Cover and cook on high 2 hours or low 3-4 hours

(You can cook a whole chicken to make the broth and then even use the chicken pieces to make it more of a main dish. You can even swap one can of soup for cream of celery.)

If you think you should increase the recipe time and a half, use two crock pots. Or you could find yourself at noon-thirty on Thanksgiving day wishing you had another couple hours to devote to the over-filled crock. Then you might find yourself at 2:30 [finally] spooning out the yummy crunchy edge pieces. Just sayin.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


20 things I need to get off my chest...

I don't like Sunday night football. It hypnotizes all the helpful handsome ones and alienates me to rap up this week and plan for next week alone.

I am ready for the babies NOT to cough when I lay them down to sleep.

I am blessed to be able to worship with two separate congregations, but it is a tiny bit tiring.

I am REALLY nervous about next Sunday's Children's Musical. We have done our best with the little time we've had to prepare, but "polished" will elude us I believe.

I am REALLY nervous about the following Sunday's Choral Cantata. 40 minutes of non-stop accompaniment. What if I need a little rest??

I really love my sisters-in-law and their sisters. "Extended" family is a happiness.

I have spent the last two months losing and re-losing the same few pounds. Bleck. Hoping tomorrow's start is better.

I wish everyone in my life were lovingly honest with me. I think...

I have the best brothers in the world. None of them live close enough, but they totally rock.

I'm still nervous about the musical. Can't help it.

I am so glad my whole family came to my "other" church this morning. It was a blessing to arrive together and leave together in the same car.

I am happy for Philip - he shot a 9 point Friday. Remind me to add "process and cook venison" to the list for this week.

I keep forgetting to pick up my contacts from the eye doctor. I should tie a ribbon around my finger...or better yet, around my eyeglasses.

We have clean sheets. I love clean sheets. Someday when some of these folks are gainfully employed and have secured alternate dwellings, I'll wash my sheets every other day or so. I REALLY love yummy smelling, soft, clean sheets.

I heard someone use really crass language the other day. They didn't know I could hear them. I am disgusted and not sure what to do.

Speaking of disgusting...one of my big toe nails fell off. I stubbed it really badly last week when I was vacuuming. Yesterday, it fell O.F.F. yuck!?!

Oh, this venting thing is working. I feel better. Still nervous about next Sunday, but getting to the place where I might be able to sleep tonight.

I will miss the colors of Thanksgiving, but Christmas decor is fun too.

I need to find a big pre-lit star for the you-know-what next Sunday.

I guess I don't really mind Sunday night football if it means I get to blog.

Dear Lord Jesus -- Thank You for offering Peace for my life. My hope is in You alone. In my weakness, I fully rely on Your perfect strength to accomplish Your goals. Thank You for preparing a place for me. I want to do the same for You as I anticipate Your "coming".

Ready to Roll

Mari Alice asked me, "When is God coming to pick us up?" I replied, "Well, no one knows for sure. It could be today. We better be ready!"

She continued, "Mom, you know those bags we keep in our car to give to homeless people?"

**our church has equipped members with bags of food and toiletry items to have in our car to give to needy people we find along the way**

"Yes, Mari, what about those bags?"

"Well, I have a great idea! If we go to heaven today, maybe we should bring that bag 'cause I think Mary & Joseph could really use it."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Martha Redeemed: It's a Good Thing

Luke 10:38-42 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her."
(emphasis, cdj)

I used to become defensive when reading this story. I felt so much empathetic pity for poor Martha. She had welcomed Jesus into her home, and worked diligently to provide for the occasion. I would think to myself, "Well, we ALL can't be Mary's, now, can we? The biscuits won't bake themselves!"

But I've come to understand that Martha was not wrong in her service. Her mistake was allowing herself to become distracted by her own servitude. The only reason Jesus even spelled it out for her was because she approached him in a hissy fit. Hmmmm. He acknowledged the notion that peaceful communion was preferable to perturbed complaints. Shocking.

So how can we avoid becoming "anxious and troubled" about many things when welcoming people into our home?

Determine your hospitality trouble spots and be proactive about remaining calm. What is your biggest potential joy thief? Cleaning? Having enough room? Cooking? Finding things to talk about? Having enough food? Running out of time or having little notice of arriving guests?

Try to plan your menu and to-do list far in advance. Only include dishes and decorations that will bring you joy. If fancy china brings you joy, wipe it off and go for it. You'll probably have a great time chatting over the dish sink. But if disposable plates will not interfere with your festivities, they might afford you more time to sit and visit with family. I don't enjoy the tedious prep work that most cooking involves - like chopping and measuring. So I try to do as much ahead of time as possible.

Clean a few days in advance and just plan to sweep over the traffic areas and entry and wipe down the bathrooms before guests arrive. Cook as much as you can a couple days in advance...or many days and freeze it. Last week I chopped and sauteed the onions and celery for my dressing. I added the measured spices and put it in a zipper bag in the freezer next to the bag of cornbread:) Thursday morning it will only take a minute or two to put bread, seasoned veggies, and broth into the crock pot. The pumpkin bars are also waiting in the freezer... in a pan ready to pop in the oven.

If you get caught off guard and you don't get a chance to prepare, or haven't taken time to plan, ultimately you must prioritize. Making the most of time spent together is far more important than meal prep and domestic perfection.

I always keep a grocery bag tied up in the cupboard. Its contents: canned beans, taco seasoning, canned tomatoes, tortilla chips and a brownie mix. In the freezer I keep at least one bag of browned ground meat and frozen corn. These two mainstays allow me to offer taco soup for dinner within an hour. So if afternoon friends linger toward the dinner hour, I barely have to interrupt the conversation to throw together dinner. Philip has the freedom to invite folks to dinner without me having to panic and run to the store.

Ask the Lord what would bring Him the most honor. Sometimes a nourishing meal is the priority, so you concentrate on being resourceful, spontaneous, and quick. Sometimes the conversation is of greater importance, so you throw together some sliced apples, popcorn & cheese and sit and visit. Sometimes the need for others to fellowship is the central concern, so you keep the kids occupied, follow the toddlers, and keep every one's tea glasses mysteriously refilled.

As a hostess, your peace and joy can set the vibe for the whole house. So if you spend the day walking about serving all those you've welcomed, focus on your love for God and love for His creation. Don't be distracted by your effort and become anxious and troubled. Your worship will not be taken from you:) It's a very good thing!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thankful for my Tribe: Part 6, The End.

Elizabeth Anne. Lizzy Bug. The Gizzard.

You know when you meet people with horrible nicknames and you think to yourself, "How could a mother allow such..."

Well, sometimes, moms are outnumbered. That's all I'm sayin.

This precious child is literally the sparkle in my eyes. She brings me peace and joy in a heavenly way. I know her better than anyone on earth does, but there is still so much I don't know.

Is she talkative or shy? Will she be athletic or musical --she has shown promise for both (Yay!) Does she prefer drama or comedy? Outdoor or Indoor? How exciting to watch her grow into all the God has created her to be!

For now, she is in the "B" phase of interests and hobbies...Books, Balls, Babies, Blankets, Butterflies and Bananas.

I am grateful to God for giving us the courage to have "one more". He has blessed us beyond measure. Thank You, God, for Elizabeth Anne!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thankful for my Tribe: Part 5

Landen Paul in 1998. Ninny-Pah since his sisters met him.

Our firstborn. The poor soul who was destined to receive the brunt of my inexperience and insecurities as a parent. And yet, he emerges surprisingly healthy in so many ways.

He is kind and hard-working; friendly and helpful. He is strong and handsome...much like his dad. He loves to sing and dance...half-way like me.

For the last year or so, I have newfound freedom during the work week since LP can hold down the fort while I run to town alone for a quick errand. He watches over his sisters with the utmost care.

So grateful to be able to trust him whole-heartedly.
So blessed that he offers to help with cheerful enthusiasm.

He does look forward to passing the babysitting baton down to Luke next year as he "mobilizes" his helpfulness to run errands from the driver's seat. Nelly!

He is quite secure in who he is and doesn't worry with public opinion too much. He is learning the art and importance of being authentic. I know in my heart that he will do amazing things for God's Kingdom. I'm glad to be a part of his sweet life.

Thank You, God, for Landen Paul!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thankful for my Tribe: Part 4

Mari Alice Johnson. Operator Number Nine. 2007

When Philip and I were engaged, we dreamed about the children we might someday have. We had no idea about boys' names, but one thing we knew for sure: We NEEDED a Mari Alice. My dad's mom -Mary Alice Walker - died when he was a boy. I loved the idea of bearing a namesake for a Gramma I would have to wait a lifetime to kiss.

I am so thankful for this child! She is confident and charming. She possesses keen discernment beyond her years and delivers the most boisterous rumble of a belly laugh. She cracks me up and touches my heart.

Mari is usually the first one to greet me in the morning and she always has an initial objective for the day's unfolding if not a sketchy timeline. I love her enthusiasm and determination.

Thank You, God, for Mari Alice.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thankful for my Tribe: Part 3

Brendan Luke 2002.

I wanted a "Luke". Philip wanted a "Brendan". We compromised.

This guy is a triple threat. Not so much singing, dancing & acting... I was thinking more like handsome, sharp & cool. He is officially taller than I and he is determined to call me "Short Stuff".

His tall stature, blond hair, and blue eyes make him a knock-out. His dimple melts my heart. AND he is keenly aware of this capability and unashamedly exploits my maternal meltishness. He'll aim that dimple right at me as he cocks his head and smiles, "Pleeeeeeease, Mom, just this once." ("This once" my rrrrutabaga!)

It is no secret that Luke challenges me...on a lot of levels. He immediately perceives inconsistency and will not tolerate status quot. He always sees room for improvement and can usually catch my mistakes. He finds comfort in closure... projects, conversations, AND especially cabinet doors. He thrives on honesty and I am honestly grateful for all these things.

He is learning the art and importance of pursuing peace and I firmly believe God will use him to do bold and mighty things for the Kingdom. It is my joy to be a part of his molding and shaping.

Did I mention that he can drop a buck, mash a ball, and cook an amazing dinner?

Thank You, God, for Brendan Luke.

In His Hands

An editorial from the Atlantic Monthly writes...

"The world is too big for us. Too much is going on, too many crimes, too much violence and excitement. Try as you will, you get behind in the race in spite of yourself. It's an incessant strain to keep pace...and still, you lose ground. Science empties its discoveries on you so fast that you stagger beneath them in hopeless bewilderment. The political world is news seen so rapidly you are out of breath trying to keep pace... Everything is high pressure. Human nature cannot endure much more."

-The Atlantic Monthly, June 16, 1833

Monday, November 15, 2010

Thankful for my Tribe: Part 2

Our little Ash-Bash in 2005.

Ashlin Rae. Ashli. Ash.

My kindred spirit.

I've always had a bit of a crush on this child...she looks so much like her father. She also inherited his gentleness and care. She is a beautiful girl of moderate words, many thoughts, and limitless organizational skills. She also has a joyful work ethic and a fantastic sense for humor. What's not to love?

She has always been low-maintanence...never seeming to need much at all by way of attention or possession. Maybe that's why I have such a tender spot in my heart for her. Her contentedness leaves me plenty of room to shower her with words and time and treats.

She loves to learn. She confessed the other day that she feels really badly for Leah from the Bible...not being Isaac's first choice. Just this morning, she stopped me mid-chores to tell me the story of Harriet Tubman. She is the first child I've ever had to ground from SCHOOL. Funny.

Thank You, God, for Ashlin Rae.

Thankful for my Tribe: Part 1

My Very Own Princess, 2004

Following a sorrowful miscarriage and a quiet season of complete dependency upon God, He blessed us with a cheerfully talkative, brown-eyed girl who would become all things bright and beautiful.

My first daughter.

I named her myself: "Fervant outpouring of Mercy".

Ardyn Grace.

She is stylishly tall with shiny waves of thick brown hair. Her face has tiny features and a light dusting of hereditary freckles. Her one vice: biting her nails. But nonetheless, whether dancing or fishing or lounging, she is certainly lovely.

Ardyn feels strongly and is deeply devoted. She loves to give gifts and she gives gifts to love. She has already secured all but two of her Christmas gifts for family this year, and instead of feeling accomplished, she'd prefer to go another round.

She is so thoughtful...and her mind is forever full of thoughts. Thus, a new case of spirals remains at her disposal for all musings and sketches. Her spirit speaks in the language of poetry and art so she recognizes beauty all around and is quick to offer praise to the One who made it all.

I am thankful for her laughter and song...her passion and purity. Thank You, God, for Ardyn Grace.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Ever Tried This??

Today's Recipe --though the idea that you need a recipe for this is comical -- is in honor of my Mom's favorite sandwich: Peanut Butter, Lettuce, and Miracle Whip. I googled it to see if she is alone in her quirky preference. She is not. Evidently, in the depression era, the sandwich was a popular choice for an inexpensive lunch option. Those folks made it for their kids. Now those kids have grown up, retired, and are still loving their wacko sandwich:)

2 slices bread
1 tablespoon Miracle Whip
2 tablespoons peanut butter
2 lettuce leaves

Spread one slice of bread with Miracle Whip. Spread the other slice with peanut butter. Place lettuce leaves on top of the peanut butter, then top with the Miracle Whip-side of the other piece of bread to make a sandwich.

ok, I said this post was to honor mom's choice for lunch today. It was really an excuse to post a photo that would gross out the baby brother. How we doin' JW??

I believe I tried this combo once back in '78. Not a fan. If we're having peanut butter, I would like it with honey. If we need to eat lettuce, I'll have it with turkey and mayo. Me no likey the "whip"....it sorta tastes like old mayo with sugar added. Just sayin.

Mom, I hope you enjoyed your lunch. James, leave her alone, she has thousands of like-minded partakers across the country. I love you both no matter what you ate for lunch!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Costume Craze

Mari Alice bugging like a lady.
Ardyn Grace...our own little doll face.
Ashlin Rae falling for it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Captive Audience

This morning as Elizabeth is lingering in her highchair, Mari shares the gospel.

She leans on the plastic tray and opens her miniature pink Bible for Liz to see.

"Can you show me Jesus?"

The baby touches the pages of print with her chubby pointer finger.

"Good Job, LizBeth!"

Then MariAlice proceeds to tell the whole story...

"Mary had a tiny baby named Jesus.
Did you know that Jesus died for your sins?
He did, He Did, He DID!
It was soooo sad when Jesus died on that cross."

She closes the Bible and walks away from the highchair.
Elizabeth hollers in protest, so Mari dutifully returns to her post of proclamation and opens the scriptures again.

"But THEN...
Mary was sooooo happy 'cause Jesus rose up from the grave.
He wasn't died anymore! Yay! The End."

Thank You, God, for letting me see You this morning in the dining room. I trust You to draw these two precious girls closer to You so that they might seek You more, know You more, and love You more.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thankful Thoughts

Nov 1: Thank You, God, for today...You made it. I will be glad right here in it:)

Nov 2: Thank You, God, for rainy days, giggly kids, and fully functional household appliances...and the calm assurance that You have made all these possible.

Nov 3: Thank You, God, for friends who speak the truth in love. Priceless:)

Nov 4: I thank God for Philip Johnson. Handsome, happy, strong & gentle....plus also he thinks I'm a very fun girl. He's simply the best.

Nov 5: I thank God for faithful friends who live to make music to our King.

Nov 6: Just plain ol' thankful:)

Nov 7: I am thankful for sisters who love each other and giggle alot. I only know the good-hearted chuckles of brotherly love, so this closeness my daughters share is mesmerizing to me. I'm so glad they have each other...and that I'm along for the ride:)

Nov 8: This morning I am thankful for beds that are made, toast that is buttered, coffee that is brewed, and the wealth of opportunity today seems to hold:)

Nov 9: I thank God for my two man-cubs. They are handsome, funny, and helpful.

Nov 10: Thankful for miracles. Real-life, sent-from-above, modern-day miracles.