Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Gobble, gobble

I’m sure you’ve all been anxiously awaiting the status of the Thanksgiving turkey and how that turned out…okay, maybe not. Hopefully, you had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and are looking forward to Christmas in a couple weeks! Can you believe it’s almost here? I have finally downloaded the photos from Thanksgiving and can now give you the full report on my first Thanksgiving turkey from scratch, in case you want to try your hand at the Christmas turkey this year. The final report…I was actually pretty surprised that it was fairly easy and tasted pretty moist and delicious. I will definitely be making more in the future, I’m sure.

So, how did I prepare the bird? I sought the advice of many seasoned turkey cooks and informed people that this would be the year of the great turkey experiment for me. My coworkers were especially helpful and forthcoming in providing advice, clipping articles for me and giving me general direction. I also looked online for any helpful tips and tricks to preparing the perfect turkey. I realized that everyone has their “secret” (or not so secret) recipe and technique for baking the bird, so I just kind of winged it (yes, pun intended).  

Basic instructions: Thoroughly defrost | Cut up onions, celery, carrots & lemon to line bottom of pan and stuff inside bird | Butter and season the bird | Cover with foil | Toss in oven for specified time depending on weight of bird | Uncover foil for last hour of roasting | Tada…Done! (So easy, a pregnant woman can do it!)

My only advice would be to use a meat thermometer. I mistakenly thought that there would be one included with the turkey I bought…but no, no meat thermometer so I just cooked it a little bit longer than suggested to avoid any unwanted pinkness.

Before cooking
Done, straight from the oven
Showing off my masterpiece
Posing with bird and baby

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Give thanks

Anyone else wonder whatever happened to Thanksgiving? After Halloween, it's all about Christmas...I'm pretty sure I saw Christmas decorations for sale even in the middle of summer. I have to admit that we do already have our Christmas tree up, however I also wanted to take time to celebrate and reflect on the Thanksgiving holiday and what I am so thankful, grateful and blessed with this year. So, here's my list...

30 Things For Which I'm Thankful This Year
  1. Jesus Christ, for His saving grace & gift of eternal life
  2. God's Word, which teaches, admonishes, inspires and encourages me
  3. My husband, who loves me despite all my flaws and for working hard to support our family
  4. Our precious baby girl growing in my belly, who I am blessed and humbled to be her mom
  5. Our families, who display unconditional support and love
  6. Our church, which constantly seeks to do God's will
  7. Our friends, who we can always turn to for laughter and fun
  8. Our little pup, who brings me much joy and happiness
  9. Our home, which provides us shelter and comfort
  10. Holidays, for the time off work and fellowship with family
  11. Our new car, that God provided us the resources to pay for it in full
  12. Our jobs, that we are both able to work and can afford a comfortable living
  13. God's creation, which I am constantly amazed and in awe
  14. Our health, that we are blessed with good health and no major diseases
  15. Music, which soothes my soul & lifts my mood
  16. Good design & beautiful aesthetics
  17. Delicious food
  18. Free time, rest & relaxation
  19. Vacations
  20. Blogs, magazines & Pinterest
  21. Sales & finding great deals
  22. Fun & challenging workout classes
  23. Freedom
  24. The Internet and easy access to information
  25. Photography & the ability to capture moments
  26. Warm weather & sunshine
  27. Our community & city
  28. Safety and comfort
  29. Interesting and entertaining books & movies
  30. Naps

Also, if you're looking for some fun, free printables for your own Thanksgiving get-together, then you need to check out the awesome collection from Kind Over Matter! 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A new set of wheels

A couple weeks ago, my husband and I (and baby) set out on a car buying journey. Since all the vehicles we own are of the two-door variety, we needed one that had four doors to accommodate our growing family. Crawling in and out of a two-door car to mess with a car seat is not exactly my idea of a fun time.

Ideally, I had my mind set on a crossover/small SUV-type vehicle for toting around a little one, a stroller, other random baby gear and groceries. Thus began my Internet search, I looked online at Autotrader.com, Cars.com and other car websites to find the right car for the right price. There were a couple in Texas I liked and a couple at our local dealership in town. We deemed Saturday car shopping day and were planning to head down to the Dallas area to look at a few dealerships, but we just ended up staying in town and looking at our local dealership in case we found something we might want here.

I printed off information on the three cars I was interested in and we were on our way to the local Infiniti dealership in town. One was a 2010 Infiniti EX35, another was a new 2011 Infiniti EX35 and there was also a used 2010 Lexus RX350. Once we pulled into the parking lot, a salesman was there waiting for us. I pulled out my papers and inquired about the used 2010 Infiniti EX35 since it was the most affordable one. “It just sold yesterday,” the car salesman said. Well, I guess that one was not for us…really though, it didn’t have the navigation system I was wanting so I wasn’t too upset. On to the next, the Lexus RX350…“oh, the manager is driving that one around, I’ll have to go find it since it’s not actually here.” Okay, onto the new 2011 Infiniti EX35…it had everything we wanted in it, except it was a little more than we had wanted to spend. Well, there was still one in Texas that we were pretty interested in, let’s just go with that one. But wait, “we actually just had another 2010 come in yesterday with 9,000 miles, one owner lease and almost exactly the same as the new one you just looked at.” What? Why didn’t he just tell us that to begin with?

So, long story short, we settled on a price for the last car we looked at, were harassed about extended warranties and other junk to add-on, signed over the check and bought my first car with cash. The car that we didn’t know anything about before we got there, but had everything we were looking for – navigation system, back-up cameras, low miles, still under warranty for three more years and it even already had the windows tinted (extra plus). Now, I just need to sell my old car...any takers?

Here are some photos of the baby's new ride/the mommy mobile... 
A big selling point was the all around view cameras
I'm also pretty excited to have a navigation system now

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Life Lately

It’s been a while since I’ve been on here and posts have been very few and far between. With such a huge impending change in my immediate future (the baby), I’ve been busy with life…preparing for our new addition (which involves reading lots of books and frequenting baby sites and stores), holidays and birthdays around every corner and trying to enjoy the last few months of life without hourly diaper changes and feedings.

I’ll just give the brief highlights of the major goings-ons lately:
We found out the sex/gender of our child and had a “gender reveal party” to announce to family and friends. Hubby wanted to refer to it as a “sex party,” but I didn’t want people getting the wrong impression…so "gender reveal" it was. Our announcement via cake ball resulted in…a team pink win! Yes, we’re adding another girl to our family, which I am extremely excited about! Let the pink ruffles and bows abound.

More on the baby front…we attended our first prenatal class at the hospital the last couple of Saturdays and learned all the ins-and-outs of caring for this little human who is growing more and more active in my belly. We swaddled and bathed plastic dolls, learned how to ease the adjustment of our four-legged baby to our new two-legged baby, and witnessed horrific photographs of what “normal” baby poop is supposed to look like. The nursery is slowly coming together…my hubby/baby daddy hung the curtains and chandelier (which almost didn’t happen-don’t ask), and the crib my parents bought the baby is now fully assembled and ready for a mattress and bedding.
Thanks, Daddy for hanging my beautiful chandelier, which
I will appreciate and love for years and years...Love, Baby

Natalie helped Daddy put together the crib

Non-baby stuff…I’m doing two different Bible studies this fall. One is the “Called to be a Keeper” study at our church, which I’m finding to be quite helpful as I plan to adjust to my new role in the coming months. It’s been a huge blessing to learn and hear experiences from women who are older and have much more life wisdom, while I’m just beginning my journey as a wife and mother. I would definitely recommend it to women in all stages of life, especially those in similar seasons of life as my own. Check out their website at www.keepersministry.com. The other study I’m doing with my Sunday school class is going through the new book “The Resolution for Women” by Priscilla Shirer, which is supposedly the woman counterpart somewhat linked to the new movie geared toward men called “Courageous”. This book proposes and outlines 13 resolutions for Christian women to lead a purposeful and directed life. It has also been very applicable to my current season in life and is an interesting read.

So there you have it…the major highlights. This year is flying by and now my life is passing in weeks as we countdown (or up) to the fateful 40-week mark. Currently, I’m at the 21 ½ week mark (more than halfway done baking the bun).  

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Spilling the beans…

...about our little bean, who is not so much a bean now but more like the size of a navel orange! Yes, we will be expecting the grand arrival of our first little one at the end of February, and we’re ecstatic about the newest addition to our family. 

My hubs is hoping for a leap day baby, but I’m a little confused about the whole thing and how it would work with legal documents and birthdays and such so I would rather avoid all that. Anyways, I've been extremely blessed and have actually been feeling great so far (the first question people ask me), no morning sickness or nausea! I'm now ready to move from the "oh, she's putting on some weight" phase to the "aww, what a cute little baby bump" phase...but not quite ready yet for the "man, are you having twins?" phase.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Let's Make a Deal

I’m sure that if you've paid any attention to the economy or your depression-inducing 401k, then you know that the financial forecast for our nation looks a little bleak right now. With downgraded credit scores, bloated national debt, the spreading housing crisis, and unemployment on the rise, most everyone is looking to catch a break or snag a good deal these days.

On a positive note, one of the good things to come out of this economic downturn is those private, limited-time, members-only sales and Groupon-esque flash deal sites that have been popping up like wildfires. So many of these have turned up that I’m having a hard time keeping track of all of them. I haven't actually bought anything off these sites yet, but I like to browse and see what good deals could be had. 

Here are some of my most recent discoveries that caught my attention. Are there any cool ones that you've found?


Sign up for Rue La La by August 23 through the link above, and you'll automatically get a $10 credit! 


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Another year older

While I’ve been away from the blog last month, I’ve entered into the final year of my twenties. So far, I’m about a month into the year leading up to the big one, and I have a feeling that this is going to be a really wonderful year. I’m hoping to try new things, make new friends (and grow deeper in my current friendships and relationships), explore new places, learn, grow, take chances and just live life and enjoy everything that God blesses me with or teaches me along the way.

To kick start this new year for me, the day after my actual b-day, my husband and I, along with two other couples from our Sunday School class (the “Johnsonses” – both with the same last name “Johnson” but not related), took a day trip south to Big D…Dallas, Texas. It’s where I’ve lived the third longest, first being Edmond, Oklahoma (my hometown); second is Waco, Texas (college); and then Dallas, Texas (internship)…so, I have a little bit of Texan in me.

What did we do while we were in the Lone Star state? All the things we can’t do in Oklahoma and I never did while I lived in Dallas, like…

Waiting in line 25 minutes in the big daddy of all drive-thru lines to get a cheeseburger at In-N-Out Burger.
Then, heading over to the cupcake place that started the whole cupcake craze…Sprinkles! The red velvet was fab, but I needed someone to roll me out of there after stuffing myself to the gills. 
So, we had to work off all the calories and sugar by going ice skating in the Galleria.
To finish off the evening, what else than Medieval Times! An interesting experience, but unfortunately our knight was the first to be defeated..boo, yellow knight.
Overall, it was a fun birthday experience with many “firsts” checked off the list! In-N-Out Burger…check, Sprinkles…check, Ice Skating at the Galleria…check, and Medieval Times…check! What next? I have a feeling we may be headed to San Antonio sometime in the next year, since one set of Johnsons is moving to San Antonio against our will.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Keys to summer fun

Remember me? I’m finally back to the blog after a little vacay and an extended break. I’ve actually been home for several weeks but have been in recovery mode and just needed some time to recharge these days. I've finally obliterated all the last remnants of sand, which would mysteriously appear around the house, and I've dug myself out of mountains of laundry piled up in our laundry room. Now, back to reality and back to posting.

So, wondering where I’ve been on vacation? Drumroll please…the Florida Keys (yes, that rhymes)! It was a fun last minute trip (like, I didn’t even know I was going until a week before I left) with a couple of my girlfriends. One of the said friends happens to rack up a ridiculous amount of frequent flier miles for her work and was kind enough to offer me a free plane ticket…woohoo! And she even put me in first class on my flight back home…double woohoo!! First time in first class and I felt like kind of a big deal. Of course I had to take a photo of my priority status.

And finally, a few photos from the trip: 
Spotted several of these on an Everglades airboat tour. 

I was quite enamored with the peacocks at the Everglades...however, the sentiment was not reciprocated.

We stayed in Key Largo but took a day trip to Key West and toured the area aboard one of these trolleys.

This was reportedly one of the most photographed spots in Key West - US mile marker 0.
Another popular tourist attraction - the southernmost point of the continental US. There was a line just to get a photo of this buoy thing, and I had to crop out the people around it just to snag this shot.  

This was the only shark sighting on this trip.

Ate lunch at the famous Sloppy Joe's Bar in Key West...obviously it was pretty good, or I was starving.

For dessert, chocolate dipped key lime pie on a stick. You can't go to Key West without some key lime pie. This was seriously rich and sweet...I didn't even eat all of it. I would recommend forgoing the chocolate-dipped and just getting the plain old slice of key lime pie, which looked quite delicious.   

Blowing into a conch shell (okay, just pretending to - who knows how many people have plastered their grimy lips all over that thing)

How cute is this house? There were so many cute and colorful homes like this lining the quaint streets of Key West.

Roosters and chickens run rampant like pigeons around there.

Of course, the majority of the trip looked much like this, sans fun noodle. This particular photo is of Bahia Honda beach on Big Pine Key. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Birthday vacay

Where in the world will I be for my birthday week? One of my friends generously offered me a free plane ticket to the destination below, so I'll be basking in the glow of warm sun on my face and sand between my toes with a couple of friends this week. I will be far away from the computer, so it'll be pretty quiet on here for a little while. Here's a hint of where I'm going...
Need another hint?
 I'll give you the full details after I return from my busy birthday week!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sew excited

From one kind of needle to another, except this one involves thread and bobbins. That's right...I got a sewing machine! My husband recently bought it for me as part of my anniversary gift. Now, I am closer to being equipped to tackle number 28 on my list. Honestly though, I've had it for almost a whole month and have yet to plug it in and take it for a stroll. 

Oh, Brother! Let the sewing begin!
I used to think that sewing was just some activity that old ladies would sit around and do, but in recent years, I've had a growing desire to learn to sew. My mother is a master seamstress, and I've never known her without her trusty old Singer that she still uses to this day. Growing up, I would watch my mom work her magic at her sewing machine - pumping the pedal, turning the wheel, threading the bobbins and turning scraps of fabric into amazing creations. Now that I'm slowly becoming one of those "old ladies" and have my very own sewing machine, I will be taking sewing lessons from my mom and will be attempting a few projects. What projects? I've been trolling "the Internets" for ideas and have come across an overwhelming number of helpful websites and cute and crafty creations.
Threads Magazine offers a beginner "Teach Yourself to Sew" video series on its website.

Sew, Mama, Sew is an adorable site with easy-to-follow, step-by-step sewing tutorials and a fun blog.

Craftig, a site where you can bookmark and find different craft projects, features quite an extensive collection of links to different sewing projects. (They are currently upgrading software, so it might not be as pretty as normal over there)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Give a pint

I finally did it today. I volunteered to have a needle stuck in me and gave up a pint of my precious blood. I haven’t ever really had too strong of a desire to part with my good old red blood cells, but I decided at the beginning of this year that it was something that I could do to help save someone else’s life. So, I mustered up the courage and signed up for my work’s blood drive.

The Oklahoma Blood Institute (OBI) converted one of our conference rooms into a makeshift blood donation center and set up three tables for donors and another partitioned area for registration and screening. My coworker/friend Ashley had signed up also, so at least I had a buddy to commiserate with me in this somewhat uncomfortable experience.

Once we arrived in the room, we were corralled over to the partitioned areas, seated at separate computer stations and asked to read over three pages of information pertaining to blood donation. Basically, it just listed medications you weren’t supposed to use or countries you shouldn’t have visited. Then, one of the OBI staff came over, asked for my ID and filled out some basic information on the computer and left me to answer an online questionnaire of yes/no questions. These questions started out with how you’re feeling today to recent foreign travel, then on to the fun sexual history questions to make sure you don’t have AIDS. I have actually traveled to several countries in the past three years (with the honeymoon and cruises), so I had to dig into my memory and tried to list every single place I’ve visited. I could sense that the lady was rather annoyed at my extensive travel history after I listed four and still wasn’t done, so I think I might have left off Canada (it’s pretty much like the US, right).

After all that, came a temperature, blood pressure, heart rate reading and then the little uncomfortable prick to the finger, where she squeezed out a drop of blood and inserted it into some machine that screens for several different diseases and makes sure your iron levels are high enough. As expected, no diseases for me…yay. So, I was set up with a packet of tubes, bags and papers and sent over to the waiting area since the donor tables were full. Ashley was already on the table and having her blood drawn, when after a little while voiced that she wasn’t feeling so great, which made me a little unnerved and concerned. The phlebotomist rushed over with ice packs to cool her off, a Gatorade to replenish her fluids and lowered her table so she was flat on her back, which seemed to do the trick. She was back to normal. 

Just as she was finishing up, came my turn. I hopped onto the table, was covered in a paper sheet, and had my arm properly positioned for blood donation. Then came the fun part…finding a vein. I am well aware of my miniscule little, needle-shy blood vessels. Every time that I’ve ever had blood drawn, it becomes some kind of mission, usually requiring reinforcements, to find a vein. This time was no different; two phlebotomists poked and prodded around for at least 10 minutes before finally locating one little vein.

Once the lady finally stuck the needle in, she moved it around every which way up there in my arm to find that little guy, which hurt pretty badly. After that though, it was fairly easy from there. However, it seemed like the blood just trickled out of my arm and took much longer than other people, even with all the rigorous squeezing I was doing to my stress ball thing. 

Overall, I would have to say that the entire experience was mostly painless. Right now, I just have a small bruise on my arm to show for it, and I got some goodies for donating (a t-shirt, two free zoo passes and an iPhone case) and the satisfaction that I will be helping someone in the future. Would I do it again? Most likely. Will it be anytime soon? Probably not. 

If you're looking to donate blood with the Oklahoma Blood Institute, click here to find a blood drive near you. The American Red Cross is also another organization that coordinates blood drives nationwide.