Archive | Mary-Hall RSS for this section

Paleo Whole30 Italian Dressing

Well, after a couple of life and death posts this week, I think its high time we return to our usual blog fare.  (Also PS, no baby yet.) So here is one where I try to out-Paleo Bethany and her Paleo pot roast recipe.

Disclaimer: You should know that my household is absolutely not paleo or anything resembling paleo these days.  I bought a large size bottle of chocolate ice cream syrup last weekend, feeling very strongly that Baby Johnson #2 shouldn’t be born into a household without that staple.  But, when I saw her recipe calling for a packet of italian dressing mix, I thought it might be nice to try to paleo-ify that choice a little bit, you know, in the spirit of legalism.

Actually I’ve had good luck making spice mixes – taco seasoning, fajita seasoning – as well as several different vinaigrette type salad dressings.  They are so easy to whip up and we get more variety this way, compared to using store-bought bottles. If you have a well-stocked spice rack, you probably already have what you need.  And making this stuff from scratch, you can be {more} assured that there aren’t any weird fillers or preservatives or MSG that you don’t know about.  More importantly, you may be able to avoid a trip to the grocery store in a pinch, which is honestly a bigger motivator in my case than the clean eating stuff.

So, here is how I made up some paleo-friendly italian dressing mix.  This recipe is even Whole30 friendly (that 30-day cleanse thing I did for 25 days last year).  The actual Italian dressing from it is also approved on both diets.

italian_dressing

Ingredients

  • 1-2 tablespoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 tablespoon garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried celery flakes

Before you proclaim me a genius, I should point out that I adapted this recipe from this Allrecipes version. By “adapted” I basically mean, “I left out the sugar”.

1 tablespoon of salt is plenty for if you are using this to cook with.  For the dressing, I’d start with 1 and increase to your taste.  2 tablespoons was a little too salty for us.

Use about 2 tablespoons of the mix to be equivalent to one store-bought packet – that’s what I put in the roast and still had plenty left to make salad dressing with.  I did it last week, worked out great.

If you are missing one or two of the minor ingredients (eg. celery flakes), I say go for it anyway.  These kinds of recipes are forgiving.

To make salad dressing, just combine the following ingredients in a container with a lid and shake well:

  • 2 tablespoons of the above mix
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

PS. I think the dressing would be awesome with a little honey mixed in but I didn’t try it.

 

39 1/2 Weeks

Here we are on the way to preschool this morning – 39 and a half weeks pregnant.

39wks

In case you don’t know or remember this, pregnancy due dates are at 40 weeks.  So basically, we are ALMOST THERE.  I really can’t complain.  This pregnancy has passed at the speed of light.  I feel great: not tired, no back ache, feet are still basically normal sized, I can even paint my toenails.  I do heartily recommend April babies over September ones, like Ransom.  It was 90 degrees inside our {un-air-conditioned} house at this stage of my last pregnancy, and that was not so fun.

On the other hand, I am basically down to one uniform to wear (see photo) and even it requires constant adjustment.  Things try to ride up or down constantly, as the case may be.  And, my general presence seems to make people nervous.  Either because they are nervous about me causing an embarrassing medical scene (i.e. baby delivery in the fellowship hall at church) or maybe because that’s just what you say to really pregnant women.  You know, as in “Oh my goodness I can’t believe you’re still up and about!” etc.

Meanwhile, the house is moderately clean.  The baby things are sort of in order, although not entirely.  I have stocked the freezer with several frozen meals.  We have a few baby names picked out.  So, there’s nothing left to do but wait.  And drink more water.

Kitchen Desk

We have accomplished another goal, nursery-wise.  We finally finished the built-in kitchen desk {that we started in January}!  I’d like to blame this delay on Ransom but honestly we’ve always been a little slow in the construction department.  Chalk it up to 14 combined years of engineering school – we think about things from EVERY angle.  Then one of us continues to deliberate about very small details.  Then the other one has to argue with that one about why we should ignore that particular issue, move on, etc etc.  And then finally we make progress.

8 weeks later we have a perfect little desk.  How is this nursery related?  Well, this computer that was sitting right in the middle of the nursery.  I like its new home here, easy access to online recipes, pandora, etc, right in the main family area.

So, what was once a spot for a stand-up freezer in the “laundry room” is now a built-in desk with two drawers.  I use “quotes” because the laundry room is right in the kitchen, separated only by some air.  In general, we wanted to make this desk simply ‘fit in’ with the rest of the space, so the countertop roughly matches the floor, and we used the same paint color from the cabinets.

IMG_3134

Its sort of a narrow hallway that makes it near impossible to take pictures of.  Oh PS, Ransom is enjoying healthy snacks of course, as per usual – popcorn dipped in sour cream.  I’m kidding about the sour cream, there are actually choco chums in that bowl. 

Also, you can see the much deliberated ‘off-white’ paint in action, next to a healthy dose of ‘butter’ up top.  We’ll bust out the ladder one of these days.

IMG_3138

The desk has two drawers that are pretty useful for storing staplers, pencils, highlighters, etc. There is more work to be done, but at least we’ve got functionality.  First, we need a new printer, either a wireless one that can be tucked away somewhere else, or one that can fit in the adjoining broom closet, perhaps?  How many brooms does one family really need?

IMG_3141

Either way, the current “printer on the floor” solution is just temporary.  The other problem situation is the rat-nest of cords behind the chair.  You can’t see it all that well in this pics, but its there. And finally, we want to add either open shelving or some sort of shelving/mail sorting/router hiding unit up high.  Something like this:

IMG_3142

All in all, we do kind of love little carpentry projects.  Even if we take forever.  Perfectionism is worth the wait?  It is what it is?  Something like that…

What’s in a name?

So, the calendar here seems to be telling me that I have about three weeks of pregnancy left. Can that be right? Compared to the first go-round, Pregnancy #2 has gone at approximately the speed of light. We are a little bit behind in the “preparation” department, but the one thing that’s most concerning is the baby name process.  We did some major deliberation to settle on Ransom’s name, and even then, we went into the hospital with a list of ten or so mutually approved names.  We didn’t settle on the final combo until about 3 hours before we checked out of the hospital.

Now, if only I could find that list. But alas, no.

So we are starting from zero with Baby #2, and the current list only has about 4 options on it and none that we’re in love with yet.  The stakes here are so high.  Is your name not one of the most important things your parents give you?  Most people seem to grow right into their names.  Is that because their parents are a little bit psychic or more likely, do their names shape who they become?  Your name certainly influences how other people initially perceive and treat you.  All that to say, this is serious business.

We have some pretty particular criteria in our house:

  • Significance.  We go for names of family members, generally.  Significant Biblical or historical figures could work too, as long as we had a good reason for the choice, a good story behind the name.
  • Unique but still pretty classic.  With a last name like Johnson, its only fair to have a first name that’s somewhat off the beaten path.  Plus, we’re three for three in weird first names, so why stop now?
  • Sounds right.  Yes unique but it still has to sound right in this day and age, you know.  This eliminates a lot of family names – such as Harold, Clarence, Jethro, Thedford, etc.  And then there’s a whole set that just don’t work with Johnson, like John, Johnstone, Magic, and Howard.

So while we continue to ponder the options for the next three weeks, I wanted to take a few minutes to write out the stories behind all of Ransom’s names.

First, Ransom has three given names: Ransom Robert Fletcher.  This triple name tradition started with August’s dad and was passed down to August and then to Ransom. (And is further reason why we need more than four options.)

IMG_9437Nine given names among these three Johnson men

The name “Ransom” comes from Ransom Riley Hall, his 4th-great-grandfather or as I usually say – Ransom’s great-grandmother’s great-grandfather.  In other words, he lived a LONG time ago.  We learned this name when we were digging into Ancestry.com, and I thought it fit the “unique but classic” bill pretty well.  We don’t know much about Mr. RR Hall: he lived in the 1800s and migrated from North Carolina to Alabama while having a whopping sixteen children, all with the same wife.  But his tombstone inscription is what put us over the edge:

R. R. Hall??????????
Born Feb. 19, 1814
Professed hope in Christ, 1822
Married Miss Liddy Roberts
Aug. 15, 1834
Licensed to Preach in 1859
Died Dec. 21, 1889.
————
A sinner saved by grace.

How cool is it that R.R. Hall (or his children) chose to document those few events as his most important achievements rather than sticking with the usual tombstone “-“?  His hope in Christ, his marriage, and when he became a preacher.  And a proclamation that he was, like me, just a sinner saved by grace.

And also for bonus points, Dr. Ransom is also the name of the protagonist in CS Lewis’s Space Trilogy, great books by my favorite author.

Ransom’s first middle name “Robert” is after my dad, who I have always been very close to.  And to top it off, Ransom actually looks a lot like him.  My dad is named for his uncle Robert, my grandmother’s beloved older brother. That Robert was something of a mountain man in northern California, a great outdoorsman who got in a tangle or two with a grizzly bear but always made it out on top.

grandad 002My grandmother and her brother Robert

grandad 007My grandmother and her son Robert (my dad)

Finally, “Fletcher” is one of August’s middle names, after his grandfather, Hubert Fletcher, after his father, Floyd Fletcher, after his father Richard Fletcher.  That makes five Fletchers in six generations.  I love connecting Ransom  with so many generations of ancestors.

1994 granddadAugust and his granddaddy Hubert Fletcher Carraway

All of these men embody characteristics that we want for Ransom:  men of faith and kindness, lovers of the outdoors, diligent hard workers.  Ransom’s name is perfect for him.

Now the trick is coming up with three more for Baby #2.

Paint Color Selection

I know everybody has been dying to know which color of gray paint we went with, after trying 8 or so different options all over the living room walls.  And we have made a selection, I believe.

Its practically the neutral-est neutral there ever was, I guess.  No risk taking here – this is the Switzerland of paint colors.

Its so neutral that although I liked the looks of the paint chip in the store, I hesitated to try it for fear of being too boring.

The paint is named…

you’ll be shocked by this.

Dragon’s Mist.

..

..

.

.

Nope I’m kidding.

.

.

.

Its called “Off white”.

off_white

In our wacky house with all the fluorescent tube lighting, ‘off white’ does in fact look like a pale gray.  Its certainly an upgrade from the current ‘butter’ color.  And best of all, it doesn’t clash with the 51 cabinets that are already painted a green/gray/khaki color.  And since there are 51 of them, and the paint is in perfect condition, THEY will not be repainted.  They will be worked around.

But agh, is ‘off white’ too bland for all 57,000 square feet of wall space in this room?  Maybe.  But perhaps we have enough going on between the brick and the wood trim and the wood floors.  A little ‘Blah’ may be just the ticket.  Sure hope so.

Here’s a shot of the ‘off white’ right next to some cabinets.

IMG_3113

What we have here is a partially constructed kitchen desk area, which just one step in the plan for the baby nursery.  Hopefully we’ll finish this little project this week, and move on to stuff like putting the crib together.

Oh side note, the reason why I know we have 51 cabinets is because I just ordered new hardware for them.  NOW for the risk taking.

martha_brassBRASS!  Goodbye brushed nickel.  The knobs will go on the cabinet doors, which means I’ll have to fill 51 now-extraneous holes and paint over them.   Sounds like a perfect maternity leave project, doesn’t it?

New Orleans With Kids

Happy Valentine’s Day (if that’s your thing).  If its not, well I hear ya and this post is totally not Valentine’s related.

Bethany posted about a trip to New Orleans once before. Its a fabulously unique destination, so I thought I’d add a few pointers here for making a kid-friendly visit.  New Orleans is a quick trip from where we live, so Mississippians tend to head down there with some regularity.  Although, I personally only go about once every three years or so.  There is something for everyone, depending on what kind of experience you want to have – history, architecture, gambling, 24/7 bars, jazz clubs, a dazzling variety of unbelievable restaurants.  And, if you are under 5 years old, there’s actually a fair variety for the preschool set as well.  Here is what we did, and what we wished we could’ve done, with our 3 year old.

IMG_2685

1.  Book a hotel with a heated pool.

The train station dropped us off right down town.  Indoor pools are not very common down there, since its a generally warm climate, relatively speaking.  I had to do a good bit of scouring the internet to find at least a heated outdoor pool.  In Ransom’s mind, hotel = pool, end of story.  I used this website to determine pool information, and good ole Orbitz to find the best price.  Over night temperatures were in the low 60s and we adults fairly well froze in the pool.  It was heated but not to hot tub level.  Next time I think we’ll just go later in the year.

We stayed at the Bienville House, and I do recommend it.  Continental breakfast included, and the people are all very nice.

IMG_2673

2. Ride the streetcar.

Ransom LOVED the streetcar.  We only got to ride it once unfortunately, from the train station to the hotel. There was some major disappointment about not getting to ride it back to the train station.  We tried but it was apparently running at least 35 minutes late, and we had a actual scheduled train to catch.  So we took a cab.  Moral – use the streetcar for leisure travel, not necessarily when you actually have to be somewhere at a certain time.  If we’d had more time, I think Ransom would have loved to just ride the trolley out to the end of the line, get off, and then ride it back again.

IMG_2664

3. The Aquarium

This was our big planned excursion, and it was a hit with Ransom for sure.  We only had two hours and we assumed that we wouldn’t have time to see everything.  However, its actually not very big.  Two hours is plenty of time to see everything, and since we were going preschooler speed (which is pretty fast in places like museums and zoos), we could’ve easily been out in an hour.  We even made a return to the play boat section, of course.  The down side is, the ticket prices are steep – $60 for the three of us.  I kinda feel like something so expensive shouldn’t be viewable in two hours, know what I mean?  But it did make an impression on Ransom.  We’ve had lots of discussion about sharks and jelly fish ever since.

IMG_2697

4. The Cafe du Monde

This place is a New Orleans classic, and its great for kids.  You sit outdoors and all they serve are beignets which are essentially powdered donuts.  (Really really good ones.)  Doesn’t get much better, does it?  My advice – skip the coffee.  Its disgusting!  Who would drink that?  Okay try it once just so you can learn for yourself how disgusting the mysterious ‘chicory’ ingredient is.  Gag.  Order chocolate milk instead.  Also, the wait line for the restaurant was a little bit long, so we went to the ‘To Go’ window.  There’s a nice park right next door.

IMG_2676

That is basically all we packed into our 17 hours in New Orleans.  Our train was a whopping 5 hours late arriving in NOLA, so that kind of took a bite out of an already quick trip.  We did find two kid-friendly restaurants –  Daisy Duke’s Restaurant.  They serve breakfast 24/7 and some typical New Orleans fare (gumbo, po boys).  All was good but not life changing.  But hey, this was at 9 pm on Saturday night, right by our hotel, and not a bar.  So basically perfect for us.  And then we also ate at Arby’s.  ha.

Next time, we’ll plan a three-day weekend so that we have a little more flexibility.  A few more kid friendly options that are on my list for next time:

Swamp tour

These are probably overpriced and super touristy, but if there’s an airboat and/or an alligator involved, I know it would be a hit with our kiddo.  I saw these being offered from several ‘tourist information’ stands, as well as in the hotel lobby, visitors center, etc.

The Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium

I’ve heard its good.  Kids love bugs. Its newer than the aquarium so it probably doesn’t have that “We built this in the 80s’ feel going on.

The City Park

We didn’t get to go here because their winter hours are kind of slim, but I’ve heard its awesome.  There is a small amusement park section, a storybook garden, a train garden, and a lot of huge live oak trees.  I bet you could get some fantastic instagrams of your kiddos riding the antique carousel, etc.  Seriously Ransom loves all rides, from the mall food court up, so I know he’d love this.  Definitely on our list for the next trip.  (And you can take the streetcar to get there.)

Fifty Shades of Gray Paint

This could’ve been a blog post where I explain how to pick the perfect gray paint color and show how grand it looks in our living room, but ahem… Our paint color selection process is not yet over.  Currently we have 5 shades of gray paint doing tryouts in the living room.  (Only 45 more to go.)

IMG_3092

Turns out that picking a gray paint is quite difficult.  I should’ve hired an interior decorator or color expert or whatnot but instead, I’m just going the usual DIY brute force route by staring at paint strips for hours and buying tons of little sample pots (5 so far).  Here is my collection of paint strips, very helpful indeed.

paintchipsI’ll let you guess which one was Ransom’s suggestion. 

Our living room has a lot going on already: pine trim, khaki-ish cabinets, several walls of exposed brick.. i.e. red with gray mortar.  Combine all that with decent daylight but very dim lighting at night (which we plan to replace).  So a nice light shade of neutral is in order, right?  Gray seems like the obvious choice.  Its kind of ‘a thing’ these days, just ask pinterest or google.  It can be ‘neutral’ and ‘interesting’ and ‘unobtrusive’ all at the same time.

But what I’ve learned thus far is, gray paint (grey? greige?) can actually completely transform, right before your very eyes – to pink, blue, green, even purple.  Which direction each paint sample will lean on my walls is totally different from how it looks on the paint strip, so we’re sort of in a guessing game at this point.  And, the colors that look half decent during the day look a lot worse at night, or look at lot worse right next to the cabinetry.

Also there’s the added pressure that this one room is literally 50% of our house, with vaulted ceilings.  i.e. painting will require extension ladders (or scaffolding?) and many gallons of paints..  I.e. lots of both time and money.  OH THE PRESSURE.

And a final tip to anyone else buying paint samples.  You can paint those samples on to white posterboard which can then be moved around, switched in an out, and then conveniently placed in the garbage when you finish.  Thus avoiding the permanent patchwork look in your home.  Here’s an example from the internet:

from here

I knew that trick, but was too lazy to implement since I didn’t have any posterboard on hand…

Later today I’m heading back to Home Depot to gather a few more options.  Maybe ditch gray entirely and go with ‘white’.  Oh but there are so many shades of white too.

%d bloggers like this: