Monday, November 30


*Linking up with Becky*

Currently around the Johnson Anderson house we are...

On detox. We did not a whole lot for Thanksgiving, and it was great! Four days at home with only a few things on the agenda was great! I got the house cleaned, made enough lasagna to choke a horse and enjoyed my Black Friday shopping with my momma. I think this was our best Thanksgiving ever! Fitz & Alex are now at the stage where it is impossible to get their picture looking at the camera, smiling and sitting still. What a pair of turkeys we have!

Celebrating the big Iron Bowl victory! If you pay any attention around this slice of the internet, you'll know how big of Alabama fans we are; so winning the Iron Bowl (Alabama vs. arch-in-state-rival Auburn) was the icing on this incredible season's cake. We are also thrilled for Derrick Henry who hopefully secured a second Heisman Trophy for the University! Roll tide! On to Atlanta...
unknown source
Avoiding Cyber Monday. I know I am alone in this, but I am not a big online shopper. I much prefer to be able to touch the things I'm buying BEFORE I pay for them. I can't be alone in that, right? I will say that the thredup sale did get me—20FORYOU saves you 20% on your entire order. I grabbed a few super cute Alo tops and some button downs for F&A.
First day back from a four day holiday, a Monday and my magazine in production—this seems very fitting for today.
Reddit via Pinterest

Monday, November 23

Thankful Turkey Craft

This year in Faith Formation has been a challenge to say the least. Maybe it's all the full moons? Anyway, it seems like this class has forced me to look outside of the box more than ever before. One of the many reasons I love teaching first grade is that they are just old enough to sit through a lesson, but still love to do crafts!

The Sunday before Thanksgiving week is always hard. This year, most of the schools are out for the entire week, so we won't have a lot of kids that attend class. The ones that do have, for the most part, already checked out of learning. I felt daunted trying to come up with something for an hour and forty-five minutes! Then inspiration struck: I love these little turkeys, I think they turned out precious.
 They are so INCREDIBLY easy. Now how I got the large amount (and array) of paint samples from Walmart wasn't so easy, but as my momma always said, "Where there's a will, there is a way." I wasn't techincally doing anything wrong, but it felt like I was? Anyway, I "overgrabbed" what we ended up needing so at least I don't have to feel awkward again next year?

All you need for this craft is construction paper, a writing instrument, three paint samples, scisorrs and glue.

Cut a piece of brown construction paper in the shape of a circle; we used a roll of masking tape as our circle pattern. Cut four smaller circles out of white and blue or green construction paper for the eyes, for layering the eye color on top of the white; orange construction paper in the shape of a triangle works for the beak. Glue the eyes and the beak to your circle; all you have to draw is the mouth and you've got the turkey body!

My favorite part of this craft is the feathers. For our Faith Formation class we used a white board to list all the things we could think of that we were thankful for like the Holy Spirit, St. John the Baptist, Pope Francis, our families, schools and the military. From the list each child was responsibile for copying down one item to each of their three feathers. We used pencil and they were hard to photograph, for the example I used a Sharpie and it worked much better. But I wasn't about to pass out 26 sharpies, so the pencils worked just fine. In real life you can see them fine. Crayon does NOT work on the paint samples however.

To make the feathers, simply cut a rounded edge triangle from the paint strips. Most of the kids didn't do so hot at the rounded edge, but I think the sharp corners look just as cute! Once you have your feather shape, copy your thankful item to the top, then glue the feathers paint side forward to the turkey body.
Voila! You have a super sweet, super easy Thankful Turkey. My personal favorite is little Clara who wrote "St. Therese; Toys; Candy". 

Monday, November 16


I don't think I am in the place where I can say anything about this without wanting to cry, or without really feeling like it's my place to say something. See, I feel like here in Alabama, far away from Paris and New York and Brussels and London and all the "big cities" we're sheltered. No one is going to target us—for all they know, we are a bunch of hayseeds. Hell, we kinda are. 

But my heart is still heavy, how could it not be? 

I won't try to say anything except that I love this cartoon. I love everything it stands for, everything it means.
In an old house in Paris that is covered with vines, live twelve little girls whose country still shines.
Benjamin Schwartz, The New Yorker, Daily Cartoon

Wednesday, November 11

Balsamic Braised Chicken Thighs

I've made this recipe a few times and it is always delicious. Don't you love those? It is fairly easy—I wouldn't put it in the crock pot, dump it all and go category, but it is not highly labor intensive with seventy billion dirty pans and bowls either.

I like this recipe for a lot of reasons. In our house we love a good balsamic vinegar, the elevation of flavors you get from an infused balsamic cannot be matched, but with this recipe I go with just a high quality dark balsamic, no infusion needed and my husband pronounces it one of the best things he has ever eaten. Literally everything this recipe calls for is in my freezer or pantry at all times.

On the level of how much we love balsamics, I love white pepper. To me, it is just a better choice when cooking. While the original recipe from which this one was born calls for black pepper, I really think the tang of the balsamic braise is highlighted better with white pepper. I also like to use chicken thighs over chicken breasts here; the flavors are really better captured.

I have served this with everything from pasta to rice, but I think I like pasta the best. As a side bonus, I can make enough pasta for the adults to pair with the chicken AND for the kids to eat with some butter. #winning

Balsamic Braised Chicken Thighs
Forgive me, apparently I need to wax my dining room table. Oops.

2 lbs. boneless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 chopped yellow onion
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes
½ cup balsamic vinegar
½ tablespoon basil
½ tablespoon marjoram
1 teaspoon thyme
½ tablespoon oregano
Garlic salt and white pepper, for seasoning

Heat the olive oil in a fairly large sauté pan over medium high heat. Season the chicken thighs with garlic salt and white pepper. Add the chicken to the pan, browning on both sides, about 4 minutes. Add the onion to the chicken, browning it for about 3 minutes. Smother the chicken and onions with the tomatoes (and their juices) plus the balsamic vinegar; stir well. Add the herbs one at a time, stirring well, bringing to a boil. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Monday, November 9


*Linking up with Becky*

Currently around the Johnson Anderson house we are...

Tired. I feel like every single Sunday and Monday all I feel is tired. Like deep in the bone tired. And I have no one to blame but myself.

Rolling with the Tide! At the very last minute Mark and I were able to get tickets to see Alabama play LSU in Tuscaloosa. It was one of those spur of the moment things that fell together perfectly. We rode a chartered RV from Montgomery to the game and home, eliminating the need to find a place to stay or worry about the late drive. We made it just in time for chicken wings at my old sorority house!

This was actually the first time Mark and I were in Bryant-Denny together and I loved it.
Probably helped that the Tide absolutely destroyed LSU. I am so fired up for the rest of the season and the CFP. 
While Mark and I enjoyed the glory days, I forgot how absolutely putrid fraternity houses smell on rainy game days, Fitz and Alex enjoyed a weekend at their grandparents! It was nice to have a break, since most nights I feel like the "blood splattered" Halloween cupcakes we ate after dinner all last week—just completely destroyed.
This week proves to be nothing but crazy cold and then crazy hot—seriously enough with the 54° one day and 77° the next, but I don't even care. I'll just be watching this over and over and over again.
Yes that's a 312 lb. dude casually jumping over a person to block a kick. ROLL TIDE!

Sunday, November 8

15 for 2015 Update: October

Update on 15 for 2015 during the month of October, and again, I'm always so excited when I look at these each month and realize all I have accomplished. It's crazy to think this year is almost over. 

15 for 2015 
Hit the Pure Barre Montgomery 250 Tuck Club (Accomplished in January) 
Spend another long weekend in Curacao 
 Show Fitz and Alex the beach 
Read 15 books 1: Mending Fences 2: Tonight and Always 3: A Matter of Choice 4: Endings and Beginnings 4: Vegas Rich 5: A Perfect Life 6: Downtown 7: The Best of Me 8: The Little Paris Bookshop
Take an entire month and not buy a single piece of clothing (or accessory) for myself (Accomplished in May) 
Finally re-decorate our living room (Accomplished in April) 
Update my phone software (Not that it helped anything) I actually got a brand new iPhone 6S in September!
Visit Kimber, Gentry and Saylor at the farm in Pennsylvania (Accomplished in July!)
Go home for Alabama Homecoming  This was the same weekend as Fitz and Alex's birthday party, so we let this one go.
Write my Nanny once a month January: yes, sort of. February: yes! March: yes! April: No. May: No. June: yes! July: I think so, but I can't remember, honestly. August: Mailed it on Aug 31st, but yes! September: yes! October: yes!
Try 15 new recipes 1: Creamy Italian Chicken Crockpot Bake 2: Cajun Cake recipe from Southern Living Annual Recipes 1987 edition 3: Basil Chicken Pizza 4: Fiesta Chicken Rice Bowls 5: Carla Hall’s Confetti Blondies 6: Cheeseburger Pie 7: Sun-Dried Tomato and Herb Crusted Salmon 8: Bursting Blueberry-Chocolate Bundt Cake 9: Cheesy Stuffed Meatloaf 10: Rosemary, Thyme Oven Roast  11: Slow Cooker Stuffed Peppers
Completely clean out my closet (Accomplished in August)
Take about a zillion more pictures 
Clean out the storage unit and sell the furniture we are never going to use (Accomplished in March) 
Show Mark Philadelphia and the Porecca family

Looks like I need to really read my tail off over the Holidays.

Wednesday, November 4

The Hard Hat Diaries: Landing in Louisville

Every year in the middle of October a group of anywhere from three to four of us from Hatton-Brown pile into an extended cab Tahoe and head north to Louisville, Ky. for GIE+EXPO, the lawn and garden industry's biggest trade show. It is exactly as much fun as you might imagine.

We always stop at LawLers Barbecue in Athens, Ala., on the way there, not my favorite if I'm being honest.This plate was decent, but the mac and cheese left a lot to be desired.
And we always belly laugh way too much at The Boobie Bungalow off exit 6 on I-65 in Elkton, Tenn. I mean seriously, what kind of strippers work south of Nashville?

Anyway, the days are long, but somehow just fly by. There are press conferences every thirty minutes, there are beer and hospitality events every night and there's always a lot of "what ifs" for the coming season.

The outdoor demo area is always my favorite. I love getting to test out the products I otherwise never will get my hands on. Like this tree lift that put me 55 feet in the air. TALK ABOUT A RUSH! I don't think I will ever tire of looking at this pictures.
But the crown jewel of our trips each year to GIE+EXPO is the extensive video coverage. This year there are four videos you can catch yours truly in.

This is my personal favorite though. My stand up comedy act in a worn men's polo with a neon yellow logo really adds something extra, don't you think?

Monday, November 2

Celebrating Fitz & Alex: One Wild Year

I am going to just ignore the fact that it has been nearly one month since Fitz and Alex's big birthday, and cut right to the details.
The Saturday after their birthday, Mark and I welcomed family and friends to our little space in the world to celebrate One Wild Year.

It was everything I thought it would be and more and nothing like I thought it would be. Isn't that how parties usually go?
The food was easy and fantastic. We leaned on local barbecue maestro Johnny Ryan for smoked chicken wings and Boston butts; pasta salad sides and coleslaw from The Fresh Market.

The dessert table was one of my favorite elements, local shop Cake Designs did both smash cakes and the large sheet cake for guests. My fabulous and favorite "cookie lady" Ellen Hamilton did the most adorable animal faces and monograms for the sugar cookies.
The Watering Hole offered bottled water, Coors Light and Jungle Juice. After all, it really has been a wild year for everyone so Jungle Juice seemed MIGHTY appropriate.
I originally stressed hardcore about this party but then ended up doing everything décor-wise super last minute. I ordered a obscene amount of inflatable animals, thanks Amazon!, and they were the main focus for the party, besides the birthday boys of course. Paper products were solid green for main course and giraffe print for dessert, also from Amazon.
At nearly midnight the Thursday before the party I was up giving myself glue gun burns so we had a wreath that matched the party, and knotting jute to make a banner for the mantle.
I am my mother's child, without question.

As a party favor, guests had their choice of lollipops and/or zoo animal shaped bubbles. "This year has really blown us away." I can't help myself, I'm a writer. 
I wondered for months how the smash cake thing would go. In fact, I was extremely rigid in NOT giving the boys cake before their birthday. I wanted that picture. You know the one, with the glee on the kid's face as they dove head first into the icing.
Well, obviously, Fitz and Alex's plans always trump mine and we ended up with so many great pictures and videos. It warmed my heart.
I mean, these kids of mine? They really have a way of making sure you forget about the 5am wakeups or the constant stress on our budget or my constant worrying over Alex.
Or the fact that I about drove my super crafty mother crazy handing her a bag of remnants from Joann's four days before the party, saying, hey, you can do the highchair banners, right?

Party details:
Invitations, menu cards, thank you cards: Shelby Berry
"Party Wares": Mantle banner, plastic ware, napkins, balloons, etc.: Amazon, Michaels, Dollar Tree
Fabric for tables and high chair banners: JoAnn's
Inflatable Animals: Amazon, Amazon, Amazon
Alligator Ring Toss: Amazon
Smash Cake, Sheet Cake: Cake Designs
Animal and Monogram cookies: Ellen Hamilton (she ships!)
Smoked Chicken Wings, Boston Butt: Johnny Ryan's
Pasta Salads, Colesaw: The Fresh Market
Candy Buffet: Party City
Zoo Animal Bubbles: Amazon

**Photographs by the talented Shelby Berry**

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