Tuesday, November 26, 2013

We're debt free! {Our yell on the Dave Ramsey Show}

When I started on this journey to debt-freedom, I knew that going to Financial Peace Plaza to yell on Dave Ramsey's show was going to be part of my celebration. Yesterday my dream was realized. Jarrod, Wesley and I went to Financial Peace Plaza outside Nashville and met Dave Ramsey. Above all else, I need to say how incredibly hospitable the staff was. Everyone we came across was funny, polite, helpful, and kind. They were helpful when I accidentally broke a Christmas tree ornament, compassionate when Wesley threw his ball all over the lobby, and very sweet by watching Wesley when we were giving our debt-free scream. Wes watched us on TV while a sweet staff member read books to him. Hospitality and the whole place smells like delicious cookies. It's a little bit like heaven.

If you follow Dave Ramsey on Instagram, perhaps you caught this gem - that's a video of us doing our debt free scream. Want to check out the whole video? Here it is!
Here are a few awesome shots I got with my phone while we were there.

I was terrified that Wesley would break a Christmas tree ornament. He didn't. But I did. They were incredibly gracious and assured me that it happens every year. Yeah, but does it usually happen before Thanksgiving?
Wesley ran all over the lobby where there was a high school class and a bunch of people... plus TV crew, videographers, and cookies. Wesley was a maniac. Besides that, it was naptime! He did great!

This verse has been my favorite and one that has shaped my life in different ways for the past 5-6 years. It came up earlier this weekend and hit me between the eyes. Then today I saw it on the wall. I know that God us using this word to change my heart.


If you've been around here for a while, you've read about our financial journey. If you're new, you can check out the post when I officially announced our debt-freedom. We got married over 4 years ago and have been feverishly paying off student loan debt ever since. I wrote this post just after our 1st wedding anniversary about how serious we were. Check out this story to learn more about why we got on this plan in the beginning.
We've worked VERY hard over the past several years. It is starting to sink in that all the money we make is now completely ours. We are currently stocking all our money in the bank for our emergency fund (and buying a new-to-us car), but we're starting to loosen the reigns a little bit. We are beginning to make 6 month, 1 year, 3 year, and 5 year goals. I'll be sharing those soon.
It might seem like we're lucky. We are, but that's not why we're out of debt. We're out of debt because we worked REALLY hard. We were on the same page, had intense focus, and believed we could do it. We planned, stuck to our budget, and didn't give up. If we can do it, anyone can do it.
I'll write more next week about what we're going to be doing next. I'll also share more pictures. We're traveling home for Thanksgiving, but I'll continue to write about this and our plans for the future. Thank you so much for being on this journey with us!
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Monday, November 25, 2013

Look out Dave Ramsey - We're Debt Free!!!

Today is a day I've been dreaming of for 6 years. A day that has been on our calendar for 4 months. We are going to see and meet Dave Ramsey to do our Debt Free Scream on his radio show. Check out when Dave Ramsey is on the radio near you - we should be on during the first hour of the show. You can also catch the show on his website, iheart radio, and by downloading the podcast.

I'll be sharing pictures soon. Suffice to say, we are beyond thrilled. It is an incredibly exciting day to be a Johnston! Feel free to follow us on instagram to see the day through our perspective! 

And just in case you're wondering what we've been up to this weekend in Nashville, check this out! 
The big picture is Wesley doing his fake laugh. He thinks it's so funny to throw his head back and laugh really hard, usually at nothing. 

The top photo is of me and Rachel Held Evans. I knew I'd love her but I was blown away. Amazing. The photo in the middle is Wes and me at this awesome restaurant called the Back Alley Diner in Nashville. He's wearing an adorable cookie monster hat. Finally, the bottom photo is Wesley playing with a magna doodle on the way out here. It kept him occupied for several hours off and on during the drive!  
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Friday, November 22, 2013

Living with one car.

Our most recent car accident resulted in a totaled vehicle. (Don't confuse this accident with the one that happened last December. Or the one that happened before my 28th birthday in Louisiana.) Because we rushed into a car last December that turned out to be a money-bleeding mistake, we decided to see if we could make it work with one car. It would save us a little bit of money on gas and insurance, and would force us to be creative.

My job consists of a great deal of travel. I drive several thousand miles a month, on average. Jarrod is in school about 45 minutes from our house two days a week and works 4 miles from our house the other days. Wesley is in school down the hall from Jarrod. How can we make this work?

I don't know, but we are!

I felt a little bit like a taxi driver dropping Jarrod at work and Wesley at school, before going to work myself. Only to do the whole thing in reverse on my way home! Because of a few scheduled family trips and a slow travel season at work, we are making it with one car.

We are saving money in areas we never expected. Besides car insurance and some gas, we are saving money because we are eating out less and shopping less. Jarrod cannot run out to get lunch at work if he wants to and that forces him to bring his lunch. I cannot stop at Target on my way home from work because I need to pick up my boys. Those little trips cost us gas, time, and waste money on silly things.

There are definitely some downsides. On the days where I need to travel far - more than 3 hours away - I rent a car. This is costly and inconvenient. Thankfully, in 3 weeks we've only had to do that once. Our days start earlier and end later because we only have one car. And Jarrod is essentially stuck at work until I can come get him.

Begin Rant.

The biggest problem we have had is in relation to the rental car. We attempted to rent a car from Enterprise. We'd rented from them in the past and always had good experiences. I booked a car for a week for a business trip. Jarrod was going to pick it up near school. A friend drove him to school and Enterprise picked him up to get the car. Because we (obviously) only use debit, he called to ensure he had everything they would need. He needed his drivers license, proof of insurance, debit card with $300 deposit, copy of our lease, and two utility bills. No big deal. Done and done. He schedules the pick-up and goes to the closest Enterprise to school. They refuse to rent him the car. Because we do not live within a 2-3 mile radius of that Enterprise and were using a debit card, they refused to rent the car. Not with an increase security deposit. Not with cash. Not with anything. Do not pass go, no car for you.

Seriously.

We are debt free, have some cash, and are more financially secure than we've ever been. Jarrod was forced to go back to school without a car. I had to rent a car, leave work early, pick it up, pay $100 more, leave the rental car in a parking lot, Jarrod took the train home from school (2 hours), I picked him up at the train station (10 miles from our house) to go get the car (after Wesley's bedtime) and go back home. We each lost at least 2 hours, many dollars, and had a huge inconvenience.

I understand policy. I get that Enterprise won't rent a car to someone with a debit card (even with 45 pieces of paper and cash money) that doesn't live within 2-3 miles of their branch. I think that's silly, but they can have whatever policy they want to. What is upsetting, inconvenient, and frustrating is that we were never made aware of this policy.

When I called to speak with the branch manager she said they just assumed we lived within 2-3 miles of the branch. "I'm an Enterprise Plus member and my address on file is over an hour from your location. Why would you assume that?" Right.

No apologies or solutions from her, only incredible disrespect. Jarrod called the Enterprise 800 number to speak with them. Again, no apologies. This is policy. We should have been told. Not being told is evidently our fault.

Thankfully, we discovered an Avis near us. It's not terribly convenient, but they will rent to us with a debit card. They take a security deposit, but do not require any other documentation.

I know many of you do not use credit and want you to be aware. Policy is different from branch to branch, but if you are trying to rent from an Enterprise, please learn from this mistake and expressly ask if you need to live in the town where you are renting.

End Rant.

Anyone shared a car? Or rented a car? Share your best (and worst!) experiences!
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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Say Cheese! {Minted Christmas Cards}

This is a sponsored post but all opinions are mine. I will be receiving credit to purchase something awesome from Minted. Again, all opinions are mine. :-) 
My husband suffered through a wardrobe discussion recently. It's no secret that he's the more fashionable one of the two of us. However, I'm the "photographer" in the family and have more of an eye for what will look good together. When we were discussion what we could wear for Christmas photos this conversation happened.

Leanne: Wesley can wear his Christmas sweater (think tan, red, and argyle). What would you like to wear?
Jarrod: I can wear my light blue sweater. (think pastel) Do you have a sweater you could wear?
Leanne: Um, no.

I took the reigns and we have a photo shoot scheduled and outfits picked out. I'm sure the photos will be awesome. Almost as important as the photos, is what we'll use them for... Christmas cards!

As a child, my parents sent out creative and interesting Christmas cards. They made them at home because there wasn't a way to print photo cards online. The expectation was set that I'd always do awesome Christmas cards. Jarrod didn't share the desire, but he has quickly gotten on board. :-)

I don't know what our pictures will look like yet, but I'm already searching for the perfect template to use. The first place I started looking was Minted. I was completely overwhelmed. I couldn't even narrow it down to a reasonable list for Jarrod to approve.

I love this one because it is so clean. We will have some red in our family photos and I think it would match nicely. This card also comes in other colors in case you won't be wearing red!

Chalkboard art is so trendy and popular. This card is awesome and I love the message!
For the past few years we have included photos or other details about our year in review. (You can check out the photo card from 2011 and the letter from 2012!) I love this interesting card! I think our highlights would include becoming debt-freeJarrod taking a new job and starting graduate school (again), and Wesley learning a million things!

This is another great highlights card! The same highlights apply, but perhaps I'd add that I walked 60 miles (again!).


Everyone loves Instagram, right? Check out this card and post your favorite photos from the year!
Minted also has some great photo cards if you had a baby this year, got married, or moved. I also found spectacular cards if you're not sending cards out until the new year!

There are many other awesome cards from Minted. If you already have your family photo (maybe you're using a vacation photo, a candid shot, or a picture of your kids!), head over to Minted to find your perfect card.

I haven't decided if I'm going to use my Minted credit for Christmas cards or Birthday invites for Wesley's 2nd birthday. I bought a groupon for Zazzle's Christmas cards a while back and planned to use that for our cards this year. Either way, I know we'll have awesome Christmas cards and fabulous invitations for Wesley's party!

What will you be doing to spread holiday cheer this year? Sending cards out early? Waiting until New Years? Saving the money and using Facebook to wish everyone a happy holidays? Or are you against holiday cheer? :-)

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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Mom Imperfect: Lip gloss edition

Last week I wrote about an imperfect moment in my life. I want to make this a regular part of this blog. Thankfully, I am overwhelmed with imperfect moments and a lot of them are incredibly funny.

A little background. I have several eos lipbalms. Wesley thinks that they are balls. He wants to hold them, throw them, and try to bounce them. It doesn't bother me at all and seems completely harmless. You can see where this is going...
(source)

A few days ago Wesley had the eos honey dew lipbalm in his hand. It was occupying him while I was putting on his shoes. He was sitting in my lap and I was tying his tennis shoes. One shoe on and I look at Wesley before putting on the other shoe. Turns out, while he was literally sitting in my lap, he took a huge bite of the lip balm.

I wish I'd gotten a picture of that. Seriously. Instead I went into freak-mom mode and cleared his mouth by shoving my fingers in there to scoop out anything I could find in there. Thankfully, because it's just lip balm, it was easy to scoop out. Wesley was pretty upset that I was taking away his honeydew melon.

I did end up snagging this picture of him post-snack. He was very interested in the iPhone and not that interested in having his picture taken.

Seriously, who literally watching their child eat chap stick? I don't blame him - the stuff smells amazing - but I am in awe that I didn't notice until he had been chomping on it for a while!

What's the latest imperfect thing you've done?
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Thursday, November 14, 2013

A World Without Cancer - the gift that keeps on giving.

This week I am writing about gifts. If you haven't entered the Diamond Candles giveaway yet, check it out! You can win a candle to use as a gift or keep for yourself! If you're looking for a new purse, bag, tote, or some organization, be sure to check out my post about Thirty One! Of course tangible gifts are wonderful. They show the people we love how much they mean to us.

This post is about intangible gifts that can be just as meaningful. Perhaps you have someone in your life that already has everything. Or maybe their life has been touched with (breast) cancer and you want to do something special. From now until December 15th I am offering you the opportunity to make my miles your miles.

As you know, I'm already signed up to walk 60 miles again next November. My teammates and I (my sister, Courtney & her husband, Philip!) are signed up to walk as well. We're committed to walking for you and those that you love who have battled or are battling (breast) cancer. You've read about how we get strength from those who have fought. We decided to make our 60 miles YOUR miles in 2014!

This holiday season you can buy a mile for $40. We will walk those steps thinking about you, thanking God for you, and thinking about those special people you love who are cancer warriors. In return, we will make a hand-written note to someone you want to honor with this mile.

Are you interested in adopting a mile? Simply make a $40 donation to me, Courtney, or Philip between now and December 15th. In the "personal note" section, please note who you would like us to walk for. We will be in touch to get their address. Think about who in your life would like the gift of being part of the fight against (breast) cancer.
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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Christmas Tie T-shirt {For sale}

Looking for a gift for a little one in your life? Or have a little one who needs a festive tie-shirt for the holidays? Check this out! 

My name is Leanne and I love tie-shirts. Wesley wears them all the time. I make them whenever I had a little extra fabric. He's had them for 4th of July, family photos, the 3-day, and Christmas.


He wears them to church a lot and always gets compliments. Boys clothes can be cute too and this is a great way to transform a regular t-shirt into something fancy.
Last week on Facebook I shared the tutorial for a turkey t-shirt and encouraged folks to make their own. I also offered to make and sell some for people. I didn't think anyone would take me up on it, but ended up making 9 t-shirts! (Mostly for adults...) So, I thought I'd offer again but this time with Christmas tie-shirts.

Below are the Christmas tie fabric options.

Polka dots

Stripes
Orders placed by December 1st will be shipped by December 7th. Rush orders are available for an extra charge. Later orders are also accepted. Please indicate when you'd like the shirt on the order form.

The order form will direct you to choose the color (black, white, or red) and the size (onesie, toddler, children, and adult). Children's sizes are $15 and adults are $18. Shipping and expedited orders will cost extra. You can add long sleeves, fitted shirts, or additional colors for an additional cost as well.

If you have any questions, leave a comment or e-mail me at cookinwiththejohnstons(at)gmail(dot)com.

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Thirty-One Gifts {The perfect holiday gift}

I'm not selling Thirty-One and I am not being compensated for this post. All opinions are completely mine. However, I have entered a challenge and am trying to win Thirty-One products! You can help by placing an order by November 28th!  
It's day 2 of gift giving posts! If you haven't entered the giveaway for Diamond Candles, be sure to do that soon! Today is all about Thirty-One and you can help me win free stuff! Interested in placing an order? Just shoot me an e-mail by November 28th and I'll get it taken care of for you!

Have you heard about Thirty-One? I heard about them a few years ago from my awesome friend. She had a great purse that had a million pockets. I LOVE pockets. There's nothing like an organized bag to really get me going! When we moved to this area I met a fabulous friend who sells Thirty-One. About a month ago I went to my first party. I don't know that I've ever seen so impressed!

Thirty-One makes fabulous totes, organizational items, and beautiful purses. The purses that I'm coveting include the Vary You Versatile bag (seriously, gym bag and diaper bag? YES!), Suite Cross N Fold, and the Organizing Shoulder Bag (you had me at Organizing!) 
Source.
The section of Target that gets me the most is the office section. I adore the organizational items - folders and folders with folders! Thirty-One takes awesome organization to the next level! I mean seriously, don't you need the Hang-Up Home Organizer?

Of course organization happens in the garage, closet, and car too. I've heard such great things about the Utility Totes.
Source.
This one would look great at the top of my closet organizing all of my 3-day stuff. I've heard these are also fabulous for organizing your car, carrying towels to the beach or pool, and holding all of your sports items in the garage... I'm thinking it might work well to corral all of Wesley's balls littering our house!

Of course these items weren't quite in my budget at the party, but that doesn't mean I left empty handed! I left the party with a receipt for this new wristlet.
Source.
It has a small change pocket, a larger pocket perfect for my iPhone, a plastic pocket for my nametag, and just enough room for recipes, cash, and my cards. It is absolutely everything I was looking for. It can fit everything that I need and I haven't lost my nametag once since switching to this wallet. It makes switching purses super easy. I switch purses several times a week - going from a huge laptop bag to a small purse. But my wristlet is always hung by the door and goes quickly into my purse. 

Other items that I considered adding to my order were the Thermal Tote, Uptown Jewelry bag (for the back seat - hang it over the driver's seat, add toys, snacks, and some kind of screen and you have an instant babysitter for long car trips!), and the Your Way Rectangle. I really need something to help organize my fabric scraps and think those little boxes would be perfect. And they are customizable! 

Source

Have you found something you want yet? Seriously, this stuff is awesome and very reasonable. And if you order by November 28th it will arrive for Christmas! Check out the whole Thirty-One catalog. Send me an e-mail at cookinwiththejohnstons(at)gmail(dot)com to place your order. Have questions? Leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail. Order by November 28th to help me win free stuff! 

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Monday, November 11, 2013

Diamond Candle Review and Giveaway

This giveaway is closed. The winner is Melaney Ann! Please contact me by Friday, the 22nd to collect your code!
Every day this week I'm going to have a post for you about gifts. I'm starting off with something awesome - a giveaway! That's the best way to give gifts - free gifts! Check out Diamond Candles and don't forget to enter!

A few months ago I was contacted by Katelynn at Diamond Candles. I've never heard of Diamond Candles and let the e-mail slip down to the bottom of my e-mail box. We're not huge candle people, so I didn't think much of it. Then I decided to check out the website and fell in love! Not only are the candles all-natural and soy, but they have the best scents!

My husband LOVES candles and after one of our most recent disagreement, I decided to order vanilla cream and test out these candles. His favorite scent is vanilla and I thought he'd enjoy the sentiment. ;-)  The day it arrived in the mail, he opened it up and lit it before I could even get pictures taken! Needless to say, he loved it.

The scent is light, but did a great job of masking the fried sweet potato scent that he created. :-) It fills our entire kitchen and smells really delightful.

I got vanilla cream because vanilla is Jarrod's favorite scent. However, if I'd picked, I probably would have gone with caramel apple cider or pumpkin chai for the fall, or sweety pea or cupcake for my love of all things sweet. For now, I'm loving vanilla cream!

As the weather is turning a little bit cooler (It's not 3 digits anymore, it's just 2!) and feels a little more like fall. Lighting candles makes it feel a little more cozy in our house. And I love that the candle is all natural so I don't need to worry about my little one breathing in any toxins.

If all this wasn't enough, there's a special surprise in each candle! The candles all come with a fun ring inside the candle. Burn it down a little and you'll see a foil and plastic-wrapped ring ready for you to enjoy! I think I was most excited about this discovery. Unfortunately, my ring wasn't really my style. But it was still really fun to find! I think my ring was probably just $10, but you could find one worth up to $5,000!

You can check out more about Diamond Candles on their facebook page. If you're looking for Christmas gifts, you should definitely check out Diamond Candles! I think the Christmas Tree, cinnamon pinecone, or gingerbread latte candle would make fabulous teacher gifts!

Today is your lucky day because one fabulous What's Cookin' with the Johnstons reader is going to win their very own Diamond Ring Candle! All you need to do is follow the steps on the form below!

What candle would you choose?

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Friday, November 8, 2013

Mom Imperfect.

A few weeks ago a friend posted a Facebook status about how stressful Halloween is for moms because everyone else makes it look perfect. Because of Pinterest and social media, it looks like everyone else has it all together. She posted how things were really going at her house and it was inspiring to me. I posted how things were really going at our house.
Wesley threw his cereal bowl because I made him drink more milk before getting more cheerios. He was very angry, which is okay, but throwing is not. Breakfast was immediately over. He ran around the house singing and playing, which was very cute, but completely ignored my requests to get his shoes on for school. We arrived at school and he decided it was lunch time. And SCREAMED. His teacher told him she wanted a better day than yesterday...because yesterday he was "busy" which is teacher for "didn't listen." He screamed and screamed - no amount of distraction was working. I tried to talk to him calmly without success. So I left my screaming child in the arms of another mama, apologizing profusely for his behavior...today and yesterday. He may have a homemade Halloween costume, but things are far from perfect! 
I think sharing stories like this can be healing. The comments that I received that day were of solidarity. We see perfect pictures and hear only the best stories about other families. Comparing the best of someone else to the worst in ourselves is painful and debilitating...and ultimately completely unfair.

For this reason, I want to start sharing every week or so a great mom fail story with you. I'd like to call it Mom Imperfect. I'll never be a perfect mom and am completely comfortable with sharing my imperfections. I think if we all shared a little more of our imperfections the world would be a better place.

My first story is epic. While it was happening it was just too awful to do anything but laugh...

How we ended up here really isn't important, but it was 3pm on a Tuesday and Jarrod, Wesley and I are in the waiting room of CareNow. None of us were sick, appeared to be sick, or feeling sick. Then I smelled something...Something awful...

Wesley pooped. And it was bad. He was already in his 3rd outfit of the day, corduroy overalls. I looked at Jarrod with panic. We'd come straight from school and only had his school bag, not his diaper bag. We literally had nothing with us at all. We asked the front desk if there was any chance they had diapers - preferably a size 4. Nope. Definitely not.

So I left Jarrod and the smelly kid in the waiting room and ran to Target across the street. I purchased a small box of diapers and wipes. I booked it back to CareNow. Jarrod and Wesley were already in a room. Awesome...

This is where things get a little insane. The nurse is asking Jarrod questions. Does your family have a history of heart disease, cancer, explosive poop, or hand-foot-mouth disease? While he is answering, I am surveying the situation. Poop is literally everywhere. I am wiping poop off of Wesley's legs and trying to maintain my composure for the nurse. Eventually I get the dirty diaper off of Wesley and he's clean enough for a new one. But there is poop all over his overalls. Those come off and I notice there is also poop on his shirt. Off that comes as well. Wipe-wipe-wipe.

WTF.

We have no clothes. We haven't seen the doctor yet. We smell like poop.

Jarrod remembers a t-shirt in the car. He runs to grab it while I continue to clean poop. I haven't seen a situation like this in a very long time. Jarrod is back and I've already turned the paper on the exam table. Poop everywhere.


Wesley is happy as a clam in his socks and chuck taylors. We get a clean t-shirt on him and I put the poop shirt in my purse. Winning.
By the time the doctor came in, we have the poop mostly contained to my purse and the trash can. Wesley was happily watching Dinosaur Train in Jarrod's lap and we'd forgotten he wasn't wearing pants. The doctor took one look at Wesley and knew he wasn't sick. We got the note we needed and we were back in business.

Of course, not without sitting in the waiting room for 30 minutes without pants. Just Wesley. Jarrod and I were both fully clothed. :-)
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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Recovery from 60 miles

One question that I get a lot after the 3-day for the Cure is what recovery is like. I've walked 60 miles in 3 days seven times (well, 6 times. I only walked 54 miles when I was pregnant.) I feel prepared to answer this question.

The first thing that is important about recovery is how well I've trained. The years that I've been very well trained, walking 30-40 miles a week regularly leading up to the event and walking 10+ miles a day at least two days in a row, recovery is much easier than years where I don't. This year I didn't train like I have in years past, but I'm still doing alright.

I like to view the 3-day as 5 days instead. The event starts with Day Zero. I watch what I eat - trying to eat healthy and filling foods while also drinking a great deal of water. I also try to relax in the evening of day zero in hopes of getting deep sleep. I know I won't get that much sleep, but I know deep sleep is important.

Days 1-3 are hard. I drink lots of water, try to sleep, and take care of myself as much as I can. Sunscreen is important, as well as getting enough salty snacks to maintain hydration. I eat good food, drink lots of water, and stretch. All of this helps with recovery.

Day 4 is hard. Because of this, I always try take the Monday after the 3-day off from work. I do my best to stay home all day. I get as much sleep as possible (which isn't as easy with a toddler!) and try to rest all day long. Here are a few important things to consider on day 4:

  • Move! - Every 30-45 minutes or so I get off the couch and get moving. I clean the house, do laundry, and walk around. 
  • Drink lots of water. - Dehydration is a big deal. Drinking water can help reduce muscle soreness and help with recovery. 
  • Eat healthy food. - It's hard to have healthy options available after being gone for the weekend, but try to have some healthy, high protein food options available. I'm typically hungry all day long and try to eat healthy snacks throughout the day. 
  • Take your time - I find that the hardest part of day 4 is acclimating to life again. After an intense and emotionally involved weekend, getting back into life is really hard. For 3 full days people have been cheering for me and suddenly no one cares that I walked 60 miles. Thankfully, I have a remarkable husband who understands why I walk. He makes dinner for me, takes care of me, and takes his job as supporter very seriously! 
One of the biggest things that I forget each year is how hard it is to think again. For 3 days I've put all of my energy on putting one foot in front of the other. I don't need to worry about cooking, cleaning, or caring for my family. I don't need to keep track of anything, drive anywhere, or do much of anything other than walk. This makes it hard to focus on life on day 4. 

On day 4 in 2013 I forgot an address. This address is one that I know by heart. I just completely forgot it. I felt like an idiot, but I just could not get my brain to work properly. It's best to limit deep thinking on day 4. And potentially days 5, 6, and 7... :-)

This has just been my experience on recovery after the 3-day. What are your experiences recovering from an incredibly physically or emotionally trying event?
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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

DFW 3-day for the Cure 2013

About 24 hours ago I completed my 7th 3-day for the Cure event in 6 years. Each year I walk 60 miles over the course of 3 days in order to raise funds and awareness for breast cancer and Susan G. Komen for the Cure. You can read about my first walk, Courtney's first walk, the year I walked in Atlanta and DFW, the year I walked pregnant, and the year I walked while breast feeding.

This year was just as incredible as the last. It was awesome because Courtney and I recruited our friend Susan to walk with us this year. Susan is our friend from Louisiana and she raised the necessary funds in record time! We were excited to have her with us...especially because it's always exciting to see the 3-day through new eyes!

Day 0
Let's start from the beginning. The 3-day always begins a little early around here. This year I was carrying a flag at opening and closing ceremonies so I went to rehearsal on Thursday afternoon. Going to the ceremony site is so exciting! Everything is pink and it reminds me of how wonderful this weekend is! I feel like I'm with my people. I practiced carrying my flag and raced over to the airport to pick up Susan!

The day before the 3-day began was also halloween, so we took a little break from all things pink and went trick-or-treating with Wesley. Courtney and Philip arrived late that evening, so before they arrived we packed up and relaxed. Once they arrived, we all went straight to bed. Friday comes very early!

Day 1
The alarms started going off all around my house beginning at 4:30am. We packed the car and began the drive to opening ceremony! It was dark, cold, and early, but we were excited! We arrived early and hung out in the pink city.
Wesley loved seeing all of the people. He was such a champ! We also tried out his new backpack buddy. We got it for him specifically for the 3-day because of the large crowds and busy streets. Thankfully, he thought the puppy was awesome!
Aunt Courtney captured some beautiful photos of my sweet little man! He played around with family while I made my way to the stage. The ceremony is about to begin!
My fabulous sorority sister captured this awesome photo of me speaking at opening ceremony. It was an incredible experience! Opening ceremony is always moving, but this year was especially special. There were 6 speakers given an opportunity to share their own breast cancer story. There were a lot of tears, but it was empowering to know we were about to take to the streets and join the fight!

I met up with Courtney and Susan and we started walking! It was a very chilly morning but we were excited! We were near the front of the pack and walked at a decent pace. We talked, shared, cried and walked! We introduced Susan to graham cracker peanut butter sandwiches, visited the porta potty, and eventually made it to lunch! 10 miles down on day 1 and still feeling great! We had lunch in a beautiful park, rested our feet, and shared some time with Jarrod, Philip, and Wesley. They were with us each step of the way!

Following lunch, we kept walking! The second half of the day was tough, but we made it. Our legs started hurting more, there were less stops than the morning, but the route was beautiful and the weather was perfect! We were in the sun for most of the afternoon, but it wasn't too hot. We continued walking.

There was a lot of laughter before making it to our tent city! We arrived to camp sometime around 3:30pm. Someone earlier in the day had suggested we see the chiropractors at the medical tent. Fabulous idea! My hip was hurting a lot and seeing a chiropractor was great. I left the tent feeling much more human. After that, we shared dinner. It was delicious! We ate pasta, mac & cheese, salad, and dessert. Following dinner, Philip helped Susan and I set up our tent and get settled before taking Courtney back to the hotel. Once we were settled, we got our stuff together and took showers. A hot shower was awesome! Clean and fed, Susan and I were ready for bed! It was only 6pm, so we decided to hit up the Remembrance Tent.
The Remembrance Tent is a beautiful place where you can celebrate former walkers and crew members who have lost their battle with breast cancer. I cried while looking at pictures of women, many who died in their 30s. I cried at Bridget's beautiful wedding picture. She was born in 1983. 
As we left the Remembrance Tent, the final walker was just arriving to camp! We celebrated with the final walkers, checked out some of the shops, and went to bed! I took a Tylenol PM, put my ear plugs in, and was in bed by 7:30pm. My hip pain kept me from falling to sleep, but eventually I was out! We woke at 2am to go to the bathroom, but went right back to sleep! Alarms started going off at 6am...And day 2 begins!

Day 2
We knew it would be cold at camp, but it was very cold! We bundled up and went to breakfast! We had bacon, sausage, eggs, and pastries for breakfast. It definitely helped me warm up. After breakfast, cleaning up, and meeting up with Courtney (who was warm, rested, and clean!), we went to wait in line for the route to open! We were very early, so we got right to the front of the line. While we waited, we made friends and shared stories. We were sore from the day before. I was especially scared of my sore hip. But we were ready to tackle day 2!

We walked fast at the beginning of the day because it was cold. Walking fast helped us stay warm. Before long we were at the first cheering station of the day. It was awesome to see our family.
Cheering stations are one of my favorite parts of the walk. Kids, dogs, and people old and young cheer for us. They remind us why we walk - for mothers, sisters, grandmothers, and friends. I saw a sign that said, "Thank you for walking for my mom." I saw a woman wearing a shirt that said, "I am here because of you." 
On day 2 there were two cheering stations back to back. It was a great morning! Before long, we made it to lunch and were 11 miles in! 33 miles down with 27 miles to go is a great place to be. We saw family at lunch, changed our socks, and were off again. We knew the second half of day 2 would be rough. We were really hurting and were struggling to make it through. We were still very close to the front of the pack and that gave us the ability to slow down a lot. We kept going, but it was hard.

Because there weren't any cheering stations, we relied on people cheering on their own. Honks, thank yous from crew, and random folks on the route really made it possible for us to keep going. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, which also helped. We listened to some music to keep ourselves motivated as well. Candy on the route was also helpful. I ate a lot of vanilla tootsie rolls!

Finally we were at camp! We made it around 3pm. Susan and I decided to crash at the hotel with Courtney and Philip, which was also a great motivator! We made it back to camp in time to see the chiropractor tent again. After getting adjusted and meeting up with Susan (she was about 10 minutes behind us) we got ready for dinner. I had the vegetarian option of mexican veggies with roasted potatoes and the most delicious chocolate chip cookie bar. Incredible.

After dinner, Philip helped us pack up our things, tear down the tent, and head to the car. We were moving incredibly slow. My hip was so sore, but I was holding it together. Courtney and Susan were in rough shape too - their feet were blistered and swollen. But we made it back to the hotel to rest. By 7:30pm I was clean and comfy in bed!

We got an "extra hour" this night, which really just meant that it was easier to get up with the 4:45am alarm!

Day 3
We were very sore, but knew it was going to be a great day. Philip brought us back to camp and we were in line for the buses by 6am. The first bus arrived at 7am and we were on our way! While we waited, we ate breakfast and made new friends. We were the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th people on the bus to the start of the route.

After the 15 minute bus ride down the street, we waited in line for the route to open. It opened at 7:30am and we were on our way! It was very cold, but we made it! We could see a light at the end of the tunnel.

The route today took us through beautiful and ritzy neighborhoods at the first part of the day. Very few people were out, so we occupied ourselves with stories. We were all in pretty serious pain, but determined to make it through the day. We focused on the next stop, rather than the mileage until the end. 2.1 miles? I can do that!

We limped, hobbled, and laughed our way through fancy neighborhoods before making it to a more urban area of Dallas. Lunch seemed incredibly far away and it felt like it took us forever to get there. I kept thinking about my loved ones who battled cancer. They couldn't quit. They kept going even when it was hard. They continued fighting even when they couldn't see the end. I kept walking, just putting one foot in front of the other.

Finally, we made it to lunch. We stopped to rest our feet, feed our bellies, and focus on the end. We were just 4 miles from the end with a few stops in between. We can do this!

The last few miles we focused on just putting one foot in front of the other. We visualized walking into the closing ceremony site and being down. We put all of our energy on finishing! And finally, we were done.

Once we made it, we cried, got our t-shirts, and took our final picture together. Then we sat down, took our shoes off, and rested. We were beat! After resting, we began cheering other people in. Because we were back to early, we had plenty of time to rest and watch people walk in at the end. It was awesome.

At 3:30pm or so it was time for me to go to the stage for closing ceremony. I was a little sad that I wouldn't be able to walk in with my friends, but I was excited to participate in closing ceremony. It was nice to catch up with my fellow flag holders and hear how their weekend was!

Closing ceremony was gorgeous and incredibly moving. Many folks had their loved ones join them on stage. I opted not to have Wesley join me. Jarrod had a big meeting that he couldn't miss and I didn't want to manage Wesley alone back stage. But anyway, it was gorgeous. I sobbed. I can't believe we did it again.

Together we raised $3.3 million dollars for Susan G. Komen for the Cure!
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Monday, November 4, 2013

A Bacon Blanket for Thanksgiving Turkey

I'm planning for Thanksgiving this year. We're going out of town before Thanksgiving, but will be back in time for the big day. Regardless of where we go, what we bring, and who is there, we will have all the makings for a full Thanksgiving meal at our house during the month of November. This is the turkey that I made last year and it was awesome. Seriously. People are still talking about it.

The best part of this turkey is the gravy. It's bacon infused gravy. It's incredible. This turkey was one of the best I've ever had. I have made it several times since last Thanksgiving and it's been incredible every time.

If you're planning for Thanksgiving, add this to your menu. You won't regret it!

This post originally appeared on November 19, 2011.

It's just a few days before Thanksgiving and this recipe is too good not to share again. I made this turkey last year and made it again for our young adult Thanksgiving last week. The turkey was incredible. But even better than that, the gravy and turkey stock was equally incredible. Not only did we enjoy eating the turkey for our meal, but the leftover turkey, gravy, and stock enhanced several other dishes as well. And we all know us Johnstons think bacon makes everything better, so this recipe can't be beat.

I learned a few things from my turkey experience last year.
  1. We began defrosting the turkey immediately. It never went to the freezer in our house. It went straight from the store into the fridge. It was in there about 4 days and was completely defrosted when I got it out to prepare.
  2. Slather the bacon butter with a spatula not your hands. Unless you want yours hands to smell like bacon all day...which I do... 
  3. Try to make the bacon weave attractive. This year I pinned down the bacon with tooth picks. I looked for baker's twine at Home Goods (they had it and I didn't get it, got home and kicked myself for 3 days, went back and it was gone...) without success.
Here's how it all worked this year...

Clean the defrosted turkey and remove the giblets. Clean and dry the turkey. A dry turkey will be crisp and delicious! Place the turkey on a roasting pan. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and put the roasting pan on the baking sheet. (We didn't have a roasting pan largest enough for this turkey so instead I put a silpat inside of a glass casserole dish.)

While the turkey dries, prepare the bacon butter. Blend or process 2 pieces of bacon into 4 tablespoons of softened butter. Add 1 teaspoon of poultry seasoning and 1 teaspoon of salt.

Gently pull the turkey skin away from the breast. Try not to tear the skin. Rub most of the bacon butter under the skin. Pat the skin back down. You've created a bacon butter, turkey skin, turkey breast sandwich. YUM!

With the remaining butter, cover the thighs and legs of the turkey.
Once your turkey is covered in buttery, bacon deliciousness, it's time for veggies! I used celery, carrots, onions, and rosemary. I cut the onion into eighths and placed the pieces in and around the turkey. Then I cut the celery and carrots into sticks and did the same thing. I took 4 large sprigs of rosemary and shoved them in the body of the turkey.
Now it's time to add more bacon. Take the rest of the bacon and weave it on the turkey to completely cover the turkey. The Runaway Spoon makes it look absolutely gorgeous. My turkey aspires to be this turkey, but can't quite live up to the expectation. But really, as much as I'd love for my turkey to be gorgeous, she's covered in bacon, which makes her fantastic. :-) I used toothpicks to keep the bacon in place and it seemed to work well. I didn't use many and tried to remember where they were so I could remove all of them when the turkey came out of the oven.

At this point, you're turkey is ready for baking! Put the turkey in a preheated oven at 450 degrees for 30 minutes. Then turn the oven down to 375 and continue baking. The turkey is done when it reaches 165 degrees. For our 18 pounder, this took about 3 hours.

18 pound turkey, defrosted
4 tablespoons of butter
4 sprigs of rosemary
1 teaspoon of poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon of salt
1 pound of bacon, divided
1 onion
2-3 stalks of celery
2-3 carrots

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees while you clean and dry the turkey. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, place the turkey on a roasting rack and place that on the baking sheet. Chop veggies to prepare for the turkey. Prepare the butter by chopping in 2 pieces of bacon and seasonings. Gently put the butter between the skin and flesh of the turkey.

Layer the bacon on the turkey in a basket-weave. Secure with kitchen twine or toothpicks. Fill the cavity with veggies and herbs.

Bake at 450 for 30 minutes and reduce temperature to 375. Bake until the internal temperature is 165 degrees. Allow the turkey to rest before carving and serving.

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