Tuesday, December 22, 2009

It's Beginning to Look a lot like Christmas

And how, you might ask, can I tell that it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas? By my expanding waistline, naturally! :-) I've got cookies, gift basket goodies, candy, hot chocolate and other miscellaneous fattening items all over my counter. And I'm home all day, which means that I sit and stare at them ALL DAY!

Since I'm already packing on the pounds, a day making homemade chocolates at Grandma Jones' house seemed appropriate. The Johnson girls ventured to Grandma's house to try our hand at making fondant and caramels for dipping. Grandma Jones is an expert and I think it must drive her crazy to watch us fumble our way through the recipes. It takes a lot of praying...as Camille is demonstrating below. Got to get the temperature just right!
Ash is lookin' good making some caramel. It tasted fabulous!

The dipping part is pretty messy. Camille and Emilee make it look easy!

And here is our fearless leader. I must say that the chocolates all turned out really well. They are sitting in a pretty tin on my counter and I have a staring contest with them every day. They usually win...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thanksgiving, Missionaries and Soldiers

We had a great Thanksgiving dinner with the Johnson clan - I even tried some sweet potatoes and liked them! I did get up at 5:00 a.m. on Black Friday to go shopping. I was home and back in bed by 10:00 a.m. On Saturday, the Hollingsworth side of my family came to Idaho Falls for my cousin Cade's mission homecoming. He has been serving a mission for our church in Argentina for the past two years. They called him Elder Hollywood because the people in Argentina couldn't pronouce his name. The funny thing is...Cade's personality totally fits the "Hollywood" title. He is larger than life and it is so nice to have him home! Cade is pictured below (with the glasses) along with some more of my cousins.

Cute girls - this is Jordan and Laken. Jordan and the rest of her family (plus my parents) stayed at our house on Saturday night. We had 10 people sleeping in our tiny two-bedroom duplex!

Whitney and Jason are expecting a baby on Dec. 25th. We are so excited for them!!

This is Hudson and Channing. Hudson is one of the happiest babies I've ever met - he is a cutie!

In addition to celebrating Cade's homecoming, we also got together to see my Uncle Guy who has been serving in Iraq for the past six months. Guy got to come home for his two-week leave so that he could see Cade.
It was very enlightening to be able to hear some of Guy's stories from Iraq. He has seen a lot of horrible stuff - he couldn't give us many details because most of it is still classified. Guy is on his way back to Iraq for another four months (minimum). I can certainly see first-hand what a sacrifice it is for his family to have him gone. My Aunt Christine said she wasn't even in the mood to put up her Christmas tree - maybe next year. Thankfully some nice girls from her ward (church) came over and put up the decorations for her.
In addition to serving as a colonel in the army, Guy was recently set apart as the Area President for Iraq (similar to a Stake President). This is the first time that the Priesthood has been formally organized in Iraq since the time of Daniel. Guy is going to call some counselors upon his return to Iraq. He says that the calls have to be issued via Skype since it's too dangerous to move about freely and try to contact someone in person. Pretty amazing stuff!
I just want to take a moment to thank all of the military personnel who are serving our country right now and I would like to thank their families for the sacrifice they are making as well. What brave men and women!!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Mediterranean Cruise

One dream that I've had for quite some time is to have the opportunity to go on a Mediterranean cruise. So Cory and I decided to grab the bull by the horns and take the plunge for our one-year anniversary. We booked the trip back in February and didn't really get too excited because we just knew that something was going to happen to prevent us from going. The cruise was relatively inexpensive since the travel industry is in the tank. And we paid $75 extra (per person) for insurance on the cruise in case we had to cancel for any reason. We used my airline miles for our airplane tickets, so we didn't spend much there (and no big loss if we had to cancel and re-deposit the miles in my account). And then these last few weeks, I just knew that one of us was going to get the Swine Flu and that would prevent us from going.

But October 29th came around and we found ourselves boarding a plane for Europe. I am very thankful for the opportunity that we had to go. It's been a tough year at work and half of my team lost their jobs. There's been a lot of uncertainty and fear. We feel very blessed that we both still have jobs. This was a much-needed get-away!

As you probably guessed, this is a picture of the Chicago skyline. We had a six-hour layover in Chicago so we took the "L" downtown to meet up with my cousin, Hannah, for lunch. I'm so glad she had time to squeeze us in!

After a 7 1/2 hour flight, we landed in Brussels, Belgium. We had another long layover so we took the train downtown so we could spend some time exploring Brussels. This is the Grand Place, which is considered to be one of the most picturesque squares in Europe.

Here we are in front of a famous statue in Brussels - the Manneken Pis.

My wonderful friend, Christiane, drove all the way from Cologne to meet us in Brussels. Here she is with Cory. Of course we had to have some Belgian waffles while in Belgium. Christiane also brought us a ton of FABULOUS chocolate from Germany! Do you know why the European chocolate is so much better than the chocolate you can get in the U.S.? It's because the cocoa concentration is so much higher in the European chocolate (like 50 - 70% vs. the 5% we have in the States).

Our cruise ship departed from Venice, Italy. We had a day to spend in Venice before our cruise and one day after our cruise. Of course we had to take a gondola ride while we were in Venice.

This is the Grand Canal in Venice. We are taking this picture from the Rialto Bridge.

I looooove Italian ice cream (gelato). I couldn't get enough of it while we were in Italy!!

This is St. Mark's Basilica in Venice. Next to the Basilica is the Doge's Palace. We took the secret itinerary tour of the palace and we got to see the room where Casanova made his escape from the palace.
Our first stop on the cruise was Croatia. We visited the town of Dubrovnik. So pretty!
We ate lunch at a quaint restaurant by the ocean. Cory really was excited about the lunch...
Croatia is the home of the cravat (tie). The women used to tie a scarf / handkerchief on the arm or around the neck of their husbands / boyfriends who were going off to fight in the Thirty Years' War. The French loved the fashion statement and it soon evolved into the tie that we know today. We did buy a tie for Cory in Croatia (not the one pictured here).

Our next stop was Corfu - one of the Greek islands. We went to Paleokastritsa, which is considered to be one of the loveliest spots on the coastline of Corfu. We sure thought it was pretty!

Anyone who knows me will tell you that my favorite type of food is Mediterranean food. I was so exited to try some of the local cuisine. Here we tried some bruschetta and tzatziki. Yum!!

Next stop: Athens. It rained almost the entire time we were in Athens. The rain did stop long enough for us to take some pictures of the Parthenon. It was truly amazing to think that we were walking where Plato and Socrates used to walk.

We then sailed to Turkey and stopped to do some touring in Ephesus. This is the Virgin Mary's house. It is believed that she spent her last days on earth in Ephesus with St. John (remember that Jesus, when He was dying on the cross, asked John to take care of His mother).

We got some little vases to fill up with water from the fountain / well at Mary's house. I am happy to report that the vase and the water made it home safely.
Next we visited the city of Ephesus. This ancient city was built in the 2nd century BC. It was the second largest city in the Roman empire. This is the library. The brothel was right across the street from the library. They built an underground tunnel from the library to the brothel. Husbands would tell their wives that they were going to the library - and then they would sneak over to the brothel. Scoundrels!

These are public toilets (for men) in Ephesus. Men would come here to visit and catch up on local gossip. There was a small stream of water running in front of the toilets. They would bring a sponge to dip in the water and clean themselves off. Those who were too lazy would put their sponge on the end of a stick so they wouldn't have to bend over. They also imported exotic flowers from Africa to cover up the smell. Cozy, huh?

Our last stop on the cruise was the island of Crete (Greece). While there, we visited the Palace of Knossos. This palace is thought to have been built by the ancient Minoans, who created the first modern city (i.e. they moved out of caves and into houses). The palace was originally built in 2000 BC.

I had to try a gyro while in Greece!

We had beautiful weather in Crete. And the water was so blue! We were sunbathing on the deck of the cruise ship as we sailed away from Crete.

On our way home, we stopped in London. We visited the Palace of Westminster. And of course, we snapped a picture of Big Ben.





We also visited Buckingham Palace.


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I don't know why I couldn't move these videos up where they belonged (in chronological order). This video was taken in Turkey. We got to watch this woman weave a rug. They actually tie knots really fast to make the rug. The more knots they tie in one square inch, the higher quality of rug. We did purchase a rug in Turkey. It is being shipped to us and will take 6-8 weeks before it gets here (just in time for Christmas). I'll post pictures once I get it.


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This video was taken as we were pulling back into Venice. The city is truly beautiful. Hopefully this will give you an idea of the buildings that we saw along the Grand Canal.
If you would like to see all of our pictures, you can access them on my online gallery at http://www.kodakgallery.com/gallery/creativeapps/slideShow/Main.jsp?token=757452135805:2058076801&facebook=true&sourceId=984136008703. If that link doesn't work, you can send me an email and I'll send you a link.

Monday, October 12, 2009

RZR, Rutabaga's and Tap Dogs

October 10th insists on rolling around each year. Which means that I have to grow one year older. I've always told Cory that if he's going to send flowers, I would prefer that he do it when I'm not expecting it (i.e. NOT for Valentine's day, etc.). So I received 100 miniature roses on Oct. 9th. That was definitely a surprise! And Cory so graciously reminded me, first thing in the morning, that I am getting old and that I will always be older than him.

I had hoped to be able to spend the day in the mountains looking at all the pretty Fall leaves. This is what we saw instead. I was sorely disappointed. I did get to see some pretty leaves on our drive home from Grey's River though.

We had dinner at one of the few nice restaurants in Idaho Falls: Rutabaga's. Yum! Jared and Camille joined us for dinner. And Camille gave me some of these adorable cookies. Amazing! And they taste pretty yummy too.
After dinner, I made Cory attend a performance at a local theater here in town. I have to cash in on these opportunities when I can because under normal circumstances, he would rather die than go to a musical/play/ballet, etc. :-) You can't really expect much from the arts program here, but it was a decent show and something different for us to do.
Thank you for all of the phone calls, emails, cards and visits that made this birthday great for me!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Pumpkin Pancakes and Caramel Syrup

Since we didn't have to go to church today, I actually had time to make a nice breakfast. My sister-in-law, Camille, posted a great recipe on her blog for pumpkin pancakes with caramel syrup. Check out Jared & Camille's blog in my links below if you would like the recipe. They were to-die-for good!!! I've been anxious to try them for a couple of weeks now but I couldn't find a can of pumpkin in ANY of the grocery stores. I finally asked my friendly local Albertson's grocer what the heck was going on. They told me that the pumpkin manufactures were actually out of pumpkin - I guess there was a shortage. I'm not sure if there is still a shortage, but you might want to stock up now for the upcoming holiday season...

We are now enjoying my most favorite season of the year. I don't like the fact that winter comes after fall, but I'm just trying to block that out for now. Fall means that it's time to watch football while snuggled up in a blanket on the couch. But last weekend we ventured down to Provo to watch the Cougars play against Colorado.




I got to sit next to the cutest Cougar fans at the game. Ayla and Kaitlyn were more concerned about whether or not the players got hurt and watching Cosmo (the mascot) perform than they were about watching the game. But they cheered at the right time and even yelled at the players every once in awhile when BYU made a less-than-stellar play. I asked Cory if he wanted to buy a BYU t-shirt and he said he would rather burn. Guess we need to try to take in an Aggies game this season too...
Happy Fall Y'All!!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Moab

Our adventure for this past weekend: 4-wheeling in Moab. We had some fabulous tour guides to show us around. Layne and Ilene have been to Moab several times. We asked them to show us some of the fun trails and they planned a perfect weekend. Here the dazzling duo is trying out the RZR. I think Layne might put that on his Christmas wish list this year.

Here we are just starting out for the day. Cory made this trail look like a cake-walk.

You can't really tell from this picture, but we are almost completely vertical. Ahg!!! As you can see, I was holding on for dear life.

We also took some time to visit Arches National Park, which is just outside of Moab. We hiked for a while to get to the Delicate Arch (this is the arch that is pictured on some of the Utah license plates). It was well worth the hike - the view was spectacular!


Layne and Ilene knew all of the fun detours so that we could play. Again, you can't really tell from this picture, but this hill is straight up. We went up and around and came down the hill (which was quite the rush) but then Layne challenged Cory to see how far he could make it up the hill in the RZR. Apparently no one ever makes it up the hill, but they have contests to see how far they can go. Here is Cory's attempt.

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There were several moments throughout the trip where I thought that Cory was going to fall off a cliff. I think this particular hill is called "The Escalato" or "The Escalator." Either way, Cory was determined to make it down. And he did. Barely! We thought that once he made it down the hill, we would be able to take a trail and go out and around and meet up with Layne and Ilene. Not so. The bottom is just one giant bowl, so you have to come up the other side, which is just as dangerous!!! I really thought Cory was going to tip over backwards, but he made it out just fine. Thank you, Layne, for the good guidance!

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This was such a fun weekend! We are grateful that we had the opportunity to go and can't express our appreciation enough to Layne and Ilene. Let's do it again next year!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Bear Hunting

What did the Johnson's do for Labor Day weekend? Well y'all, we went bear hunting! Cory sold the idea to me as an opportunity to go camping in the wilderness. We went into the Frank Church Wilderness area, which is just outside of Challis, Idaho. To get back into the wilderness area, we had to drive on a road that was just wide enough for one vehicle at a time. It was just like in the movies - one false move and you fall off the edge of the mountain. Here Cory and Brady are assessing the steep drop below. And take note of that peak in the distance that has a white speck on top; we'll come back to that later.
Here I am getting strapped into my pack. I about fell over backwards when I first put it on.
Our campsite was about a three-mile hike from the truck. On the way, we took a small detour to go up to the look-out. Remember that white speck I mentioned earlier? Well, this is it. The view from the top was amazing! All you could see were mountain-tops for as far as the eye could see. This look-out is used to keep an eye out for fires during the summer.

Amazing view from the top of the look-out.

If you look carefully in this picture, you can see the road that we drove in on along the ridge of the mountain.

We came down from the look-out and got our packs strapped on and were ready to start hiking again. And then Cory saw a bear across the valley. Those boys dropped their packs like they were on fire. It totally reminded me of the "stop, drop and roll" technique. Brady got a shot off but they missed the bear.

So we continued our hike into the wilderness. And just in case it wasn't already crystal clear, the forest service put up this nice sign that informed us that we were officially entering the "primitive area."

We camped near this beautiful lake.

At 5:00 a.m., the boys were up and ready to go bear hunting. I would have loved to stay at camp and sleep in, but I didn't have a gun and there were wolves everywhere. So I went on the bear hunt too...mostly to pack the food and take pictures.

The excitement was high and the boys had tons of energy early in the morning. They kept a steady eye out for any sign of wildlife.

And about three hours into the day, this is what they looked like. Apparently hunting bear is quite exhausting. So while they napped, I sat in the sun and read my book. After about four hours, Cory announced that he was bored and we went back to camp and took a nap.

We did see another bear by the side of the road on our drive back to Challis, but it was long gone by the time we got out of the truck and went back to find it. Final score at the end of this hunting excursion = Johnson's: 0, Bears: 2. I'm sure there will be a next time, though!