Our Story

Friday, April 29, 2011

Salvation and Devastation

First, I would like to assure you that both Matthew and I are safe, as is our home. We were both able to see the tornado from our separate locations, Matthew from our front porch and Jess, from the windows of St. Vincent's. We are very blessed and intend to pour out these blessings on those less fortunate.

Last weekend we celebrated Easter and the rising of our Savior with friends and family. It seems so long ago after the events of this week. I find it a comfort however that in our disaster we are reminded of our risen Savior. We serve a God who humbled himself and became human. We serve a God who wept over lost loved ones, who was homeless himself, who suffered beatings and rejection, and who died for our sins in a gruesome crucifixion. We serve a God of compassion and understanding, a God who has suffered the same pains and emotions we experience now. Ultimately though, we serve a God of hope as the Resurrection at Easter reminds us. This life is not the perfection of creation nor the end. We take up this hope and continue to move forward knowing that God is with us, our God of compassion, understanding, hope and salvation.

"Remember that when Jesus died the earth shook & the rocks were torn in pieces, while the sky darkened at noon. God the creator will not always save us from these dark forces, but he will save us in them, being with us in the darkness & promising us, always promising us, that the new creation will one day be complete..." -N.T. Wright

Now we find ourselves worshipping through service. Matthew has been organizing and working with his friends at Best Buy to help in the relief efforts. They get up early work until curfew. They have cleared debris, given out drinks, car chargers and pillow pets; they've grilled out to feed those without food in our area. They have given of themselves as many people in Alabama and across the country have. We have had a flood of volunteers and donations. Please continue to keep them coming and keep Alabama in your prayers. This will be a long road. As our mayor Walt Maddox said this is a sprint and a marathon. A sprint here at the beginning as we search to find survivors and house and meet the needs of those displaced. A marathon as we rebuild our community.
I look forward to helping with the relief efforts this week. This has been my work week and God has assured me that He needs me in Birmingham. My heart still is torn between the patients I love and the city I love. I am blessed now to have my 7 on/7 off schedule because over the next few years and months, I will be able to serve the community for a week at a time.
This Sunday at Mass, Father Holloway brought out the common theme of the church's readings this week, "Be not afraid". As we move forward, we must not be afraid and continue to trust in our God of compassion, understanding, hope and salvation. We must trust in the power of God and continue to lift Alabama up in prayer. We must be the hands and feet of Christ as we volunteer, donate and minister to those in need. We know that by relying on Him we can endure any trial, because we have His power with us. We also take courage that this is not the end. The kingdom of God is being perfected and is coming. Our God is a powerful God indeed.

"For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many." 2 Corinthians 1:8-11

God bless you and Alabama.

Matthew and Jessica

Monday, April 18, 2011

7 off/7 on

Sorry I've gotten behind on my blog updates.

Happenings of my first week off:
-Matthew and I watched Seasons 1 & 2 of Glee and are currently caught up and loving it. We own the albums now and jam out to them in the car.
- We celebrated our first month of marriage with a lovely early dinner at Cheesecake Factory. We just enjoyed our time talking and enjoying good food as well as playing Words with Friends against each other (one of our favorite pastimes). We probably look antisocial on our phones, but we were actually playing a game together.
- We did some exchanging and returns on gifts and I got my new red Kitchenaid mixer! I love it!

- I made some more good progress on thank-you notes. I promise everyone, they are coming! We do appreciate you all so much!
- I baked and cooked quite a bit. I'll put my recipes at the end of the post, so you can choose to view them if you're interested.
- Megan came over and we baked peanut butter cupcakes.

- We also bought a shredder, which doesn't sound exciting but we've wanted it for a long time. It makes a micro-cut for maximum security and ends up looking like confetti. It's fun to see the little shreds it makes. Also it will help us clear the clutter that we're longing to clear by shredding some of the papers we've been needing to shred.
- I got my haircut. I now have my bangs back and we cut off 5 inches. It feels so much more like me. I love it! Once I get a good photo of my hair I will post it.

Happenings of my week on:
-This week was overshadowed by the death of my cousin Joseph. He was in a car accident and will be dearly missed by the whole family. Please be praying for all of us, especially his wife, 8 year old daughter, 1 year old son, parents, and sister. It's hard to believe he's no longer with us. He cared for all of us so much and I know he'll be looking after us in Heaven. I love you Joseph. We miss you.

-It was a good week at work. I am getting more comfortable now that I'm out on my own and the group of ladies that I work with is so wonderful. I am certainly blessed.
-I also came home one night to lovely chocolate chocolate chip pound cake that Matthew had baked for me. Isn't he sweet? I posted two pictures. One so you can see the beautiful cake and one so you can see my lovely new cake stand (thank Bonjour family!) Matthew had also hung a lovely tile from Bronwyn and the Higgins side of the family with our new pot holders! I love it!

-I've also been enjoying to the Kindle Matthew gave me. It has the ability to read my books to me and so I plug it in to the adapter in my car and listen to my books on the way to and from work. I love it! The screen is very easy to read both inside and outside. It looks so much like an actual page. I can relax at home and read or take it out by the pool.

Now I'm back on my week off. We've been having lots of rain lately and so yesterday Matthew and I just pulled our lawn chairs out onto our patio area and just watched the rain. It was lovely!
We're looking forward to Easter with Matthew's side of the family. We take family photos at Easter, so I'll be posting those for you guys. Belated congratulations to Marty & Sherrye Johnson on 30 years of marriage. We love you!

Recipes-I'm typing these the way they appear on AllRecipes. I am including my edits at the bottom, so you can see the changes I made.

Slow Cooker Cranberry Pork

1 (16 ounce) can cranberry sauce
1/2 cup French salad dressing
1 onion, sliced
1 (3 pound) boneless pork loin roast
1. In a medium bowl, sitr togeth the cranberry sauce, salad dressing, and onion. Place pork in a slow cooker, and cover with the sauce mixture.
2. Cover, and cook on high for 4 hours, or on Low for 8 hours. Pork is done when it the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.
*Jess's edits*
I added a spoonful or two of minced garlic as well as salt and pepper. Also, my slow cooker has a probe thermometer that measures the internal temperature, so the slow cooker heats up until the internal temperature of the meat reaches the desired temperature and then the slow cooker switches to warm mode, rather than potentially over cooking. I love this feature. It only took about 2-2 1/2 hours on high for me this way. It was very tender and flavorful. We served it with veggies and crescent rolls.

Angel Hair Pasta with Shrimp and Basil

1/4 cup olive oil
1 (8 ounce) package angel hair pasta
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 pound large shrimp-peeled and deveined
2 (28 ounce) cans Italian-style diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup chopped parsley
3 tablespoons chapped fresh basil
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1. Cook pasta according to package directions including a bit of olive oil to prevent from boiling over, and drain.
2. Heat remaining olive oil in a 10 inch skillet over medium heat. Cook garlic, stirring constantly, until the garlic is tender, about 1 minute. Do not let the garlic burn. Add shrimp, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove shrimp from the skillet and set aside.
3. Stir tomatoes, wine, parsley, and basil into the skillet. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until iquid is reduced by half, 8 to 12 minutes. Add shrimp, and continue cooking until the shrimp are heated through, about 2 to 3 minutes. Serve the shrimp mixture over the pasta. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
*Jess's edits*
I actually made a lot of edits to this depending on what I had around. I also got my first lesson in deveining shrimp-not my favorite activity, but it certainly is good to know how to do it. I found tomatoes on sale and with a coupon that were crushed italian tomatoes with basil, so I used these and I suggest it, because the crushed texture naturally forms a sauce. I had parsley flakes rather than fresh parsley, so I used this and thought the basil from the tomatoes would carry. It didn't however and the sauce was basically just tomato at this point, so I searched my pantry and found-oregano, thyme, italian seasoning, garlic powder and more minced garlic. I have no measurements for this because I just started throwing it in and tasting as I went along. I do suggest having basil. It was the only thing I felt was missing, but it did come out great. The shrimp stays quite warm even in the bowl on the side so be careful not to overcook the shrimp. I felt putting in the warm sauce just brought it to the right temperature. I am quite proud actually that I made my own marinara (kind of) and I'm excited to do it again.

Peanut Butter Cupcakes (courtesy Martha Stewart)

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
6 ounce (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup natural, creamy peanut butter
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cream butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add peanut butter. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition.
2. Reduce speed to low. Mix any remaining wet ingredients (sour cream and vanilla) in a bowl if needed. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture in 3 additions, alternating with wet ingredients and ending with dry. Scrape sides of bowl. Divide batter among muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full.
3. Bake cupcakes until testers inserted into centers come out clean, about 20 minutes. Let cool in tins on wire racks. Cupcakes will keep, covered, for up to 3 days, unless otherwise noted.*
4. Once cupcakes are cool, top with peanut butter frosting (see recipe). Place a dollop of jam in center of frosting. *Decorated cupcakes will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 2 days.
Yields 18 cupcakes.
*Jess's edits*
This recipe came with a recipe for peanut butter frosting as well, that I haven't tried yet. We topped them with either chocolate frosting or jelly (get it peanut butter and jelly?). It was really good. They came out with a great texture. Enjoy everyone.

I also tried a pot roast this week. That did not come out very tender, once I make some changes that work. I will let you know.

Love, Matthew and Jess

Monday, March 28, 2011


So I think I've moved into the nesting face of being married. As you can see, I've listed some recipes and I'm beginning to cook more. Also, I've begun to get excited over different things. I watch house hunters all the time now and search online for the best places to move in Birmingham. I'm just so excited about my life with Matthew and just trying to be the best wife I can be for him, especially since he's so good to me.
Today, the wonderful ladies at work threw a pantry shower for me and 2 other nurses who are getting married in the next few weeks. They prepared all sorts of great food and we held it in the conference room so everyone could come by. It was just great! You wouldn't believe all the wonderful things they got us! My pantry is now stocked! My excuse that my pantry is not stocked no longer works for not trying some of the more daring recipes. Hopefully, as I get going with these, I'll share my successes and I'm sure mishaps with you. I'm attaching photos of all the wonderful things they gave me to stock me up!

Also, tonight I attended a couponing class. You got it right! She taught us how to use coupons most effectively! It was a great class! The lady who taught it actually attends church in Gordo where Matthew was a youth minister. She recently did a showcase shopping trip for the local newspaper to show how effectively coupons can be used. She got over $500 worth of products for $1.23! While this is the extreme being able to save that much money is quite appealing and I'm excited to get started. I think I'm really going to like seeing how much I can save.
Check out her website for tips, tricks and more information at http://www.southernsavingsanddeals.blogspot.com/

On the flowers post from the other day, I saw bluebonnets in Tuscaloosa! I can hardly believe it. Just a little bit of home. I love it! It's just such a beautiful reminder of Texas.

Matt & Jess

Sunday, March 27, 2011


I've had flowers on my mind today. I saw Caitlin's post about wisteria and I love how everything is beginning to come into bloom! The wisteria, tulips, dogwoods, irises and even the bradford pears are all opening and in color. It's gorgeous.
I love flowers and so Matthew has bought me live flowers in the past so that I could grow my own flowers to enjoy. Unfortunately, I've had a really tough time to keeping them alive and it always made me feel terrible, but luckily he didn't give up hope on me. He bought me this beautiful purple miniature orchid and I gave myself no hope of keeping it alive. This one however came with little directions, and this has helped a lot I think. I keep it in the kitchen window with the blinds cracked, so that it can get sunlight. I periodically check to see how damp the ground is. It's all working! I've kept an orchid alive for over a month now. I'm quite proud, especially considering I'd had such a hard time with seemingly easier plants like a mum and a tulip.
Also this morning Matthew showed me a new game on the Playstation 3 called Flower. It's so wonderfully relaxing! There's no losing or dying or starting over. It starts out with a little wilting flower in a New York apartment and as you get closer it takes you into this meadow, perhaps where the flower came from and a little petal floats off in a burst of wind so starts the adventure. You just float around gathering other petals from the flowers and as you gain more and reach new flowers more of the meadow blooms and the skies clear. It's just peaceful and relaxing. I'm enjoying it! In my past video game experiences, I tend to get really stressed whenever my character dies or the game tells me "you fail", but this is peaceful and happy and there are only good consequences.
So that's me and my flower power connection today. The photos are of my orchid in it's window, and of one of the wreaths from the wedding that we hung on our front door.

Matt & Jess

Friday, March 25, 2011

Family Recipes

Matthew and I were cooking Wednesday and I realized we were each making family recipes from the other's family. I was making Matt's mom's chicken pot pie for dinner and Matthew was making my mom's chili for the chili cook-off at Best Buy. I liked seeing elements from each of our families mixing. Recipes to follow.
Matthew and I over the years have tried to turn every moment into a date, because we feel like we just can't have enough time together, so we like to make the most of the time we have. As a matter of fact, while taking out the trash, Matthew just took me on a walk. We walked around the apartment complex holding hands and just catching up. I had a headache and just walking in the cool, fresh evening air and sharing with Matthew was perfect to ease my headache. It was just a great married moment, so I thought I'd share.
Today was my last day on orientation. I managed my labor and delivered my baby before my shift was over, so that was a good feeling before I begin to go out on my own. Pray for me as I move to evening shift next week. I'm excited about the change, but nervous simply because it is a change. I love the ladies I've met on day shift, but I know that I will make friends on evening shift too. This my baby count up to the 40's. Isn't that amazing? I have the most amazing job in the world. I witness miracles everyday!

Chicken Pot Pie Recipe
2 cans of chicken
2 cans mixed vegetables (low-sodium)
2 cans cream of chicken soup
2 refrigerated regular pie crusts
2 refrigerated deep-dish pie crusts
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste

Mix chicken, veggies and soup (salt & pepper to taste) together on stove top to warm throughout. Lightly brown deep-dish pie crusts in 350 degree oven. Pull out deep-dish crusts and fill with chicken & veggie mixture. Free the regular pie crusts from their pans and lay over top of pie to form top crust. Cut slits to vent. Bake in oven at 350 until golden brown (35 minutes-1 hour).
*This is great to use with any left-over vegetables as well. Matthew and I have done this before and it works well.

1 lb. ground beef
1 lg. onion chopped (about 1 cup)
2 cloves garlic (crushed or minced)
1 tbs. chili powder (may use more or less to adjust heat-my family uses 1/2 tbs so it's less spicy, but Matt & I use whole tbs)
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. cocoa
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. red pepper sauce (optional)
1 can tomatoes (diced, do not drain)
1 can red kidney or pinto beans

Cook ground beef with onion and garlic on stove top. Add in tomatoes and spices. Allow to simmer for one hour. Add beans and allow to simmer for another 20 minutes.
*We usually serve this over rice with cheese and sour cream available as toppings. Fritos or chips also make a great addition.

Enjoy everyone! We sure are!

Matt & Jess

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Matthew and I accidentally discovered cheater's tiramisu and so I thought I'd share! We went through multiple variations including whipped cream rather than actually making the custard with the egg yolks. We've also used ladyfingers as well as shortcake cups.

Here's what you need:
3 Egg yolks
1 1/2 Tbs. Sugar
8 ounces Marscapone Cheese
Shortcake cups (or ladyfinger cookies)
Cocoa powder

Beat 3 egg yolks and 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar for at least 5 minutes. The mixture will become pale and thicken. (The original recipe suggested using an electric beater with the whisk attachment but since we don't have one yet, we just got an arm workout and beat by hand with a whisk). Then beat in 8 ounces marscapone cheese. Refrigerate this mixture for at least 2 hours to allow it to solidify and become almost a custard texture. Then we spoon a little coffee over the shortcake to absorb the coffee. Then fill the cup with the custard mixture. Apply a light dusting of cocoa powder and enjoy!
We're planning to jazz it up by trying to add some espresso or perhaps vanilla extract to the custard mixture.


Matthew & Jess

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Officially "The Johnson's"

Hello everyone. It has been an awfully long time since I've gotten to post. Wedding planning and starting a new job pulled me away, but we have been doing great in the meantime!
The wedding was just beautiful! I got to marry my best friend, Matthew with my other best friend, Caitlin at my side supporting me and incredibly excited for me! I was so happy with how everything turned out! I have the best bridesmaids in the world by the way! They through me quite the fun bachelorette party including dinner at Hooters, feather boas, crowns, Krole the Warrior King, karaoke, drinks, laughs, lingerie and a great locations, just name a few. They melded together so well! I was so glad to see that the Texas and Alabama girls all found common ground and were hanging out as if they'd known each other forever. Caitlin was very right when she said this was a testament to the kind of girls I keep around me. You are all amazing!
The other interesting thing about the wedding was Anne, our wedding coordinator through the church. She had been so sweet in our meetings, but the day of the rehearsal and day of the wedding we saw another side of her, that was not quite as pleasant. Again, my amazing husband and terrific bridesmaids kept me calm through this as well.
Day of the wedding it did rain, but that didn't stop anything! The whole team really made everything happen so perfectly I couldn't ask for better! The day was absolutely everything I had dreamed it to be! Special thanks to Cindy for making the beautiful flowers and Afton for her beautiful singing of the Ave Maria. Father Holloway, Ashley and Jeremiah I can't thank you guys enough for being a part of our ceremony. We love all of you! As for the bridesmaids and groomsmen, they were all so amazing and supportive of both of us. We just have the best group of friends and I thank you all for being a part of our day.
The reception was a blast. I loved seeing everyone dance, mingling and having a great time!
Married life has just been great! We're so happy together and blessed to have each other!
Getting back to everyday life, Matthew's job is going great. He is now full-time at Best Buy in the Digital Imaging department (which includes cameras and portable electronics like MP3 players). He also works in gaming and car audio still. Full-time at Best Buy means that he's now part of the leadership team. He's really loving Best Buy and is still planning to move up and stay with the company. He also now wears the hats of Employee Experience Team Leader, EOL captain as well as helping out wherever he can.
This next week will be my last on orientation in the Birth Suites. I can hardly believe I'm almost through this! They're about to let me out on my own as an RN. I'm surprisingly beginning to feel kind of ready for this. It helps though that everyone is so supportive so I know I'm not truly on my own, because I can always ask questions. They've got a really great community there in the Birth Suites. So next week I switch to evening (3-11pm) shift and my 7 on/7 off schedule. Wish me luck! I'm very excited to end the early morning drives, especially now that we've had daylight savings time and it's dark for my whole morning ride.
Yesterday we went driving around Tuscaloosa for the best opportunities to find SUPERMOON! We called Matthew's parents while we were on the hunt. Mr. Marty's response to supermoon was "Is that like when a superhero flips up his cape and drops his tights?" I cracked up hysterically at this, so I thought I'd share. Thank goodness there were no bums to be seen! Our whole evening was just lovely together though. Throughout our relationship, we've always tried to turn as many moments as we can into dates and one of our favorite things to do is just go out and drive, so last night was especially wonderful.
We've also been watching our way through Scrubs. We're in Season 6 now. It's just great!
So that's the update from us! Hope you're doing well!

The Johnson's

Friday, January 7, 2011


Hello everyone! Jess here!

As I mentioned earlier, I've been cooking more and still having pretty good success. I made chicken parmesan last night and it was very satisfying. Matthew and I have also been entertaining more friends recently which is really wonderful! I love having people over.

On Wednesday, Matthew and I finally had the time to do a few things here at my place that we'd been meaning to do. He hung my crosses. To give a quick story of these, I have a small collection of crosses that I hope will grow over the years. I have a painting that I made for my 21st birthday at Sips N Strokes and the other crosses are gifts or mark special events in my life. The Africa painting Matthew bid on at an auction to benefit Invisible Children. I think it all works very well together. We also discovered Gorilla Hooks. No studs required to hang things with these wonderful hooks and everything is held up very securely. Here's a photo of how it looks. I love it!

I also got an iPhone recently. My parents gave me one for graduation and I just picked it up this week. I've really been enjoying it. As part of all this fun, I joined the world of Words with Friends. Matthew and I enjoy board games but we don't really have any, so we ended up playing Words with Friends, which turned into quite a fun game of scrabble. What a technological world we live in!

Be praying for the weather this weekend. They're predicting some pretty serious snow and ice. St. Vincent's called to let me know that there's a chance they'll postpone orientation if the weather's bad. So be praying for good decisions on that front. I'm excited to start work, but I do really love snow!

Also in wedding news, we reserved a block of rooms at the Comfort Inn Airport. The code is Mata/Johnson Wedding. A room with 2 queen beds in $63.74 and 1 king bed is $67.99. The hotel offers continental breakfast and an airport shuttle at certain times of day. The hotel is about 10 minutes from the church and the botanic gardens (reception site).

"God gave us eternal life,
and this life is in his Son.
Whoever possesses the Son has life;
whoever does not possess the Son of God does not have life.
I write these things to you so that you may know
that you have eternal life,
you who believe in the name of the Son of God."
-1 John 5:11-13

God bless!
Matt & Jess