Happily 29

Meg

Almost-29, shorter-hair selfie

So, my 28th year was a pretty wild one.

July and August were spent with nonstop planning and prep for two weddings.

In September, I stood at my sister’s side as she tied the knot.

I moved out of my parents’ house for the first time in October, and made all those last-minute preparations for our own nuptials — then married my sweetheart on an absolutely gorgeous, unforgettable day in November. I officially became a Johnson.

December found us celebrating our first married Christmas, and the long winter months from January to March were eventually broken by fun trips to Canada in April and California in May.

Speaking of . . . we bought our house two months ago! Then moved in June, welcoming Spencer’s parents for a week as we transplanted everything we own and tried to maintain our sanity. We’re still recovering.

Now it’s July again . . . and today is my 29th birthday! It’s crazy to think I’m entering the final year of my twenties, that infamous decade filled with indecision, heartbreak, healing, growth and near-constant change . . . an era that transformed me from a young woman to a full-fledged, allegedly adult adult. One complete with a marriage license and mortgage.

Astounding, actually.

Especially since the house purchase, you know, I’m feeling settled. In a good way. Just four weeks ago, we were staring down a huge financial undertaking, preparing to change residences and generally all over the place. I was emotional and freaked out and crazy-feeling, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to get myself together.

And then I kind of did.

It’s funny how that happens, isn’t it? We may not even notice the shift. Everything starts to come together, bit by bit, and the rooms that were stacked high with boxes are emptying. All the nervousness and worry I’d been carting around for months has started to dissipate . . . maybe reassemble on shelves, where I can see it but find it less daunting. The fear I’ve worn like a backpack has begun to lighten.

As I enter the final year of a life-changing decade, I don’t find myself gripped by any of the sadness I thought I might. It’ll be weird to cross the threshold to 30 next year, no doubt — and I’m sure the next decade will bring more shake-ups. And a growing family, I hope.

But I’m not there quite yet.

And right here? It’s definitely where I want to be.


Surprise! A 75th birthday celebration

Behind the scenes in Maryland and Virginia, a group of cousins (and their respective parents) were hard at work preparing a celebration in honor of a special woman. Mom, Maw Maw and Aunt Margy are a few of her popular monikers. And as we gathered to celebrate her 75th birthday, we were all reflecting on what she’s meant to us.

Both my grandmothers played a larger-than-life role in my growing-up years. Maw Maw introduced me to baking, helping me patiently press out sugar cookies when I was as young as 2 or 3. One of my earliest memories is of standing in her kitchen with flour covering the counter, my little hands covered in sticky dough. She introduced me to peanut butter cups, Red Hots candy and tomato sandwiches (for breakfast). She helped me learn to try new things, exercise some patience (oh, the never-ending torment) and, best of all, to always try to get along with my sister.

Maw Maw was always patient, never had an agenda; if my sister and I wanted to spend hours playing a single game, she would happily oblige. Her house was always fragrant, like springtime, and I loved hearing stories about my dad running down the narrow hallway growing up. A large coloring book was hidden beneath the couch, and you would never dare utter an “I’m bored” at her Maryland home. There was always something to do, somewhere to go.

It’s funny the random, visceral moments that return to you later in life: the easy way I can recall the fresh, summery smell of the backyard when we would visit in June or July. The sound of crickets chirping as we wandered through the grass, admiring Maw Maw’s frog statue in the yard. Eating Pop-Ice on the back porch and watching “Strawberry Shortcake” on beta tape. Peering down the well near the driveway, and asking Maw Maw for sticks of wintergreen gum.

Even years later, I can remember walking into her cool-tiled kitchen and reaching up for my favorite drinking glass. Sneaking candy from her cabinets. Admiring the trinkets in a nearby hutch, and watching her pull family photos from drawers in the living room.

Everything I remember is through a child’s eyes.

On April 7, we celebrated Maw Maw’s 75th birthday with a surprise party. I’ve never helped orchestrate a surprise party — or any party, really. And it was awesome. Though my hat is off to my organized and awesome cousin, Karen, for doing the lion’s share of the arrangements, the small parts I contributed — like the tulip table decor — were so fun to put together. Save friends’ wedding and baby showers, I’ve never had a hand in planning an event — and I felt like I was doing a trial run for a reception. Everything went smoothly.

It was wonderful sharing happy memories and celebrating a lady who has had such an impact on our lives. Seeing Maw Maw’s surprised face — and she really did seem surprised — was priceless. Having so many generations of family together created a warm atmosphere, and I’m so thankful we could all be together.

I’m also thankful to be Margy’s granddaughter. May the good times only get better.


Birthdays, anniversaries — all in a weekend’s work

Whew! I’m coming off a food and sugar high of fabulous eating and family time this weekend. Yesterday was my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary and we celebrated with a wonderful dinner, a fantastic cake (made by my grandmother herself — and with her original cake topper!) and tons of presents.

Everything went incredibly well! As always, I loaded up on tons of desserts. Here’s a sample of what we bit into last night:

As always, it seems too pretty to eat! But we did, of course.
After taking tons of photos.

My grandparents (right) on their wedding day -- Oct. 25, 1958

My grandparents (right) on their wedding day -- Oct. 25, 1958

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Ice cream cake dreams

If you’re partying around my house, I don’t think it’s actually a celebration until we whip out the ice-cream cake. Yesterday was my boyfriend’s birthday and we commemorated the occasion in the typical fashion: via Carvel. Though my sister apparently is no longer a fan of the typical Carvel take-home cake (apparently demmed the “Lil’ Love” confection), she still approves of anything cookies & cream. So that’s what we had in honor of Palmer.

Store-bought treats are delicious, of course. And I’ve never been one to really turn down dessert. But I have to state publicly that I firmly believe my mom makes the greatest ice-cream cakes ever — and I need to get her “recipe” (or formation guide?). Growing up, Mom would make the cakes for the triple birthday party we have every year in July (I share a birthday week with both my dad and sister). I couldn’t tell you specifically what exactly goes in the ice-cream cake in an orderly fashion, but I know it usually includes: peanut butter; marshmellows; rainbow sprinkles; cookie-crumble coating; both mint & vanilla ice-cream; M&M candies or equivalent; possibly some form of nut coating on top. And I think there’s some caramel and chocolate drizzle over the top-most layer, though that could be my imagination.

Yes, the frozen ice-cream cakes of my youth were pretty awesome. But that doesn’t mean I still don’t enjoy a ready-to-go Carvel creation as well. Needless to say, all the plates were clean around my table.

Happy birthday, Palmer!