Saturday, December 22, 2007

Tony Roma's Baked Potato Soup

I can never find my recipes when I need them (I guess I should probably clean my room!) So I decided to post them here. It makes it a lot easier. I'm making this soup for our Christmas Eve dinner.

2 potatoes (I usually use at least 3 potatoes. Gotta have enough potatoes!)
3 Tbs margarine/butter
1 medium onion (approx 1 cup)
2 Tbs all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken stock (we use no-chicken broth because LSOC is allergic to chicken)
2 cups water
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 cups instant mashed potato flakes
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground black pepper (This is quite a bit of pepper. We usually use 1/4 to 1/2 tsp)
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/8 tsp dried thyme
1 cup half and half
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
8 oz bacon - cooked and crumbled
2 green onions, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C.) Bake potatoes for 1 hour, or until done. Set aside to cool.
2. Melt butter in a 3 quart saucepan over medium heat. Saute onions until tender and golden brown. Stir in flour, and cook 5 minutes to make a roux. Pour in chicken stock and water. Add cornstarch and mashed potato flakes. Season with salt, pepper, basil and thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes.
3. Remove the skin from the cooled potatoes, and discard. Dice the potatoes into 1/2" cubes, and stir into soup, along with the half and half. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until thick. Spoon into bowls, and garnish with shredded cheese, bacon and chopped green onion.

Yields: 6 servings
Time: Close to 2 hours (including baking potatoes).

Monday, December 17, 2007

Gardner Family Adoption Update

I just got an email from the Gardners and they get to go to the hospital and meet their new son tomorrow! They are hoping to bring him home by Christmas!! I am so happy for them! Merry Christmas!

Christmas Concerts

What a wonderful weekend! Saturday night we went to the Tabernacle Choir Christmas Concert. It was so good! They always do such a great job and we love the King's Singers, who were the special guests. They did a fun production of The Twelve Days of Christmas with dancers portraying each of the gifts. It was a lot of fun. My favorites, though, were Richard Elliot's organ solo, I Saw Three Ships, and Mack Wilberg's new arrangement of O, Holy Night!. The organ solo was amazing! and I think Richard Elliot got the biggest applause out of all the numbers. He was all over the place and on one of the verses, he did the melody with his feet on the pedals and they were just flying! Mack's new arrangement of O, Holy Night!, was for the men of the choir and the King's Singers and it was beautiful. It was different from any arrangement I've ever heard, but so beautiful. Sometimes that song can be over-the-top, especially with the high note at the end (I love the high note at the end, it's just very easy to go overboard with it), but Mack's arrangement wasn't over-the-top at all. The counter tenors still hit the high note at the end, but it almost didn't register that it was the climactic ending. It was just very peaceful. And the staging and lighting were so well done. The overall experience of that piece was just perfect.

After the concert we had to wait about 45 minutes to get out of the parking terrace we were parked in. Gorgeous, Tergaso, LSOC and I played "Salt Lake City, Plaza Hotel, Deal or No Deal" while we waited. We were outside waiting for the The Countess to bring the car down so Gorgeous wouldn't have to climb all the stairs to the level were parked on. Tergaso had called The Countess to see if they had moved yet and Gorgeous commented that she looked like Howie Mandel talking to the banker. So Tergaso and LSOC jumped on the idea and decided what their cases held and what the banker's deal was. It was funny. Gorgeous ended up taking the deal for 730,000. But then, it was "What's the Deal?" week so she had to spin the wheel (Tergaso with her eyes closed.) She ended up doubling it and going to the car with 1.46 million!! Not bad for a few minutes entertainment. My family is absolutely crazy and I love them!

I also had my Christmas Concert with my bell choir. We had a good turnout and performed well so I'm happy. We played some fun music again this year and it's so fun to talk to the audience after and answer questions about playing bells. Not many people are familiar with handbell choirs. My favorite number we played is Pat-A-Pan. It's a lot of fun. We also played a medley from The Nutcracker that is a lot of fun (and very difficult!).

I have one more day of lessons and then I'm off for Christmas break. I still have some shopping to finish up and all of my wrapping and delivering! I feel like I lost all of last week with our health scare! (Not that I'm complaining too much - I'm too grateful that I don't have whooping cough and that I'm on the mend instead of getting worse!) Today was "pamper Julie" day. I went for a massage and got my hair done. I feel pretty and relaxed and pretty relaxed. I'm ready for the craziness of trying to get everything done now!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Thankful Thursday

Today I am so thankful that I don't have whooping cough!! There have been at least six diagnosed cases at Tergaso's work. Apparently it can incubate for 3-12 days and then can present as just a cold for 2-4 weeks before the awful cough begins. So, Tuesday night, Tergaso's supervisor called to tell her that everyone that had any cold or cough symptoms couldn't come in to work until they either had a negative test for whooping cough or had been on antibiotics for it for at least five days and that it was all covered under workers' comp. Well, Tergaso and I have both had colds and I've started having a cough. We've both been immunized but apparently if you haven't had the immunization or a booster in the last eight years, you can still get whooping cough! So we both went in yesterday to get tested. The test is a truly horrible experience. A scraper thing is threaded up your nose and then scrapes the inside to get a sample to test. It feels like a needle is poking your eye from the inside and my sinuses are so sensitive anyway, and they were already not happy, that I was just aching the rest of the day. If it came back positive, we were looking at a five day quarantine and 2-3 months of awful coughing. Fortunately, Thankfully, Gratefully the test results came back negative! Hooray! No whooping here!

My bell choir conductor is also exceedingly grateful because we have a commitment to play a Sunday service and our annual Christmas concert, both this Sunday. He wasn't sure what he'd do if I was quarantined. And I didn't want to miss both that concert or the Tabernacle Choir Christmas Concert for which we have tickets on Saturday night. This is The Count's last Christmas Concert, he is retiring in April, and the King's Singers are the special guests and I really didn't want to miss it!! So, today, I am very grateful that I don't have whooping cough!

In other, semi-related news: my test results (both blood work and ultrasound) have come back normal. I don't know what the lump in my throat is, but it's not a problem with my thyroid. So, I'm also grateful that my thyroid is healthy!

In other, totally unrelated news: I'm grateful for good books. I'm almost done with Anne of the Island, and thoroughly enjoying my trip back to Prince Edward Island and L.M. Montgomery's fantastic world. I'll probably have to invest in a second set of the books soon, as I've read this set to pieces. I'm also grateful that L.M. Montgomery responded to her fans' requests for more Anne stories and the resulting 7 sequels to Anne of Green Gables. I still have five delightful books ahead of me, to be enjoyed while snuggling under warm blankets while it's snowing outside. Can life get any better?

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Happy SinterKlaas!

I love Christmas! I love the snow (as long as I don't have to go out in it!) I love the lights. I love the songs. I love the feeling and spirit. I love Christmas. My family has so many traditions surrounding Christmas. One of them is celebrating SinterKlaas Day. My Dad served an LDS mission to the Netherlands (Holland.) He brought home several cultural traditions that our family enjoys. SinterKlaas is the Dutch Santa Claus. He comes on a white horse from Spain with his helper Zwarte Piet (Black Pete). The children all put their wooden shoes out and sing songs the night of December 5th and when they wake, if they've been good, they find chocolate in their shoes! (If they've been bad they either find coal in their shoes or they are taken away with Zwarte Piet to work with him all year in Africa.) My parents have made many trips to Holland through the years, and consequently, all of us kids have our own wooden shoes to put out. We sing our Dutch Christmas songs up the chimney and in the morning we find a chocolate letter! (Our initial if SinterKlaas was on the ball, if not, then a random letter that my Mom then tries to explain with hilarious and random reasons! Sometimes it's more fun if SinterKlaas wasn't on the ball just to hear Mom's explanations of why he chose that letter!) SinterKlaas also brings us a new nutcracker every year. (You should see our collection! My students love counting them and I think the most popular number they've come up with this year is 43.) This year, we're celebrating a bit late. SinterKlaas found out that my Dad was of town, so he didn't rush over from Holland to visit us. However, we've been told that he has made his way to the Americas and now that Dad is home, we'll be pulling out our wooden shoes tonight! Hooray for European Chocolate!

On a slightly random note, I'm sitting here with my morning juice, in my nightgown, freezing! I'm so thankful for hot, steamy showers and Christmas music to blast to help me get started on my day! The water pressure rinsing shampoo out of my hair is a relaxing head massage, the heat helps my muscles unclench, the steam helps me breath better (I've been sick), and the Christmas music just makes me happy. What a way to wake up!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Thankful Thursday

I went to see my doctor yesterday. She is wonderful - I am so thankful for her! She had good news and bad news. I've been sick for two weeks, so it was time to give in and ask for antibiotics. I have been trying so hard to avoid antibiotics, and over all, I've been highly successful. This latest round of illness was just too much for me and BodyTalk alone. I'm kind of wondering if my body was trying really hard to get me to the doctor's though because I have a lump in my throat. I found it about a month ago. It's right where my collarbone should have an indentation in the middle - I don't have the indentation - just a lump. My doctor said that that's where my thyroid should be. So, we're doing blood work to check thyroid levels (again) and she scheduled me an ultrasound to see if we can see anything. Oh the joys! That's the bad news (antibiotics and lumps.) There is good news though! First of all, I didn't recognize anyone at my doctor's office! Why, you ask, is this such great news? Well, for the last many years I have had a personal and close relationship with every person who worked at my doctor's office. I was there so frequently that they all recognized me by sight. Since I've found BodyTalk, though, I haven't been spending that much time at my doctor's office and yesterday the only person I recognized was my doctor! (She was very impressed, too!) The other good news involves the dreaded scale. Since I first got sick, every time I go to the doctor's my weight has gone up. Every time. It sucks! July saw me at my heaviest. However, yesterday's weigh-in showed a 17 pound loss!!! Go me! Weigh to go body! (Pun intended...groans and pity laughs accepted.)

So, for Thankful Thursday, I am thankful for my wonderful doctor. She actually suggested I have a BodyTalk treatment to help the antibiotics work better. She is so supportive of me and BodyTalk! I'm thankful that she takes me seriously and believes that I know what's going on with my body (I've had plenty of doctors who didn't and who didn't mind telling me I'm crazy!) I'm thankful for antibiotics to help when I'm not able to get rid of the infection myself. I'm thankful that I didn't recognize anyone at my doctor's office and that I haven't had to go to my doctor's office very much this year. I'm thankful for a great weigh-in and that those numbers are going down. And on a completely unrelated topic, I'm thankful for the much-needed moisture we've received this last week. What a beautiful snow-storm we had on Saturday! And here it is raining (most likely turning to snow at some point today) right now.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Thankful Thursday a Day Late

Well, my Thankful Thursday is a day late. I've been fighting a cold/sinus infection/cough for several days now and yesterday I lost the battle (I haven't lost the war yet, though!) Today I am so thankful that I was led to BodyTalk ( My health has improved SO MUCH in the two years since I found it. I'm grateful for a wonderful BodyTalk practitioner and friend who is my ally in regaining my health and also in the battles against illness. I'm grateful for my body's ability to heal itself. I'm grateful for my body! What a wonderful gift!


This is a PSA for my dear friends the Gardner Family. They are trying to raise money to adopt a special needs baby. What a great idea for the kids in your life this Christmas!

Hello All!!
I will admit that this wasn't 100% my idea. However, I have fine tuned it a bit and I'm hoping this will be a great fundraiser for Patrick's adoption.
We are excited to do personal letters from Santa for your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, friends, etc. The letter will be from Santa, with your child's name mentioned throughout. Santa will also include other information that you provide such as sibling's names, pet's names, birthdays, special interests, etc. Really it is up to your imagination how personal you want this to be. Letters will be printed on nice Christmas paper and will be signed by Santa.
All orders must be in no later than December 12. They will be mailed on December 15 in order to arrive in time for Christmas. Letters will be addressed to the child and will include a "From the North Pole" or similar postmark on the outside of the envelope.
Letters are $5 each which includes shipping. Payment through paypal. You can go to our blog,, to pay for your letter. Please email me the information you want in your letter, Also, please spread the word to friends and family. I hope this will be a great fundraiser!!
Thank you so much!!
The Gardner Family

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thankful Thursday

Happy Thanksgiving!

I've already done a post on how thankful I am for my family, but they really are so important to me, that I had to mention them again on this biggest of all Thankful Thursdays. I'd like to highlight what I've learned from my family. From my father (The Count), I've learned how to cherish a spouse. The quickest way to get on Dad's bad side is to disrespect Mom. From my mother (The Countess), I've learned how to be a good teacher. You can't teach without love. From my sister (AngelFish), I've learned how to be brave and strong. I admire how much courage it took to get on a plane to Russia to serve a mission. From my other sister (Tergaso), I've learned how to be happy and confident. Life is good, buck up! From my brother (The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra or LSOC), I've learned what unconditional love looks like in real life. I remember once his finger got slammed in the car door. I don't remember who was at fault, but I do remember that he was immediately consoling them and forgiving them for the accident. From my family as a whole, I've learned that you have to pull together and support each other. Life is better with a family of cheerleaders!

I am so very blessed to have been born into this wonderful family!

Thanks to MudBlossom

I found a wonderful post on a friend of a friend's blog. I've never met her, I don't even know her real name. Her post really touched me and I want to remember it:


Thanks, Mudblossom!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Thankful Thursday

Last Fast Sunday, an older lady in my ward shared her testimony with us. She used the phrase, "the awesomeness of The Book of Mormon". Because she is older, I assume she meant awesome in the awe-inspiring way. My generation tends to use awesome in a different way (i.e.: really cool). Regardless, the phrase has stuck with me and I like it. Today I am thankful for "the awesomeness of The Book of Mormon".

*Editor's note: A free copy of the Book of Mormon is available at

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Kids Say...

My adorable cousins were over last night and ScienceBoy said the funniest thing. My sister, Tergaso, was giving him a hard time and he said: "you're a diva." He's nine, so we asked him what a diva was. He said: "a person or girl who thinks they're all that." Pretty much.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Happy Birthday AngelFish!

Happy Birthday (yesterday) AngelFish! My sister is awesome! She is beautiful, intelligent, and kind. She is almost done with her Master's Degree, bought her own condo, is fluent in Russian, and spends countless hours helping us all with computer questions. She is an incredible woman. I love you, babe!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Thankful Thursday

It's all about Family.

Let me tell you a bit about my family. We call my grandma "Gorgeous." That's now how she answers the phone: "This is Gorgeous." She taught us to play practical jokes by taking us to toilet paper her brother. When my little brother was in high school, one of our favorite things to do was babysit together. We'd chase the kids around, tickle them, wrestle with them, laugh and then put them to bed and talk or watch a movie. My little sister is now 23 and still makes music videos that we then watch on Sunday nights and laugh hysterically. Actually laughing hysterically is our favorite activity. We are always there for each other and having fun. I am so blessed to have this amazing family

Monday, November 5, 2007

Happy Blogday!

I'm taking the plunge! I find myself excited and nervous, which is actually a typical feeling in my life. Am I really ready for this? Will I be able to navigate the Html/computer world? I have no idea. But, I've got a continuous commentary going on in my mind that is just begging to be let out. So, for now, I will be brave. Happy Blogday to me!