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.