Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Spicy Sausage Potato Soup

So, this is the link to the recipe I started with:

Super Delicious Zuppa Toscana

It's still very spicy so you may want to start with just a quarter tsp of cayenne and work your way up.

But I did it this way:


* 1 package smoked turkey sausage, cut into bite-size pieces
* 3/4 tsp cayenne pepper
* 1 large onion, pureed/finely minced (to hide it from an onion hater) : )
* 3 cloves garlic, minced
* 5 standard cans lower-sodium chicken broth
* 6 small potatoes, peel on thinly sliced
* 1 cup fat free milk
* 1/2 can evaporated milk
* 2 handfuls fresh spinach, stems removed and torn into bite-size pieces
* Salt and pepper to taste


1. Cook the turkey sausage in a stock pot over med-high heat, browning/searing thoroughly to create some glaze to stick to the bottom of the pot.
2. Stir in the onions and garlic; cook until onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
3. Pour the chicken broth into the pot with the sausage and onion mixture; bring to a boil over high heat. Add the potatoes, and boil until fork tender, about 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the milk and evaporated milk; heat through. Mix the spinach into the soup just before serving.

I personally thought this soup was too spicy. But some other people LOVED it :)
I am going to try the original recipe with much less substitutions because I really love Zuppa Toscana from OG. But maybe you too will like Spicy Sausage Potato Soup :)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


What a wonderful weekend! Friday night most of our office went out to dinner. This was our first time getting together outside of work. We had a nice time being our "regular' selves :)
Saturday morning John had to be at church for several hours for the rehearsal of the Christmas presentation. I went along and was blessed to be able to babysit a little for the worship pastor and his wife (both sing). Their baby is so cute and so much fun! But the poor little guy has a mild cold which I think he tried to give to me! Mega Vitamin C dosing is helping to fight it off.

Saturday evening was the week's highlight. My mom treated us to a nice dinner at one of those boutique-restaurants downtown. The food was pretty yummy, and the experience was nice until the end where we found out how rude the lead hostess and chef can be. I won't go into details, but it wasn't pretty. But we shook it off and all walked over to the theatre to see the local ballet company's production of The Nutcracker. They did a great job. The skill of the Sugar Plum Fairy was especially amazing. However- both mom and I agreed that this production certainly did not hold the magic for us that the 3 productions we saw and participated in when I was young did. They interpreted the story a little differently.
In fact, it was seeing the Nutcracker with my mom as a little girl that sprung me into the ballet world. After seeing that I just HAD to have lessons! Then the next year I was in the production myself, in the roles of angel and mouse. The second year I was a soldier. I think a year or two after that I quit ballet for cheer-leading. I still regret that. But oh how I remember LOVING my time on the stage.
My mom gave 2 extra tickets to a friend of ours and her young daughter. I secretly hope she had just the same magical time I did as a kid and maybe even takes up ballet. It would be even more fun for her as she is tall and slender : )

Sunday evening we had a few friends over for lots of yummy bad-for-you food, conversation and games. We also played the saddest game of Dirty Santa ever. Apparently if you all bring weird, random or unwanted stuff, nobody fights over it. Lol. We also opened a game we've had since we married (a wedding present)- but never opened: Zobmondo's "Would You Rather?" It wasn't the best game ever but we managed to laugh plenty.

The gift-giving extended into Monday- at work, 2 co-workers brought these:
I so can't wait to wear them and all their ridiculous-ness! I'm thinking peeking out of knee-high boots?
A cute memo holder (this pic is from the last day of our honeymoon) : )
 And then the same evening we had dinner with my mom and grandma to celebrate our Christmas, since we will be out of town. We got some niiiiice stuff :)

I got this fabulous Relic purse, the Sabrina double-shoulder handbag,  but I can't seem to make the pic appear. Argh. Anyway, I got the "black multi" pattern at this link.
And I got 2 headbands, 3 nail polishes and several makeup brushes.
John got some Snoopy PJ pants, a coordinating sleep t-shirt, and a gift card to Books-a-million.
But, we got a GREAT together gift:
Woohoo- no more honker TV for us!!!! We now have a 32" Vizio LCD TV! We got home too late to do anything but hook it up and turn it on for a few minutes. But the pic was clearer! Our DVD player is also HD-enabled, and I ordered an HDMI cable first thing this morning! Can't wait to hook them together and see how much clearer the picture is!

We are also excited for our trip to Tampa. I wrapped the hubby's gift last night! 4 days until!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Arctic Mornings and Tropical Afternoons

Do you know how I left the house yesterday morning when it was 26 degrees? In Florida!
Like this: skivvies, socks, leggings, dress pants, closed-toed shoes, long sleeve shirt, 3/4 sleeve gauzy cotton shirt, denim jacket, wool coat, scarf, hat and gloves. It was so cold!
Do you know what the afternoon temp was in our office? 79 freaking degrees. Absolutely ridiculous! How is one supposed to dress for such extremes? I was down to skivvies, socks, shoes, pants and gauzy shirt. And my cheeks were still flushed. It's very hard to force on a coat to leave when your body feels slightly feverish.

Oh- to have control of our own thermostat. We almost all have small portable heaters for the mornings, but I have taken home my stand fan for our bedroom. I've gotta get another- pronto. Ludicrous that I am even typing these words in December!

I don't particularly mind the cold weather. In fact I like dressing in scarves, hats, boots and the like. But people who make the indoors like 80 when the outdoors are 30 make my wardrobing attempts extremely difficult!

This morning- 3/4 sleeve above-the-knee knit dress, denim jacket, leggings, Uggs, coat, gloves, hat
This afternoon- knit dress, Uggs when my feet get too chilly

Dumb people, just plain dumb!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Wintery Wonderful Weekend

Hi guys!
There are like NO pics from this weekend. : ( I really do need to get a camera. But- we had tons of fun nonetheless : )

Friday- Busy busy! Worked 1/2 day, got tires serviced, shopped with a friend, went on a double-date with same friend and her husband to a play/musical put on by the local university "A Christmas Carol." Let me just say that the singing narrator quartet was AMAZING! Like, perfect harmony and pitch, and all acapella. But it was pretty funny when after 3 rounds from the fog machine, the fire alarms went off for about 5 minutes.
Then we chatted a Starbucks for a bit, accompanied by good conversation and peppermint hot chocolate :)
Then we got a "we're not old" wild hair and saw the last showing of Chronicles of Narnia 3: Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I personally really liked it. The ending made me homesick for Heaven. But we did not see it in 3D (a waste for most movies IMO).

Saturday- I had already decided I did NOT want to wake up early. So I slept til like 8:45. John went yard-saling for a few hours alone. Among his finds was a black polka-dotted gold umbrella for me, $3. I was so excited! (I chronically lose umbrellas by leaving them behind). I took Eby to the vet last minute. She's been licking a sore on her foot for awhile. First we are trying and anti-fungal ointment for a week, and if that doesn't work antibiotics are next. Then on the way home I stopped for a visit and sweets at my bestie's bakery.
The middle-of-the-day lull was spent doing house chores and lounging. The afternoon and evening was spent with mom: she treated us to yummy lunch at our fave Greek cafe, then we stayed downtown for the Christmas parade. It was fun, made better by some marching bands from New Orleans joining the parade. But my feet were killing me by the end! We stood for about 3 hours. Then mom took me to run a grocery errand. By the time the groceries were put away, I was pooped. But I pressed on- painted our fireplace set black with some grill spray paint, ironed a few things, switched out laundry, super-glued the heels of some boots, painted my nails and balanced our checkbook and entered our weekly expenses into the budget. Needless to say I did not go to bed til about 1am.

Sunday was church, followed by leftovers, followed by a nap, followed by a farewell dinner with some good friends. John got the most amazing salad ever tasted at Mellow Mushroom. It was a "build your own" and soooo yummy. My calzone was mediocre. But the conversation and fellowship was fabulous!

I fell into bed exhausted, but had a hard time going to sleep. Hence my severe reluctance to get up this morning and my afternoon jet lag. So tired!

But- my Christmas cards come in today!!!!! Yaaaay!

John moment: after we got into the car at Starbucks on our way to the movies: "We might really have married friends babe! Ones we don't have to worried about them feeling awkward and who aren't weird." Lol. I am pretty excited about having more married friends too!

Send a card to our troops with Xerox

Especially this time of year, our troops should be remembered. So, use this link to select a card to be sent to an armed services member. Go Xerox!

Send a card

Let's Say Thanks

Thursday, December 9, 2010

9 Monthiversary

My hubby is so so sweet and great sometimes all the time : )

For our 9-Monthiversary he took me on a surprise mini trip.
We've really only recognized (with more than just words) our 1st and 6th monthiversaries. For the 1st he got me fabulous purse I was eyeing. For the 6th, it was also his bday, so I planned a surprise night at a hotel.

For the 9th, he planned the surprise. I was told we needed to leave about 4pm and dress warm. Imagine my shock when I got in the car and the GPS said 80 miles to our destination! I was definitely thinking we were doing something local. Of course he tried to tell me we were going go-kart racing in town. Ha!
But I like surprises, so I just let it play out.
We ended up going across the state line and to a wonderful Christmas lights display at Bellingrath Gardens. It was so cold but perfect out. Just me and him, strolling down the flora and fauna pathways.
We also toured the antique home on the property. The owner/husband donated the home and land when his wife passed away. He was quite wealthy as he was one of the first bottle franchisees of Coca Cola. We listened to a chorale sing a few tunes. We ate tasteless nachos and crappy hot chocolate. But it was great to be together!

Then for dinner we went to Logan's on the way home and ate way too much artery-clogging food. Including some very very hot and fresh yeast rolls at a table in front of their fireplace. Oh, it was fabulous!

A poinsettia just as we went in

The lady who was nice enough to take our picture was not steady-handed : )

These were hanging from trees with a disco-light putting white spots on the ground. It was magical!

Up close

I was so cold!

I thought it was a gardenia. If it was, they don't smell nice in the winter. John made me toss it lest we be kicked out : )

Gators on the lake

Umm, a squid ppl! : ) In the ocean-themed section

Under the sea

On our way out

The Nativity was right before Asian land. And I'm fairly certain neither Mary nor Jesus were blond-haired and blue-eyed. Lol

Bottle rockets
Thanks for a great day honey! I love you!

I better post this before the next weekend arrives!

So this week at work has been fairly busy, and to be honest, I hardly ever blog at home. Too many chores and things to do calling me!

So Friday, being the first Friday of the month, was church. It was chilly outside so I got to pull out the cute winter clothes. But to be honest, the best part was that at the end of service, I got to hold our worship leader's baby for about 45 minutes. He is just one of the cutest babies I have EVER seen! And he has a wonderful disposition. He's also a chunk, so my arms were hurting! If I could have a baby like that, I might change the plan and have one now! Oh, he's just scrumptious! I would put a pic but I don't know how his parents would feel.

Anyway, Saturday there were like a bazillion YSLs. Literally. We made several, and I scored some pretty sweet deals. John got quite a bit to resale too.
Cool vinyl chalkboard sticker, $1

LOVE these. $2! Felt like I was stealing. Have been offered $20 for them already!

So these are borderline ridiculous. But only 50 cents!

50 cents each. Kohls and Old Navy

$1 each. Gap and Old Navy

The whole fam reflected in the mirror I got for $5 Stealing for sure! Gonna paint the frame.

4 chargers, $2. Yellow pot, 50 cents
We also got a great baby gift for $2 and another gift for $10. Yes, we now give things from YSL! Why pay retail? Lol. I would put what they are, but they may go to a reader(s). : )
Hubby got some Adidas running pants, 50 cents, 2 Wii bowling balls, $15 (sold for $20 and $24 each), a special countertop oven, it's convection, conduction infared dome looking thing, $5, nice DVD player, $5, a single cup coffee maker with 2 Seattle's Best coffees, $20, 5 family DVD's, $12 and 4 strands of red and green Christmas lights new in the box for next year's tree, $8.
We got a lot this week!

Saturday afternoon we hung at the house and then later that evening I met up with my bestie and her sis for some amazing Chick-fil-a. Then I went to Ross and did some Christmas shopping. I abso-freakin-loutely love that store. I could spend all my money there, so I don't go too often.

Sunday after church mom and grandma joined us for lunch. I made Crock-Pot lasagna. Me and the Crock-Pot are becoming friends, especially on Sundays :)
Mom brought me some lover-ly Christmas cheer!
The guy on the left is an oven mitt : )
This week is/was packed with things to do! Caroling, Christmas music in the downtown park, clothes shopping with a girlfriend, a Christmas play (Scrooge)/double date, a Christmas parade, and a farewell dinner. Next weekend mom and I are going to the Nutcracker ballet! I won tickets on the radio and I'm so excited!

Hope your Christmas is packed with great things to do and great people to be with!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Here's the one we made!

Faith Hope Family Religious Christmas Card
Get custom photo Christmas cards online at
View the entire collection of cards.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thanksgiving Recipes!

Hi all!

So- I made three things for Thanksgiving. I am going to put the Internet links for each one, and then list the modifications I made or the tips I have.

My fave:

Brie en croute
Pepperidge Farm Recipe

There is a link to the specific brie I made, but it is malfunctioning.
So, to fancy it up like I did, add this:
Before you lay the cheese on the pastry-
Mix 1/2 tsp fresh chopped rosemary, 1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans, 1/4 cup honey and 1/4 cup dried fruit of your choice (I used cranberries, original recipe calls for cherries). Soften fruit first by soaking in hot water for 1 min, then pat dry on paper towel. Place the mix in the center of the pastry and lay brie round on top. Then proceed with basic recipe linked above.

Tip- I think that technically the thick "rind" that comes on brie is supposed to be left on. But ours (purchased at Wal-Mart) had a very thick, not tasty, "skin". We used the side edge of a spoon turned upside down to scrape the rind off. A veggie/potato peeler also works well along the rim.
Serve warm. Reheats well in the microwave. 

So, I sent my fab sis-in-law/owner of  this somewhat neglected blog :) I found out you are technically supposed to leave the rind (mold) on. But it's up to your taste buds.
Opinion 1
Opinion 2
Opinion 3

Pepperidge Farm's website has a few other brie recipes that sound yummy!

Cheese's Baked Mac n Cheese
So I definitely "healthied" this one up.
I used only 1 link (about 8 oz) of smoked turkey sausage, reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese blend, fat free milk and whole wheat flour. I also recommend only using 1/4 to 1/3 cup of bread crumbs. They recommend waaaay too many IMO.

Classy Green Bean Casserole
I used fat free sour cream, low-fat/sodium mushroom soup and reduced fat crackers. IMO- the sour cream probably should have been at least light, maybe even full-fat. Or maybe I'm just not a fan of this recipe. But if you make the modifications, it would be pretty low-cal.

I hope you all enjoyed your holiday!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Thanksgiving and beyond 2010

Hi all! I am doing well getting back into the swing of things- but already looking forward to Christmas! This year I will be going with John to his side of the family in the Tampa area. I know it will be a lot of fun, but I am just a little bit nostalgic about not waking in our own bed with our own tree and our pups. (They'll be having lots of fun and contraband food with their wonderful grandma though!). And I tell myself they have no idea it's Christmas :)

So- this is how our holiday weekend went- I had just enough time off to really forget about work.

Thursday- We went over to my grandma's about 11:30. My mom came over too and brought wonderful food! I think we all showed a lot of restraint- not even sure anyone had seconds! And we didn't dig into dessert til 3pm! After lunch we drug out the tree and a few Christmas decorations to put up for my grandma. She's too elderly to do any heavy lifting anymore. I so meant to take a pic of the tree- but forgot. I cut up some of her silk red poinsettias and stuck those in for some color bursts. I think it turned out well. Mom kept the grandpups out of the way while we strung lights and hung ornaments. And we did it all in shorts because in stupid Florida style- it was 80 degrees!
Mashed taters, gravy, turkey, macaroni casserole, green bean casserole, dressing, squash casserole and sweet potatoes

Mom made a delish dry-rub turkey with a Southern Living recipe

I made a brie en croute, just for my baby. It was tasty!
Someone just has to be a jokester. We got no decent pics!

Thanksgiving clean-up crew
So as you can see- it was a casserole Thanksgiving. Lol. For real. I will post recipes for the 3 dishes I made. I did not like the green bean casserole recipe, but it was fairly low cal, and mom and John pretty much liked it. But it does NOT involve french fried onions! My grandma said: "Well I've never heard of such." Lol.
The macaroni casserole was pretty tasty- but the amount of breadcrumbs it calls for is about triple what you need. The brie- oh- it was yum! especially when hot.
We also had two fabulous desserts from mom that I somehow forgot to take a pic of: Southern Living apple pie with crumb topping and a somewhat re-created version of Piccadilly's pumpkin struesel cheesecake. My fave!

Later that evening we went over to a family friend's house for leftovers, games and talking. Had a great time. In fact- one member of this family has a blog that can be found here.
We got home quite late. I had fallen asleep on their couch :)

So- our aim Friday was to sleep til noon. Of course we didn't make it. I think I first woke at 8ish. But I did manage to keep going back to sleep til 10:45. But the real shocker- even though we were both awake- we stayed in bed til 1pm! Reading, surfing the web, being lazy. So no black Friday madness and deals for us. The only things we want are not within our budget :) But- we did make one trip to the mall about 3pm. To my fave store- Ross. :) We got like 6 items for $40. To be honest I don't think we did anything Friday night but watch TV and continue our laziness. It was fabulous!

Saturday- we went YSLing. There were only 4 on craigslist. We went to about 8 and got NOTHING. It was a failure. At the very last one, I got 2 Avon nail polishes and some hand cream for $3. We would have been better off sleeping. And when we got home- that's what we did. Napped. Did house stuff.

Then we finally decorated our tree and the rest of the house. I did not go Christmas crazy this year. Though I miss it a little :) Get this- after we put all 4 strands of lights on the tree- they ALL went out! What the heck! After testing- we found the first and last strands were blown. So we had to redo those. But anyway- it's done now! Then that evening we met out-of-town and in-town friends for coffee and chit chat. We had a really nice time catching up. And it was cold outside and fabulous! Darn it- no one took any pics of that :( Oh well. I so desperately need a camera again!!!!!
Don't mind our "special" topper

The newly painted table with it's double runner and home-made centerpiece

I think the mantle needs more- gotta track down some garland

The reindeer on the corners have been in our family since I was a child. They were actually a Burger King promotion :) But we love em

I think the entrance is my favorite

Cute, but they blow over almost every day : (

Yes, I bought a door cover. I am that kitchy :)
Sunday we had a guest speaker from Israel at church. It was nice. Then we came home to lunch waiting in the crockpot. The rain had gone and the cold had settled in- so we decided to go ahead and pack-up to head out to Bear Lake, about an hour away from us, to go overnight camping. We took the dogs- probably a little more of a pain than it was worth. Eby is a bad traveler. She whines in the car. Ernie bears his afflictions in silence, thank God. Even though it was colder than we expected, the dogs were and pain, and we didn't have enough firewood- we still had a good time.

We were freezing when we went to sleep- it was 36. We were boiling when we woke up- it was 51! Poor Eby, who was stuffed down in John's sleeping bag to keep his feet warm, got so over-heated that she threw up on John's new sleeping bag. Fun. Thankfully I had Ernie as a foot-warmer who holds his stomach contents better : ) To the dogs' credit- I realized when we got home that we didn't give them any water while we were gone! Only food. Poor pups. Anyway, we finally got out of the tent about 8 am, had breakfast, then took a 2.5 mile trail walk through the woods. It was a nice time. I'd like to go again- we'll be wiser about what to do and bring next time.
Father and son bonding on the way there

Can you tell who HATES the car? Notice Ernie the underling bearing it in silence :) Her face kills me: "drop dead camera"

Pristine Bear Lake

Out campsite and new tent hubby bought
You had to sit 12 inches from it to keep warm, but it was decent enough to cook food :)

After a rough night of sleep

Along the trail

Kiddos hiking and sniffing
We finished off our work-free weekend with a get-together for our ladies' group. We were allowed to bring the hubbies this week! Such a great time, I love this group!
Still missing 2, and losing another for good soon : (

Almost the whole gang

The picture prankster strikes again (but that is one of my Avon $1 YSL polishes on my nails)
So folks, we had a great time! I hope you did too! I will do a recipe post soon!