Christmas Church Potato Casserole Recipe

So J chose to be born at the wrong time. Dec. 19. Who does that? Someone who wants to get twice the presents at one time, that's who. At his Dec. 18 birthday celebration this year I ate these amazing potatoes. And I've eaten them as left overs several times since. They're simply amazing. Jarrod's mother, Ruth, was kind enough to share the recipe with me. Happy graduation, Bonnie!

In other news, Bonnie, my friend since junior high, graduated from college this weekend. I went to her graduation party at the Irwin house on Saturday. Congrats, Bonnie! I love you. She is going to be a fantastic teacher.

Christmas Church Potato Casserole

1 (2 lb.) bag of Southern style hash brown potatoes

1 tsp. salt

1/2 c. melted butter

1/2 c. chopped onions

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1 small can of cream of chicken soup

1 pt. sour cream

2 c. grated cheddar cheese

2 c. corn flakes

1/4 c. melted butter


Mix all ingredients except corn flakes and butter. Spread in oiled 9 x 13 pan. Mix corn flakes and butter and sprinkle on top. Cook in preheated oven at 350 for 90 minutes.

Weekend Update: Marc Anthony and the perks of someone else's job

Church Youth Group Can be Painful

J was asked this weekend to play guitar at a youth group show. It was superhero themed. Because apparently God is is the ultimate superhero. Silence. No laughter? Yea. Silence. That's what I thought. Okay, I mean the theme was cute, but really the people that benefited most were the grown men leading the youth group that got to purchase and wear elaborate hero costumes.

Anyway, so J said that event would be short and that he'd play about an hour in. He picked me up at 6 p.m. and we headed out to Sugar Land's Something Something Cristina - Bilingual Christian Church/School. The band that J was playing with is the band from his parents' church that he played with for years.

We didn't leave until like 10:30 p.m. hours after we'd thought we'd be home. The event was pretty well attended and the kids for the most part participated in the theme. It was, however, one of those moments that I felt REALLY old because I was clearly NOT ONE OF THE HIGH SCHOOL KIDS and NO ONE talked to me. Poor me. There was a lot of standing against a wall that I did at this event.

Anyway, the reason I share all of this is that there was a costume contest for the six or so kids that chose to dress up. But it wasn't just a costume contest. They also had to individually perform the full length of a hit pop song karaoke style. I cannot tell you how painfully awkward this was. These kids are not singers. It was painful for me as I watched them struggle through the songs looking not at all happy and painful for the audience of high school kids who were watching their friends be awkward. And somehow these songs went on and on. Ugh. Still reliving those painful memories. Anyway. I was also very tired, so the horror of this show may have been amplified by my sleep deprivation.

Raise Your Hand if You're a White Person!

A few days before the weekend, J sent me a G-chat asking if I knew who Marc Anthony was. I didn't. He then sent me an email saying that his company had suite tickets up for grabs to the Marc Anthony concert at the Toyota Center.

I don't like concerts. I've told J this. And it makes him have the Big Sad. But I go because he really likes them and I hope that someday I'll like the loud noise, sweaty crowds and fog machines. But I do like being treated really well. That never gets old. So the suite was right up my alley.

Also, I have this theory that if someone offers you something for free and it's a new (non harmful) experience, take it. If nothing else, it broadens your horizons as a learning experience.

The concert was on Saturday night. It was a nice to cap to a super eventful day including a church meeting and birthday dinner. Parking passes were included in the Marc Anthony package, so getting in was a breeze.

We walked right into the venue and into our suite. J and I had skipped dinner in preparation to gorge ourselves on the free foods promised. Well, we won't do that again. The only food that was available to us was wilted fried chicken strips, mystery meet on soggy crackers and a marshmallow cake (not as good as it sounds - though I did eat an entire giant slice). Not to mention the beverage options were super lacking.

J and I went into this evening knowing that Marc A. sang in Spanish, so it wasn't a big surprise that there was not a lot of ethnic diversity to the crowd. It was kind of nice being the minority for once.

The concert was opened by this Puerto Rican comedian that was really quite funny.  He had all the people from different countries raise their hands and then made a point of asking if there were any white people in the house. Wooohooo! That was us. We cheered. For being white. That might be the one and only time I've done that.

It turns out I know a few Marc Anthony songs. And you probably do to.

"Tell me Baby Girl Because I need to Know" is one of them.

Weekend update: It's just a can opener

Can or Can't Opener Sunday I kept my word and met up with a group from my church to play soccer.

Nothing makes me realize how unfit I am like praying that I was chosen for the the Shirts team in Shirt versus Skins and then trying to hide astonishment at the chiseled ab-ness of some of my fellow parishioners (there's something hot and unholy about that).

While huffing and puffing up and down the small soccer field, I started doing what any cake-loving kid would do and began dreaming of the meal that I would eat later that evening. Of course, it was going to be healthy. A lean protein like fish or shrimp.

After it got too dark to play, Aggie and I drove to the HEB to pick up some food stuff. I've heard before that you shouldn't go grocery shopping hungry or after a workout and I understand why. Everything looked like a flipping jelly doughnut. And I was wanton for a jelly doughnut, you-know-what-I'm-sayin. Anyway, I got this crazy idea as I walked into the store that I would make my meal for less that $10. Activate anxiety. Activate Mission Impossible music.

I'll buzz through the shopping part as it wasn't exciting. I settled on shrimp (to be turned into baked coconut shrimp), rice and fiesta bean salad blend in a can.

I was at J's place doing laundry, so I knew that I was limited in my cooking tools. I knew that he didn't have a can opener. That's a lie. He has an electric can opener and I've battled that thing before and decided that I wasn't up for fight it tonight.

So, I bought a $2 manual can opener.

I brought my bounty to the shortest checkout line (for once in my life I was able to stand in the 15 items and under line). The cashier's look screamed, "I play Dungeons and Dragons, wear ironic graphic boxers and live with my mother." You know, male, low pony tale with hair parted straight down the middle and small glasses. Looks like he might program software in his downtime.

I finally got up to the front of the line and the guy began checking out my stuff - er, groceries. As he comes upon my can opener, he says "oh this won't do."

I returned a small, strained laugh.

"Yea, I know."

It was a piece of shit-can-opener. I was well aware. The type of can opener that you through against the wall after you mangle a can lid into a murder weapon. If you're laughing, you've been there. We all have.

It was this can opener or the $15 KitchenAid. And that shit would have blown my budget. And (of course) I've got my KitchenAid can opener at my house.

"I mean," he said, "I used to work in a restaurant and I had this boss that every two weeks would buy me a new can opener (what the heck is ponytail guy doing with can openers?). And this just won't work. It won't last."

"I just need it to open one can," I said, realizing that I had boob sweat stain prominent on my University Democrats shirt. A thrill, I'm sure.

"Oh, it'll do that for sure. Probably 20 cans. But not much more than that."

"That's fine," I said. Paid and carried out my shrimp, other stuff, and less-than can opener.

Thanks for your concern HEB guy.

Other Stuff This Weekend

J was out of town in Chicago with his sister. She was in charge of planning the trip and did not invite me. Okay. I see how it is.

I had a church leadership retreat Friday and Saturday. Came home carsick as all get out Saturday and slept until Sarah Neill (who was watching Aggie) knocked on my door and woke me up (and the litttle dog jumped on my bed and really woke me up).

Sunday I had church and gardened. And then played soccer and did laundry at Jarrod's place. It wasn't until hours into my laundry doing that I realized that the heat on the dryer was turned to low and finally understood why my clothes wouldn't dry.

Always looking for my Knight in Shining Armor (Big Bend trip)

As it was getting toward evening Saturday night, Chelsea and I decided to take a walk around Marfa. This was the point in our trip where we talked a lot about life and where we see the future, faith, God and family. As we rounded a corner we saw this small stone church and Chelsea asked if we could go up to it. She was satisfied that her suspicion was true, it was in fact an Episcopal church. Chelsea was raised Episcopal and is in a period of spiritual exploration as she tries to land in her adult church. Anyway, no one was around so we tried the door. It was open. Despite Chelsea's concern that we might be tripping some sort of silent alarm, we went inside. The sanctuary was still and empty inside and seats maybe 100. It's pretty small. I told Chels that this is the kind of place I want to get married because I wouldn't be overwhelmed with the number of available seats for guests. The church windows were colorfully illustrated biblical scenes. We walked around for a few quiet moment before letting ourselves out and continuing on.

Best part of a hairdresser brother? Free haircuts.

We're right in the middle of the Christmas season, so I figured it was time for a family update. After leaving San Antonio on Friday, Mom and Dad traveled to Baton Rouge to see Todd and Nick. On Christmas eve they went to a posh wine bar called WINO (Wine Institute of New Orleans).

I'm just going to say that Todd looks like he's not so happy in this picture.

Christmas morning dad got up early and made his famous cinnamon rolls. Nick's mom came over and enjoyed Christmas morning with the family.

For Christmas, Dad surprised Mom with a new iPad. We're not sure what we'll call this new addition to the family yet. iPad3? iPad junior? No worries. Mom's old iPad is going to Dad. Hopefully he won't break this one. Beware elder iPad.

Some day later, Mom and Dad went to Regis where Todd cut their hair. True Macrander fact. Todd cuts all of our hair. Every single one of us. I can't remember the last time I paid to get my hair cut or highlighted. That is wonderful. It also helps that Todd is giving of his time and very good at what he does.

Here's a picture of Alaska Mom getting her "Northern Lights" touched up.

Anyway, this evening, Mom and Dad are headed to Birmingham to see Mom's parents. I'm (Emily) already here. I got here last night and had the grandparents to myself for a whole evening.

Before coming to Alabama, I spent the holiday with Underwood clan. Let's see. Christmas eve for me was spent in the afternoon with Jarrod's dad's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Tappmeyer. Then we went to church. Then we chilled and napped. Then church again for the midnight service at Jarrod and I's church Canvas in Montrose. That was special because we usually meet in an elementary school and for this occasion we were in First Christian. I love celebrating the birth of Jesus with my wonderful church family.

Christmas morning we headed over to the Jarrod's mother's parents home for a brunch and then it was back to the Underwood home. I was surprised with a beautiful red KitchenAid mixer from mother and father Underwood and an ice cream maker from Dylan and Kaitlyn. I guess they know I like to cook, right?

The night came to an end with a visit from the Wiesendangers, Mollie and Layne.

Okay, I'm a person that stresses to the max over Christmas. I'm still waiting for the holy grail no-cry Christmas (maybe Christmas 2014??). But all said and done, I am blessed. I have wonderful family spread all over the country and my brother has a loving partner. I have Jarrod and his family is very gracious to me. And I have a little dog.