Musings

Come On In and Set a Spell

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde.

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Musings

Happy Fall!

This morning I got up and turned on the heater. Hooray! That might not sounds like such a big deal, but around here we’ve been living with temps in the low to mid 90s with humidity to match. I’m tired of my a/c – and I love my a/c.

Now, I know that we have a few more days when temps will rise to the 80s again, but at this moment I’m enjoying what I can.

I’ve been dreaming of casseroles lately. In celebration of weather cool enough to have the oven on, it headed to the kitchen and raided my pantry.

I heard about Rao’s fantastic sauces and decided to give them a try. I enjoy a good spaghetti or lasagna, not to mention pizza, but tomato sauce and I are not good friends. The acidity is a game stopper for me.

Doing some research, I found suggestions to add butter and baking soda (in small amounts) to resolve that issue, so I decided to try it.

The Rao’s sauce is scrumptious! I had to stop myself from eating it out of the jar. Yes, it is pricey, but I think it is worth it when you have a meal you actually want to eat.

Check out lunch:

Quick & Easy Baked Pasta

Pantry staples make a tasty quick fix for any night of the week.
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Italian
Keyword Cheese, Marinara Sauce, Pasta
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 6

Equipment

  • 13 x 9-inch baking dish

Ingredients

  • 1 16 ounce box penne pasta
  • 1 24 ounce jar Rao's Marinara Sauce
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 – 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray baking dish with nonstick spray
  • Prepare pasta to package directions. Drain reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.
  • In the empty pot used to cook pasta, combine the sauce, butter, and baking soda. Mix until butter is melted. Use the pasta cooking water to rinse the sauce jar and add to the pot. Add the cooked pasta and stir to coat.
  • Pour the pasta mixture into the baking dish. Top with 1/2 to 1 cup of shredded cheese. Bake until cheese is melted. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Notes

I did not put foil over the top of the dish when it went into the oven.  It came out a little dry – which was fine by me.  If you want yours a little wetter, put the foil on for the majority of the bake time, take it off to finish melting the cheese.
To keep the cheese from sticking to the aluminum foil, spray the foil with nonstick spray.
I am sensitive to acidity in tomatoes.  The baking soda and butter were used to combat that.

Happy eating!

Around the House · YouTube

Inspiration: Engineer Your Space

I came across Engineer Your Space on YouTube several years ago. I love finding creative folks who are courageous and willing to think out of the box when it comes to making use of small spaces. At the time, Isabelle LaRue was living in a small apartment in New York City. I thought her ideas and designs were interesting and doable by most folks.

It wasn’t long that she moved to Los Angeles and once again created a living space that is warm, comfortable, useful, and, most importantly, doable by the average renter.

Granted, she has experience with tools, but that is something that anyone can learn. They can also rent tools if necessary, so that shouldn’t be an impediment.

What I can appreciate the most is the way Isabelle tackles problems, areas, projects in ways that are creative and affordable. They are all Renter Friendly and geared toward small spaces, but that doesn’t mean that the average homeowner can’t make use of her ideas, too.

I recently revisited the YouTube channel to find updates on her apartment. I love the way living in a space gives you opportunity to find out how it works best for you and what you can do to make use of all the features.

Check out her website here: Engineer Your Space, but don’t forget to check out her other media outlets.

Around the House · Shopping · YouTube

Inspiration: Mr. Carrington & Luke Catleugh

My discovery of Mr. Carrington has led to a lot of ideas, inspiration, fun and, my particular favorite, arm chair travel.

Mr. C, as he is known in my home, lives in London, England. His channel focuses on DIY around the house, decor, shopping excursions, cleaning and easy recipes. Among a few other things. LOL

Frankly, he is one of the very few Appointment TV (aka: YouTube) I have. Every Sunday morning I sit back with my coffee and breakfast watching to see what he’s been up to lately.

My other Appointment TV is with Luke Catleugh. Both of these guys are friends and occasional coworkers. They share a love of shopping, DIY, decor, travel, etc. Luke is also quite an interesting and inspiring home cook.

Each of these guys bring a relaxing vibe as they share their latest projects, shopping hauls, excursions into the garden, not to mention those rare but thoroughly enjoyable meet ups.

Watching them has stretched my imagination when it comes to decor and DIY projects. I’ve also thoroughly enjoyed their travel experiences, too.

If you are interested, go to YouTube and search for Mr. Carrington and Luke Catleugh.

Musings

I Don’t Know About You But

Here we are in the middle of September with Pumpkin Whatever Season either upon us or fast approaching. Am I the only one not really ready to think about Fall?

We’ve had such <cough> warm (i.e.: HOT) weather that lately, as the weather is cooling a bit, I take notice when the a/c doesn’t run all the time. In fact, it has cooled enough that I can leave the door open to the screen until almost Noon before the a/c kicks in. Amazing! Dare I admit it is a bit disconcerting?

I’ve spent the last month or so dreaming about casseroles and roasts. Both of which tend to heat up the kitchen in addition to adding some wonderful scents in the air. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the salads and sandwiches that I indulged in all Summer. Frankly, they hit the spot because nothing else appealed. But now…I’m thinking pot roast.

Speaking of daydreaming, I recently picked up a really cute stamp and punch set for making Halloween cards. I’ve been dreaming about how I want to use them, but it seems just a bit too early to start in. And don’t get me started about creating Christmas cards! My designs have changed at least four times in the last month!

I don’t know about you but I feel like I’m not quite ready to move forward yet, even though I am really not interested in staying put.

On the plus side, I have several TV shows that will be returning with the new season – which is coming up sooner than I expected. Several of my regular authors will be publishing soon and at least one has branched off into new territory.

Many of my regular YouTubers are undergoing Change. One is expecting. One is on the road to completing some renovations in his home. One has added a fur baby to his family. One has lost a family member. Several are undergoing the process of re-evaluating their content and what they want to continue to work on.

Odd that all this seems to be coming to a head during Fall, but the reality is that most have been In Progress for most of the year – or at least the Summer. Fall tends to be the time to prepare for Winter’s sleep. The time for Nature to rejuvenate.

Rejuvenation

Perhaps that is what is happening around here. Most of the major projects are completed or at a point where it is not feasible to move forward until next year.

Somehow it just doesn’t feel quite like the right time yet. Maybe I’m just not ready to tuck in just yet?

Around the House · YouTube

Inspiration: DIY Danie

I’ll be honest, I’m not 100% sure where I originally came across Danie Berger’s work on YouTube. I’m pretty sure it could have been while watching Alexandra Gater or Buy or DIY. What I am sure about is how much I enjoy her creativity, her willingness to be silly, her fearlessness when it comes to projects.

Note: I’m pretty sure Danie would not agree to the ‘fearless’ adjective, but there you go. 🙂

As I’ve discovered during the more than a year of following along, Danie has a love of a variety of things that often inspires her to make some amazing projects. She has allowed herself to think outside the box and create projects, and rooms, that appeal to the fan in all of us

One of my favorite projects is her Harry Potter Inspired Adult Bedroom. Check it out:

For those of us who love Potter, this room is an eye opening comfort space that gives all of us permission to play and explore a bit while not diving into any kind of ‘kid zone’.

This past year, Danie embarked on making magic in her very own first home. Check out her videos as she upgraded the decor in the living room, bathroom and bedrooms. Don’t overlook the back patio or garden upgrades, either. And, I have to be honest, I’m loving the She Shed. 🙂

I have to say that after watching her, I don’t look at things in quite the same way. Is there a DIY potential? What if…?

If you are interesting in checking out Danie’s work, go over to her website diyinprogress to see what she has been up to. She’s also on YouTube and Instagram and probably a few more spots – you can find all the info on YouTube, too.

Audiobooks · Books

On the Reading Table: Marcus Didius Falco

I love a book series that is so compelling, captures so much interest, evolves into that rare realm titled “Can’t Put It Down!” that I literally can’t stop. Lucky for me, I discovered Falco thanks to Audible.com

I recently found myself stuck in a rut while waiting for other series to update via newer additions. Thanks to Audible, I have access to a very large and varied collection of books as part of their Audible Plus offering. What started as a test run with book one evolved into a marathon download and listen to each book in turn – some of the books listened to/read multiple times before moving on.

Make no mistake, I’ve inhaled this series.

After finishing the last book in the series, ‘Nemesis’, I can honestly say that this particular odyssey was worth every single minute. Each individual book stands on its own but taken together create a tapestry that is both complicated and cohesive. Davis is an author who is willing and able to connect the dots for both history and crime fiction.

Check out the author’s website: Lindsey Davis. You can also find more by going to Goodreads.com and Amazon.com. You can also check out this entry for a broader overview.

Falco is a first century Roman citizen who is a private investigator. Between his family, his friends, and his clients (Roman Emperor Vespasian, for example), Falco encounters some complicated mysteries and family dynamics that would make any modern protagonist wonder if there was benefit to moving elsewhere and starting a new career.

Personally, I am constantly amazed at how astute Falco can be while being determinedly obtuse when it comes to certain family truths.

Historical novels can often suffer due to the research ability of their author. Some choose to avoid details that could be questionable while others dive in so deep the reader can lose track of the story altogether. Davis has provided a balanced combination of information about the Roman Empire with enough nuts and bolts operation of the private detective. We aren’t stuck in one location throughout the series, either. Starting in Britiania we visit a wide array of locations within the empire, but it is Rome itself that shines in the books. Falco loves Rome. It is his home city and he knows it like the back of his hand.

While the books themselves are true gems, don’t overlook the Official Companion. There Lindsey has gathered maps of the city and the empire along with information on all the main characters without overstepping and giving spoilers.

Speaking of spoilers…

The series has several story arcs. Some carry through several books, some carry through the entire series. Everyone evolves throughout the series, some in unexpected ways.

Once this series is completed, I plan on continuing with the second series set in Rome. It will be a welcome addition to my Reading Table. 🙂

Cooking · Food · Recipe of the Month

Kitchen Building Blocks: Ground Beef Mix

I learned to make this handy mix years ago. It is the basis for pasta sauces, meatloaves, meat balls, or hamburgers. The ingredients are simple and probably have a place in your pantry.

I’ve been known to make batches and put them in the freezer for later use. This is especially helpful when there is a sale on at the market.

All Purpose Ground Beef Mix

This is the House Mix. It has all the basics mixed in so all I have to do is add any extras for recipes.
Course Main Course
Prep Time 15 minutes
Author Janet

Equipment

  • Large Mixing Bowl
  • Freezer Containers

Ingredients

  • 2 pound ground beef or ground chuck The lower the fat content the milder the flavor.
  • 1 pound sausage meat remove any casings
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 egg beaten

Instructions

  • In a large mixing bowl, add egg, salt, pepper, onion, and garlic powder. Beat to combine. Add meats and mix only until fully combined – do not over mix.
  • If freezing, separate into portions and add to containers. Don't forget to label the containers with the contents and the date prepared. Freeze.
  • When you are ready to use, take the container out of the freezer the day before and defrost in the refrigerator.

Notes

This is a base recipe. You can multiply it for larger quantities of ground beef.
For example, if you had 5 pounds of ground beef you would add 2 1/2 pounds of ground sausage and multiply the seasonings to taste.
If you want to check the seasonings, fry a small piece of the mixture.  Do not eat raw meat.
You can also use fresh onion, garlic or any other flavoring in place of the powdered version. Onion, celery, green peppers, and garlic can be chopped to the size you desire and added to the meat mixture in place of the dried seasonings. When I do this, I chop as finely as possible as I do not like to chew on pieces of vegetable. 🙂
Cooking · Dining · Food · Recipe of the Month

Vintage Food: Waldorf Salad

For those of us who grew up in the 1960s, the Waldorf Salad was part of the holiday menu. It was one of those ‘kept for special’ recipes that were brought out along with the other holiday staples like roast turkey, candied sweet potatoes and the like.

I recently found myself thinking about this almost forgotten favorite when I purchased some chicken salad for sandwiches. It came with shredded cooked chicken, and pecans, cranberries mixed with mayo. Delicious!

As I said, I got to remembering the Original Waldorf Salad recipe and thought I’d look it up. As you can see from the link, at the very beginning, the salad was simple, elegant and easy to prepare. It was also easy to update.

Adding sliced grapes, shredded chicken, maybe some bleu cheese changes the flavor profile and adds a bit more interest. You literally can gussie this one up in a variety of ways to make it more modern, but why? Really, the original is light, flavorful and has a nice combination of textures that will work well alongside a menu including roast chicken. I would think it might also be a nice side with a roast beef. I’d probably shy away from a roast pork as the meat might be a bit too rich. Then again, maybe not.

If you have never tried the Waldorf Salad, in any of its forms, I urge you to check the link above for the original recipe and see what you think. It might just become a part of your regular rotation – if not your holiday menu.

Let me know what you think!

Musings

I’m Thinking About An “Idea Book”

One of the upsides to having a real clear out is the uncovering of materials that are useful in many different ways. For example: A recent clear out of a corner of my office netted me a good sized three ring binder with some dividers.

I tucked it away for a while but drug it out when I realized I had accumulated a large collection of card recipes, color charts, and project sheets. What better place to put them where I could use them?

Yes, I could have left them on my computer but when you consider that in order to use them on the computer I’d have to utilize space that I would need for crafting… This worked out for me.

An “Idea Book” Can Be What You Want It To Be

I have several Idea Books. One is used to collect quilt block patterns and instructions. Another is used to keep room measurements, color choices, and ideas for design or decoration. Should I really get into gardening, I can create one for that endeavor, too.

Using what you already have is a great way to not spend any money, have a place to gather ideas, and not take up space on your phone. Until, of course, you are ready to tackle those particular projects.

Give it a try and see if it can work for you!

Classic TV · Media · TV

The Evening Routine

As I write this, it is roughly that time of the evening where I am and the hour before Midnight in London, England. I mention this because it is at this time of day, Monday through Friday, when I sit down to listen to Pumpkin FM. Pumpkin FM has several channels that cover a variety of nostalgic radio, some USA based, some U.K. based.

At this time of the weekday (night?) I sit back to enjoy the latest episodes of ‘Allo, ‘Allo and Are You Being Served?. Both of the very old BritComs are aired audio only allowing the listener to occupy hands otherwise while listening to some rather fun shows. It also allows your imagination to run a bit wild filling in the images.

If you have never seen, let alone listened to, these shows, please note they are vintage 1970 or 1980 shows that are more parody and farce. Please keep that in mind. 🙂

If you need to learn more, or have a refresher, check the following links:

‘Allo, ‘Allo

Are You Being Served?

Check out the schedules for the rest of Pumpkin FM channels. Among the variety of programming you will find comedies, serials, variety shows and a collection of crime dramas There is something for everyone.

Enjoy!

P.S.: If you are interested in actually watching these shows, check out imdb.com who will have the latest places to watch.