Audiobooks · Books

From The Reading Table: An Act of Foul Play

An Act of Foul Play by T.E. Kinsey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I always enjoy visiting with Flo and Lady Hardcastle, and this visit was no exception. I particularly liked that they were also spending time with friends and family in their own neck of the woods, so to speak.

The mystery was well thought out and the twists and turns were captivating. I had an inkling of the murderer early on but the why and how had to come from the reveal.

Once again, Elizabeth Knoweldon did a fabulous job reading the book (I always listen via Audible). She handles various characters, accents, and genders extremely well. She even did a stellar job handling characters who were pretending to be other characters.

I still want to know what happened to the Rolls car, but I’m sure that will be answered in the next book.

While this is a great book on its own, I do believe that to get the full effect of the series, it is best to start at the beginning.



View all my reviews

Cooking · Dining · Food

Guilty Pleasure: Vinnie’s Vittles

I have to admit, I miss Vinnie’s Vittles on YouTube. That is not to say the channel is not still there, along with all those great recipes. Sadly, due to a lot of things, mostly time related to the growth of Maymay Made It, Vinnie (Maymay’s trusty sidekick) decided to stop making videos for his channel.

Thankfully, we can all go back to earlier postings to see what delights he brought to the table. And there are lots of them!

Vinnie loves to cook and loves to find easy, flavorful recipes that don’t take a lot of time or ingredients but give great flavor.

Head over to YouTube and type ‘Vinnie’s Vittles’ in the search box to go to his channel. Browse the recipes and dive in. There are lots to enjoy!

Around the House

Easing Into The Holidays

Or out of the holidays, if you choose.

Typically the time period between November 15th and January 2nd is when I hibernate. Why? Simple. I don’t like crowds on a good day and during the holidays, there are very few ‘good days’ when you are out among folks who are all competing for the best deal, the most stuff, the insanity that is the last minute (for some) shopping extravaganza.

Yes, I know that sounds pretty grinchy, but I’m not alone in my desire not to get caught up in the furor.

So, how do I deal with the Holidays? I find baking projects that I can do when I feel like being in the kitchen for any length of time. I look for holiday specials or episodes on my favorite channels or platforms that bring a sparkle and some cheer. I plan my Holiday Menu, or two, or three. I find ways to avoid getting caught up in the insanity and enjoying the sanity.

Sanity during the holidays? Are you crazy?

Maybe. Over the years I’ve found ways to enjoy the holidays without being caught up in the noise, motion, frazzle, and such. It is possible. It isn’t something most people do, either. Which is probably why my stress level is much lower. 🙂

What’s on my Holiday To Do List this year?

Well, I’ve unearthed a couple of recipes from my bucket list that I actually have ingredients on hand to make. I’ve begun looking at the various schedules for the channels and platforms I like to watch. I’m looking for holiday shows that are either very new or very old. Yeah, I know how that sounds but that’s what is appealing this year. 😉 I’m also aiming to have some Appointment Viewing so I make time to watch what I find. I’m finding those particular special items that I want to gift and getting that done in time to avoid mail or delivery delays.

Basically, I’m setting limits for myself so I don’t make myself crazy, frustrated or upset. Once that is done I’m free to enjoy the season without worrying about what comes next.

The holidays may come once a year, but they do come every year. Make time to take time to enjoy yourself.

Food

Kitchen Bucket List: Apple Cake

This recipe has been on my Kitchen Bucket List for far too long! I finally had all the ingredients on hand and decided to give it a try.

P Allen Smith – Fresh Apple Cake

I suggest that you consider shredding the apples rather than slice or chop. And be sure to thoroughly grease and flour your pan.

This cake is not overly sweet and I can understand why Allen suggested it as a good breakfast item.

Give it a try!

Around the House

Take A Deep Breath

Yes, the holidays are upon us. It isn’t as if you weren’t aware, right? Unless, of course, you might have been in a coma, off planet, without electricity, gas, or WiFi.

I’m sounding harsh? Really? Sorry, been there, done that, moved on. And you can, too.

If you’ve been reading here for very long, you might have noticed that I have mentioned that it could be a good time to start early holiday prepping…like in June? Back when it was warm and there were so many other things to do…

Honestly, the one reason we start seeing so many holiday themes in Summer is that crafters need to have time to prepare their crafts. Many of those projects require TIME.

But on a realistic bent, it is easier to budget not only your time but your money if you start early.

But what about NOW?????

Okay, let’s think this through.

How many gifts are you thinking about giving? How many gifts is realistic with your budget?

What can you make yourself? If you have a great recipe for cocoa mix or cookies or quick breads, now is the time to pull them out and start making a list. Some things will freeze well for a couple of weeks (make sure you have room in the freezer!), some things won’t stand up for very long. (Party mix with butter is a possibly no-no for long term storage.)

What about putting together a meal kit? You could collect the dry or canned ingredients for a soup or chowder, put ’em all in a basket or decorated box along with the recipe and meal ideas. You aren’t limited to soup, why not put together a pasta box? A box of pasta, jar of sauce, some bread or bread mix would be a great option. Is one of your recipients a coffee or tea lover? Find out what their favorite is and see what you can find to put with it in a box. Note: I’d think twice about a mug…most people have more than they need.

If you aren’t a regular visitor to the Dollar Store, or similar stores, put them on your To Do List. You will be amazed at what you will find. The same with charity shops. If you go in with an open mind, you can find all kinds of things for gifting. Granted, some might require effort on your part to freshen them up a bit, but over all they are great budget busters.

Gift cards can be a great option when you find yourself stretched too thin or the recipient is hard to buy for. I’m a big fan of gift cards or subscriptions for books as I inhale them. If you have a reader or audio book fan, check to see what they like and consider adding that to your list. Catalogs can be expensive, but if you are sure about the quality, you can find some great ideas for just about anyone.

Don’t overlook the gift of a manicure or pedicure or a haircut! Luxury! Which reminds me, if one of your recipients has a 4 footed canine companion, maybe a day at a doggie day care or a trip to the doggie spa would be appreciated? The feline companions might be a tad more difficult to buy for…perhaps some great toys or treats? A new bed?

I hope these ideas have given you food for thought. They really are just a jumping off point as every group is different. They don’t have to be expensive, they can be quite thrifty, and even creative.

For the moment, however, the first thing you need to do is take a long, deep breath. You’ll get through this! Really! 🙂

Around the House · Gifts

It’s That Time Again!

The catalogs have started to arrive.

Yes, they’re here! From the foodie drool-fest catalogs to the I-don’t-have-a-clue-but-this-covers-pretty-much-everything catalogs. And a few in between for good measure.

For me, Holiday Gift Giving is more a focus on treats or treasures rather than the day-to-day (i.e.: socks and underwear) kind of thing. Put it down to too many gifts that were more of a necessity nature rather than indulging in hobbies or adventures. Yes, I understand the reasons why, but … <shrug>

My particular problem is that those I gift to are too far away for my preferred methodology; make and deliver.

You see, I like to feed people. And, yes, it is less expensive to make it myself. (Have you seen the prices some catalogs charge?????!) Now, to be fair, I do understand the reason for the cost, especially having priced ingredients myself, and we already know I’m cheap labor.

All that being said, I like to find places to purchase quality items at a reasonable price and expect my recipients to enjoy the results, even if I haven’t made them myself.

This year I’ve found a couple of items that I use myself and I think will be quite useful for the recipients. I’m considering requesting them to be shipped early in December, too. We already know that the US Post Office is intending to slow down delivery to accommodate the high traffic gift/card giving season. (I’m sure there is sense somewhere…I just can’t see it myself yet…) Other delivery services will be just as overwhelmed as in years past, so it makes sense to get things started early.

Have you started creating your strategies for holiday gifting? Sending you High Fives, Good Luck, and lots of encouragement. January is coming. Really!

Food

Pantry Forage

Or, I didn’t realize I still had that!

I’ve been consciously and deliberately working to use up items in my fridge and freezer that have been there, shall we say, longer than they should have been?

No, not excessively, just long enough they should be used up.

I have a couple of bags of frozen veg that could become part of a soup or casserole. There’s some garlic and ginger that could possibly find their way to the bin because, well, you know. 😉

On the other hand, I uncovered some really great jam that had been tucked behind the mustard. It would be great on biscuits or muffins. Or maybe melted and poured over waffles or pancakes.

There’s the jar of bullion that is really, really salty. It is still there because it is really, really salty, too. Do we need to guess where it will end up?

There’s the tub of mustard sauce that I love to put on all sorts of things. Or, I did, but somehow it got relegated to the back of the fridge and really should be tossed. It’s been there that long. 🙁 Thankfully, the sauce is easy to make and I always have the components, yep you guessed it, in the fridge.

Part of the adventure of foraging through the pantry (which is fridge, freezer, and cabinets) is finding things that once were most used items and might not be now. Another part is discovering things forgotten that are still usable.

There are spots in our kitchens we visit regularly – like every day. Then there are the spots that don’t get as much attention.

Sometimes you find things you set aside for special occasions only to realize that you forgot you had them on hand when the last special occasion occurred. Why not make your next meal a special occasion and use them?

I wonder what else I will discover?

Bingeworthy · Classic TV · TV

The End of My Summer Binge

It came as a bit of a surprise.

I have come to enjoy that rerun period between May and September by engaging in a binge of something. One year, it was Agents of SHIELD, which led to Agent Carter and so on. Another it was Once Upon A Time. And, again, one year it was Only Murders In The Building.

As you can imagine, all these binges led me to watch the full series, something that I really enjoyed. This year, however, the options for new(ish) series that I’d not seen just wasn’t all that captivating. Until…

This year, MeTV brought back Perry Mason Mysteries and I eagerly dove in. I’d seen many, if not all, of them when they were first broadcast. All that being said, I enjoyed each of them for pretty much the same reasons, and a couple in spite of some weak writing. <shrug> 😉

Well, the last of the series aired on October 30th. In the credits was a tribute to Raymond Burr, who passed away after the episode was filmed. Knowing that he was ill during the production of these movies was always in the back of my mind.

All that being said, watching these films is watching a who’s who of the era. The guest cast is astounding. But it is really Perry and Della who steal the show, each and every time. That story is one for the fans.

I’m pretty sure MeTV will continue to air the films and they are worth watching. But for me it was a wonderful Summer Binge that is much appreciated.

Cooking · Food

Authenticity and the Rules in the Kitchen

When to use them, when to toss them

I recently came across a discussion about authenticity of a dish, or more precisely, the lack of authenticity of a dish that caught my attention. The person relating the incident was the cook, who was presenting her version of a dish her family had innumerable times as she was growing up. The commenter told her that the dish was not ‘authentic’ based on what was the ideal from the home country.

The response to the commenter made my day: “It is authentic to the way I grew up eating it and adjusted it for my preferences now.”.

This made me consider how many cooks seem to be stuck with the idea that a recipe – any recipe – is written in stone and can not be altered for any reason. They literally put themselves into straitjackets to avoid any kind of adjustment be it necessity or creatively.

If you have ever perused a recipe website or any number of cookbooks, you will note that there are hundreds of varieties of the very same dish, each with its’ own variations. This is due to the fact that it has evolved over the years based on any number of reasons.

To be fair, there are certain, shall we call them rules, that cooks need to be aware of, if only to avoid unnecessary problems, but by being aware of those ‘rules’, they have the leeway to springboard from them to create something different.

A recent Glen and Friends video is a perfect example of what I would call springboarding. Check it out:

I love both of these recipes! My version would replace the hot pepper with a bell pepper. I love the gnocchi recipe, too. It is something my father would think of as cornmeal mush (something he would avoid) but I find an interesting and much easier method to produce a flavorful base for the stew.

Food is fluid in so many ways. Recipes change based on location, availability, tastes. When you step out of the straitjacket and begin to experiment in the kitchen, the results can be amazing.

Cooking · Dining · Food · Recipe of the Month

Cold Weather Comfort Food: Pasta Bake

When the weather is cold and dreary one of the best ways to keep warm is a good pasta bake.

I’m thinking of one where you pull out what you need from the pantry and dive in. You can change up the types of cheese, seasonings, and even the bread crumbs.

Served with a green salad and some crusty garlic bread, this is a meal to indulge in. Enjoy!

Pasta Bake

Perfect for cold winter days.
Course Main Course
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Servings 8

Equipment

  • 13 x 9 baking dish
  • Large pot

Ingredients

  • 1 pound pasta
  • 28 ounce jar of Alfredo sauce
  • 28 ounce jar pasta sauce
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 2 cups shredded cheese
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • garlic powder To taste
  • onion powder to taste

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray the baking dish with non-stick spray and set aside.
  • Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain.
  • Once the pasta pot is empty, combine everything except the bread crumbs. Pour into the baking dish and top with the bread crumbs.
  • Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the cheese is melted
  • Let rest for 15 minutes.