Cooking · Dining · Food · Meal Building Blocks

Pantry Staples That Make Meal Planning Easier

Keeping these items in my pantry make meals easy to put together and less stress on my budget.

Pantry Staples


I try to keep a variety of dried pasta shapes on hand, but in a pinch every pasta shape will work no matter what you put with it. While some of the more expensive pastas will have a better flavor, even the cheap boxes are worth trying out. I also keep some cheese stuffed tortellini in the freezer (talk about an easy mac & cheese) but there are other types there in addition to the ready to cook, rather than dried, versions.

Think mac & cheese, baked casseroles, soups, pasta and sauce, salads.

Bread, Tortillas or Buns

As a rule, I don’t tend to keep a lot of bread on hand because I can bake it myself when I take the urge. That being said, I do keep bagels for breakfast and I do enjoy tortillas every once in a while.

A grilled cheese or quesadilla takes less than 10 minutes to make, and are both quite versatile for whatever ingredients you already have.

Tortillas can also be turned into wraps, burritos, enchiladas, or even breakfast tacos.

Buns can be used to for sandwiches, hamburgers or even garlic bread in a pinch.


Rice is just as versatile as pasta, and can be used to make stir fry, burrito bowls, casseroles, soups, or as an easy side dish.

I love to have it with chicken as a simple meal.

Pasta Sauce

I used to buy pretty much anything organic and at a reasonable price. However, I recently tried Raos and now it is the only brand I buy. To be clear, I’ve never eaten pasta sauce from a jar before I tried the Raos. Now, I have to remind myself that the sauce it to go on the meal first. LOL!

You can use pasta sauce not only to make spaghetti or lasagna, but also as a pizza sauce or a dipping sauce for breaded mozzarella cheese.

Freezer Staples

Ground beef – good for a variety of meals from hamburgers to soups, to casseroles.

Chicken – Plain chicken pieces can be cooked for a variety of meals.

Breaded Chicken – These make a great quick meal along with a salad or rice. Find a brand you like and keep it in stock.

Tater Tots – I use these in a variety of ways. As a replacement for prepared hash browns they are a quick and easy substitute. You can either bake them as is or put them in a large skillet with a little bit of oil and break them down as you cook them. Tots are great accompaniments to burgers, too.

Pasta – Stuffed ravioli, tortellini or shells make a great meal that is easy to prepare, you simply boil the pasta, drain and add sauce. Viola!

Frozen Fruits and Vegetables – Packed at the peak of their freshness, frozen veg is a quick, easy and cost efficient alternative to canned. Easy to use, easy to store, these items can be part of a great meal.

Fridge Staples


Eggs are flexible and easy on the budget. They can be used in a variety of meals, as part of salads, alongside breakfast meats or in baking.


I always have cheese on hand. I buy a variety so I can use them in different ways and, when necessary, a variety of cheeses makes an amazing Clean Out The Fridge Mac & Cheese.

Don’t forget to pick up some soft cheese to spread on crackers.

Mix and Match

You can mix and match pretty much all of these items to make some great meals without having to have a lot of items on hand.

That being said, adding fresh fruits and potatoes or onions to your pantry, trying different things like couscous or grains will stretch your meal options even further.

Crafting · Scrapbooking

An Easy And Beautiful Album

Maymay over at Maymay Made It has been having a blast with a new product line she discovered. If you love to scrapbook, if you love to make albums, but hate the prep work, this project is something you will want to check out.

The video I’m sharing is #2 in a series. I suggest you watch the entire series to find out how she put this delightful project together, but this video will give you an idea of the possibilities.

Adding All The Goodies

Now, you might be thinking that you have no interest in Downton Abbey and that’s fine. Think instead about your kids’ sports events. Birthdays. Family gatherings. Holiday get togethers.

The papers and ephemera Maymay used is beautiful but it is not the only one available – and if you watch #1 in the series, you will see that she only used her cutter a few times. Like, less than 5 times. So, you could choose a paper pack to fit your chosen topic without having to purchase special equipment. Scissors and glue, right?

All the information you will need is in the description of the video itself.


Around the House · YouTube

Comfortable Living Spaces

I love homes that actually invite you to live in them rather than feeling like either a museum or a hotel room. And, to be honest, I’ve been in a few that felt like cheap motel rooms. 😉

The idea that change or clutter is a problem is a curiosity to me. When you live in a space you have clutter, you have change. It is as normal and everyday as pretty much anything you can imagine.

While I don’t live in a spotless home with absolutely no clutter would be a lie. I don’t live in a home that is totally clutter, either.

Mr. Carrington recently showed us the latest iteration of his loft space and it is lovely! As one commenter mentioned, who would have thought that the old, dark space could be transformed into a light, airy, roomy space? Check it out:

I love this room!

Mr. C’s love of finding inexpensive items and doing DIYs or refits works so well here. You never know what you can find at a car boot sale, or a second hand shop. With a little ingenuity, not to mention a touch of courage, you can create rooms with just as much interest, too.

The trick, if there is one, is to allow yourself to play. Nothing has to be permanent, so if you don’t like it, change it.

Want to really up the options? Why not get together with friends and share your unwanted items? One person’s trash is another person’s treasure – and, with a lick of paint, a spot of glue, a touch of glitter, you can turn that <ahem> trash into some spectacular treasure.

Let the party begin!

Around the House · YouTube

Loved This!

I’m a huge fan or Mr. Carrington over on YouTube. His videos are interesting, educational, humorous, thoughtful, and, if all that wasn’t enough, relaxing and personable. The time you spend with him is well worth it.

This week’s vlog is a ‘spend the day’ vlog that covers a lot of territory. Personally, I can’t decide if I like the King’s Cross visit (with The 9 3/4 platform) or the visit to Fortnam and Mason. Or all the places in between.

Check it out:

I always enjoy the forays into shops, be it charity hauls or adventures on the market streets.

If you are looking for something new and different to occupy your hands, check out Mr. C’s new hobby.



Kitchen Conundrums

Or, things you learn by accident.

Yesterday I pulled out one of my favorite pans and rediscovered it again. I haven’t used it in a long, long time, which is a bit odd as I really like the pan. It is the right size, it has a clear glass lid, and it can go into the oven.

Why don’t I use it? Simple. It is too heavy. Empty. When you add food into it and proceed to use it for what it is intended to be used for, it can be unwieldy and potentially dangerous to use.

I bought the pan from an open stock inventory a few years ago when I was trying out cookware to replace a set that is almost as old as I am. I had some criteria I wanted from the new set. It had to be oven safe. It had to be easy to use and care for. It had to be a reasonable price point. What I didn’t expect, or even consider, was the weight of the pan.

That test pan is, as I said, a favorite but I didn’t buy the set it came from, I looked elsewhere and found a set of pans that met all my criteria and were of a weight that I could wield when full without fear of harming myself.

Kitchen tools can be tricky things. We purchase what we think we want without always knowing all the questions to ask. When we don’t use them, or we don’t actually cook, we often don’t realize that the problem isn’t that cooking is hard, it is that the tools we use aren’t doing their job, which is really to make the job easier, more efficient, more user friendly.

Kitchen knives are another item that you might think is a no brainer, but if you don’t have the knife that fits in your hand and becomes an extension of that hand, if it is difficult to keep sharp, you have a tool that is not only dangerous but makes the process difficult and frustrating. And, make no mistake, a knife that is not properly sharpened is a danger to the user. You will have more potential for problems with that knife than with one that is properly sharpened, that does fit your hand.

Using measuring cups and spoons are the most direct method for either accuracy or ruining a recipe. Don’t kid yourself, they are NOT all the same. Some can be off by small amounts, others by quite a bit. All impact the end result giving you either an fantastic product or a disaster. Those cute designs could be sabotaging your cooking.

When you watch cooking shows you are constantly reminded to purchase the best food products you can afford as it will impact the end result. What they often don’t tell you is that you need to apply that same rule to the tools you use in the kitchen to make that recipe.

I would like to suggest you take a look in your kitchen and identify those items that you don’t use, or haven’t used, in a while and ask yourself why. I’m not talking about those specifically holiday oriented, although it would be a good idea to address those, too. I’m talking about the mixer, blender, food processor, spoons, knives, cookery tools, etc.

I gave up my microwave over 20 years ago because I never used it for anything other than heating water and steaming vegetables. Things I use my stove for. I gave up a blender that I inherited not because it was old, but because I rarely ever used it. Why keep things that just take up space? I’ve said before, my kitchen is postage stamp sized. I don’t have the luxury of storing things just for the fun have having them around.

When you find those items you don’t use, please give them a new home so someone else can make use of them. Instead, find items that work for you so you can do the kind of cooking and baking that you want to do.

Happy cooking!

Audiobooks · Books

From The Reading Table: The Wizard’s Butler

The Wizard’s Butler by Nathan Lowell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I found this one on Audible during a 2 for 1 sale. The title caught my attention but the tagline (they didn’t tell him about the pixies) sealed the deal.

The narrator did an excellent job – Unlike some, I had no issues with the speed of the playback – capturing all the individual voices perfectly. The author brought out an interesting story with a different perspective and presented it with a deft touch.

I love a book that will keep me up late. This one kept me up all night. While there is no edge of your seat pyrotechnics or major battles, there is enough in the story to keep you involved and engaged. If you need a lot of noise and movement, this book is not for you.

I don’t know if this will become a series or not, I understand a sequel is in the works, but as a standalone, it is an excellent work if you want something to engage your brain without upping your stress level.

View all my reviews

Around the House · Musings · YouTube

Bits & Bobs

Or the occasional odd thoughts that cross my mind.

Reached into my desk drawer recently and discovered, much to my surprise, that I had three – yes, three – tape measures inside. One for sewing, one all purpose, and one honking huge thing used by professional carpenters.

Note to self: Clean out the desk drawer and the tool box to make sure things are where they should be.

Yesterday’s snow was a lovely soft blanket that averaged 2.5 inches across my area. It was light and fluffy without any sleet or ice. So nice, in fact, that I was able to take my broom and sweep off the deck in front of the main door.

Today, thanks to blue skies and sun that is warming everything up, most of the white fluffy stuff is gone. 🙁

My daffodils are blooming and, having gone through two snow blasts within two weeks, are still hanging in there. Here’s hoping that they can bloom without experiencing any more of the white stuff.

I find myself watching lots of ladies on YouTube who have taken care with their manicures.

Some love a variety of colors and finishes while others are rather subtle. All are quite nice to see. Even if I clicked just to watch the project. 🙂

Sometimes you need to find a space that allows you to process all the ‘stuff’ going on outside in the world without doing damage to what is going on inside your world. To that end, in my house at least, this means quiet music, classic cartoons, and a touch of whimsy where applicable.

The outside world will continue with what it is doing all on its own. The inside world needs all the help we can give it.

Sending hugs to all who need them.

Card Making · Craftroom

From The Craft Room: Trying Something New

I’ve made cards for a few years now and I do have my favorite sizes to play with. I also have some papers that I bought because the patterns were just so different, or pretty, or unusual, or … Well, you get the idea.

While I do tend to stick with white, black or neutral cardstocks, I actually like playing with different colors. I also love to mix and match patterns and colors. Sometimes putting all of these together can be a challenge.

A few months back, Crafty Al over on YouTube posted a video of her sheetload making mini slimline cards and I had and ‘Ah Ha!’ moment.

You see, I’d purchased some rather bold background papers and wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it. I also happened to have some cardstock on hand that matched the papers. When I saw the sheetload, I thought that I finally had an option to create cards that would make the papers the focus without getting too busy or fussy.

I like the simplicity of these cards. You can really use your imagination to decide how you want to customize the design for your own cards.

Here are my cards:

I will tell you this was my first attempt at using one of Crafty Al’s designs and I can see where I would make changes if I did this again. On the other hand, the cards turned out rather well.

One thing is certain, that paper I wasn’t sure what to do with now has been used, even if only a bit.

Sometimes it is worth dipping your toe in the water of the Unknown to see if a design will work for you. If you don’t like it, that’s okay. It is only paper, right?

Happy Crafting!

Audiobooks · Books

From The Reading Table: The Course of Honor

The Course of Honor by Lindsey Davis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Having inhaled the Falco and Flavia Albia books, I’ve been looking around to see what else Lindsey Davis has written. Thanks to Falco, I’ve developed a bit of a soft spot for Vespasian, so this book was a natural addition to my reading list.

Good historical novels bring the reader (in my case listener) right into the story and good authors provide enough information to make that other world vibrant and absorbing. Not to mention relatable.

Davis created a love story between two historical people that provides context, background, and plausibility, especially since we know that the two main characters actually did have a long relationship.

Davis provides a colorful backdrop not only of the city of Rome but the Empire and its history as she relates the story between Vespasian and Caenis, two people who are at once difficult and complicated.

All in all, this work has been a treat and a treasure that I’m looking forward to listening to again and again.

View all my reviews