Musings

There’s Something To Be Said About

Seeing how the holidays are celebrated in other countries.

I grew up in the middle of Middle America. While many of our friends and neighbors came from other parts of the country, they brought their ‘old country’ traditions with them when they moved nearby. The same way my family did when they moved into the area. Those ‘old country’ traditions became the ‘old family traditions’ that were carried forward every year but somehow without the connections to the old country as they had with older generations.

Like the old story about the young woman who wanted to make Grandma’s Perfect Roast but had difficulty finding all the right ingredients and that all important pan. For years it was stressed that the pan was extremely important. After several frustrating searches, the young lady finally called Grandma and asked about the recipe. Turned out the pan wasn’t all that important after all; it was simply what Grandma had on hand way back when she first made the recipe and it was what she used every time she made it. It was the right size for the roast.

There is something magical about visiting other countries and seeing how they do, or don’t, celebrate. Don’t get me wrong, ‘visiting’ doesn’t necessarily mean travel, you can visit from your armchair in the comfort of your home, too. But taking the time to see the decorations, listen to the music, watch the processions, experience the food and drink (and here you could get really creative and try some recipes), all of this takes you out of the same old, same old that we often find ourselves experiencing in the midst of the Holiday Hoopla.

Thinking about food, it is interesting to discover where some of our favorite foods came from. They might be passed down in the family, but the origins could be quite surprising.

There’s nothing wrong with doing the same things every year, but if you want to take it up a notch or simply renew your joy of the season, it might be worth the effort to check out what other folks are doing.

FWIW, I still find it a bit … odd … that in Australia Christmas is in Summer. I know I’m not the only one, too. But I’d bet the Australians find it a bit odd that other folks celebrate during Winter. Come to think on it a bit, I grew up where it snowed and was cold during the holidays. Years later I moved to the West Coast. It was decidedly weird to have Thanksgiving Turkey and Christmas Roast when the weather was in the 70s.

Like so many things, it really is just what you are used to. 🙂

Happy Holidays!

Audiobooks · Books

From The Reading Table: A Catalogue of Catastrophe

A Catalogue of Catastrophe by Jodi Taylor

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I’ve had to re-listen to this several times because I knew I’d missed things. I’d be doing the same thing if I had a paper, or electronic, copy. There’s a lot to take in.

Once again, Jodi has taken us on a wild ride. Once again she has provided some astounding storylines. Once again she’s managed to blow my mind.

The biggest thing I came away with after reading/listening to this book: How does she keep it all straight?

This series, as well as the Time Police books, is so well crafted that you often don’t see what is right in front of you. I’m at the point of going back and revisiting all of the books. The nuggets are buried among the bits and pieces of other stories and plot lines.

This takes me back to my overall question: How does she keep it all straight?

If you have not been a visitor to St. Mary’s or the Time Police, what has kept you? If you have, how do you recover?



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Books · Media · Musings · TV

Why Do We…?

I’ve been pondering something lately. Have you ever thought about why we connect with certain shows, books, or characters? What compels us to keep up with series – be it TV, movies or books?

Some folks spend decades deeply involved while others can take it or leave it.

For instance, I’ve spent decades keeping up with a book series or two, only to walk away after all that time because, finally, something just…snapped. Either my patience with an author ran out or there was no real evolution or movement to keep me interested. Or both.

I’ve been a fan of a couple of TV series that moved into movies (or the reverse, come to think of it). During all the years of engagement, some more heavily involved than others, there have been things that kept me connected, interested, somewhat involved. One, in particular, has had a tremendous growth over the past couple of decades, resulting in some amazing expansion from the original kernel that started it all in the first place.

There are a couple of book series that have been moved into radio, TV, and movies over the years. Each iteration has been interesting. Some were carefully crafted to stay in keeping with the original works, others have veered in directions I’m sure the original author would never have imagined. Some worked, some didn’t.

At the end of the day, I’m still curious about why we stick around. I don’t believe the answer to the question is easy or simple. I think that each individual case is unique. Sometimes we outgrow an idea while other times the idea outgrows us. Sometimes the creator – or creators – can’t maintain the level of creativity that caught our attention to begin with. Sometimes we just really like spending time with characters in places that are familiar.

What do you think?

Cooking · Food

Cozy In The Kitchen

For decades I’ve been enjoying, indulging, learning, and basically having a great time watching TV cooks in their respective kitchen. I’ve learned a lot, enjoyed a lot, and come away with not only an appreciation of the tips and techniques they’ve shared, but in many cases grown a desire to have a seat at their table to sample the wonders they’ve created.

Who are these teachers?

  • Here is a partial list in no particular order:
  • Julia Child
  • Jacques Pepin
  • Lidia Bastianich
  • Rick Bayless
  • Mary Berry
  • Rachel Allen
  • Graham Kerr
  • The Hairy Bikers

These people, and many others, have taught me a lot about regional cuisine. They’ve shared their passion for the foods they love and create while inspiring me to try new things, incorporate techniques into my own food creation.

I have discovered that many of the series that these folks created are now available on many of the free streaming platforms available. They are wonderful to watch – some are not as old as you might think.

If you are looking for something new to watch, interested in learning more about a method or cuisine, I invite you to take a few minutes to run a search or two or three and find these folks on your TV. Enjoy!

Cooking · Food · Recipe of the Month

Revisiting the Fresh Apple Cake

If you need the directions to the Fresh Apple Cake, check out the printable below.

Fresh Apple Cake

This has become a fast favorite.
Course Dessert
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 35 minutes
Servings 12 people

Equipment

  • bundt pan Tube pan

Ingredients

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup walnuts OR pecans, chopped
  • 1 cup raisins OR dried cranberries
  • 4 cups peeled, sliced OR shredded tart apples

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour bundt or tube pan.
  • OPTIONAL: soak raisins in 1 -2 tbsp of rum and set aside.
  • Prepare apples.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugars and oil. Add eggs and vanilla.
  • In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
  • Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture, folding in the nuts, raisins, and apples.
  • Spoon into the prepared bundt or tube pan.
  • Bake for 75 to 90 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
  • Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert it onto a cake plate.

Notes

You can change out the nuts or leave them out completely.
You have the option to replace the nuts with raisins and or dried cranberries.
Be sure to add the soaking liquid (rum) with the raisins.
You have the option of slicing, chopping, or shredding the apples. 

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.



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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! 🙂