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Friday, October 23, 2020

Recipe Weekend : Pasta in a Pinch by Francesca Montillo

Disclosure / Disclaimer: I received this ebook from via Calisto Publishing free of charge, for review purposes on this blog. No compensation, monetary or in kind, has been received or implied for this post. Nor was I told how to post about it, all opinions are my own

Pasta in a pinch cover


 Classic and creative dishes to expand your pasta repertoire with ease

Pasta In A Pinch can help you master dozens of fast and easy pasta favorites, with delicious recipes that will get a meal the whole family loves on the table in no time. All you need is store-bought pasta and a handful of staple ingredients you probably already have in your pantry.

From creamy Pasta with B├ęchamel Sauce to baked Ziti with White Turkey Bolognese, these authentic and tasty meals are quick enough for any busy weeknight, with enough options to keep you from falling into a pasta rut. You’ll even find a helpful infographic for putting together your own pasta creations, and some recipes for pasta pairings like garlic bread, veggie sides, and cocktails.

Pasta In A Pinch offers:

  • Cooking success―Learn the proper way to cook, season, sauce, and serve perfect “al dente” pasta, and boost your skills and confidence in the kitchen.
  • Pasta and pantry basics―Explore the most effective ways to stock your pantry with pasta-making staples, and how to choose the best pastas, including whole wheat, gluten-free, and more.
  • Improvise and adapt―Many of the recipes include options for easy variations, so you can adapt your dish to use whatever you have on hand.

Expand your pasta repertoire, gain confidence behind the stove, and master 85 delicious pasta dishes.


Looking for a great way to use leftovers? Here's your answer. This book generally makes use of leftovers, or ingredients in the you have in your pantry, for simple and quick weeknight dinners. She also takes on traditional Italian recipes from American Italian restaurants, and shows where they've gone wrong for the American palate, and brings back the original recipe. It's a fresh take on pasta, and you'll love the revised recipes for shrimp scampi, lemon pasta, baked ziti and the different variations 'red sauce' (aka bolognese to those not from Louisiana, LOL). It's a good book to give to coeds moving into their first apartment, newlyweds or just to add to your own cookbook collection!  Add some pasta implements or great bowl, or a pasta machine, and you've got a great Christmas gift as well!


Ziti with Chicken and Broccoli

This is a great way to use up leftover chicken, and it's very different than what you would get in a restaurant! 
Makes 4-6 serrvings, depending on serving size

1/3 cup of olive oil
1 to 1.5 lbs of boneless chicken breast, cut into dices
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic gloves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon of chopped Italian parsley
1 teaspoon oregano
salt to taste
1 lb of broccoli florets
5-6 oz of ziti

1. Clean your broccoli and remove any visible stems. Cut into florets, wash them and set them aside.
2. In a large skilled add the oil, diced chicken, sliced onion and garlic, parsley, oregano, salt and start cooking over medium heat.
3. While the chicken is cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to boil and add your ziti. About two minutes after the zit has been cooking, add the broccoli florets and boil together. (The broccoli takes a few less minutes than the pasta.) Alternatively, you can cook them in separate pots. Total cooking time is about 9-10 minutes.
4. Continue cooking the chicken and onions until the onion is translucent and the chicken is cooked. About 10-12 minutes. 
5. Drain the ziti and broccoli and add them to the chicken, cook them together for another few minutes until the flavors are well blended. Add additional olive oil and salt, if needed.
6. Remove from stove and enjoy hot or warm.

About the Author: 

Fracesca Montillo was born in Italy and currently divides her time between her native land and Boston, MA. In 2016, Francesca combined her passions for Italian food and Italian travel, and started Lazy Italian Culinary Adventures, where she works as a culinary instructor and leads food and wine tours to Italy. She is also a freelance food and travel writer. Learn more at TheLazyItalian.com

Book Review: Times Like These by Stephen Puleston

 Disclosure / Disclaimer: I received this ebook from the author, free of charge, for review purposes on this blog. No compensation, monetary or in kind, has been received or implied for this post. Nor was I told how to post about it, all opinions are my own

Book also listed as  Somebody Told Me, in UK


A body is discovered in the storeroom of the cafe at Roath Park in the middle of Cardiff...

Detective Inspector Marco has just arrived back from three weeks holiday in Italy with his family and arrives at the scene to discover a body shot in the head lying in the storeroom at the back of the cafe. The dead man is a notorious criminal and Marco only has one suspect - Jimmy Walsh. The problem is that he is behind bars with the perfect alibi. And even his closest associates all have alibis. So Marco has to look elsewhere for a suspect.

When a prison officer is killed Marco again suspects the involvement of the Walsh. Marco turns his attention to another suspect with a reason to kill both men. But when Marco's own family are involved, things get personal. Marco realizes that an old case may hold the secret. But at the last moment, a development threatens all of his work.

About the Setting/Marco:.

Inspector Marco novels are based in Cardiff the capital city of Wales a country rich in history and culture stretching back for many centuries. Wales is famous all over the world for the spectacular castles built by the native princes and also by Edward 1 in the 13th century. Cardiff is a modern vibrant and exciting city with a cosmopolitan population. John Marco comes from an Italian/Welsh background and loves the city and being a policeman


Stephen wrote this 4th book in the Marco series, this past year during the Covid crisis, so he added in little touches like his characters using hand cleaners, having changes to the department offices, and policing in general, and having them all coming out of a lockdown, and trying to get back to normal. It's a great technique that not only makes the book more relatable but helps to show the wariness and thought processes of the characters. It all also help to make the pacing of the novel go better, as 'niceties' are skipped, so some dialogue is no longer needed! It's little things like this that make Puleston books such good reads!

Marco and his team are stymied at first when it seems they only have one possible suspect, yet there is no way he could be it. but if there is one thing that Covid has taught us all, it's how important those 6 degrees of separation can be, and in this new case, Marco soon realizes that thinking this way, may lead them to the killer, especially when a second strike occurs. But you can't have a good mystery thriller without a hiccup, and when his family comes next, the story gets set up for its roller coaster conclusion. I read this book in only two sittings, only because I had work the next day, otherwise, it would have been one! So if you are a fan, don't miss this great new entry, and if you've never read a Marco book, this is a goo one to jump into!

About the Author:

I write mysteries and thrillers.

I write a series featuring Inspector Drake based in North Wales and also a series featuring Inspector John Marco based in Cardiff. Inspector Marco comes from an Italian/Welsh background and he lives in Cardiff, the capital city of Wales. 

You can read about my writing and about Wales, one of the most beautiful countries in the world, on my website - www.stephenpuleston.co.uk.

Wordless Wednesday: Painted Sky

Blogger App struck again...never posted this lovely pix...



Thursday, October 22, 2020

History Corner: The Puzzle Women by Anna Ellory

Disclosure / Disclaimer: I received this ebook from via Amazon Publishing UK, via #Netgalley, free of charge, for review purposes on this blog. No compensation, monetary or in kind, has been received or implied for this post. Nor was I told how to post about it, all opinions are my own

As Domestic Violence Month comes to an end, 
this frank look at it, is one not to be missed!

the puzzle women cover


Berlin, 1989. Siblings Rune and Lotte are shaken awake by Mama and told to follow her quietly into the night. Last time they snuck away from Papa, with Mama bruised and broken, they were back within a week. But this time they are starting a new life, Mama says—where nobody can ever hurt them again.

Ten years later, the memories of their escape are blurry; Mama is long gone and the siblings are back at Papa’s house. But when they receive a mysterious notebook that seems to have come from Mama, Papa tears it apart. Could there be more to their past than they’ve been led to believe?

With Rune paralyzed by fear, Lotte takes their fate into her own hands. When she learns about the ‘Puzzle Women’ working tirelessly to reconstruct files shredded by the former secret police, she begs them to help her piece Mama’s story back together. But as Papa’s threats against both siblings escalate, can they unite to learn the full, brutal truth in Mama’s own words at last?


If there is one book you read before the end of the year, make it this one! It is destined to be picked up for movie rights, as it tells a story not often told, but in today's climate, is much needed to be told. I literally could NOT put this book down, once I started on it. The story works itself back and forth in time, telling the story of the past, through Mama's notebook, and the memories it brings back to Rune and Lotte. As they piece through their memories, they realize things were worse than they remembered, and what seemed like craziness on their mother's part was really a chance to give them freedom from fear, and their father. 

It takes a hard look at what life was like behind the wall in Eastern Germany, and how aspects of WWII never left, just gt worse, as they were heavily influenced by Russian Communism. It's not a book for those who can't handle violence in literature, but it's an honest look at how power corrupts and how domestic violence can cause ripples of harm, is breathtaking. 

About the Author:

Anna Ellory has completed her MA in creative writing at Bath Spa University. This is her second novel.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Seasonal Gifts for Tweens (reviews and giveaway!)

Disclosure / Disclaimer: I received these products from Chalk of the Town, Playmobil, and Eco Lips, free of charge, for review purposes on this blog. No compensation, monetary or in kind, has been received or implied for this post. Nor was I told how to post about it, all opinions are my own

christmas reindeer scary

Ah the elusive, hard to buy for person.

No, not your mother-in-law. That has it's own pitfalls,

Let's look at the tween.

Oh yes, you can give them a gift card, but then, the DRAMA- 'you don't know them well enough to give them a real present' (admit it, you SAW the eye rolls while reading that...)..
get the wrong game or music, and you're just as out of touch.


But today I have some great ideas, that offer things the tween/teens love, but might just not want to admit to-but they'll love getting them!

chalktown logo

 First up, how about a little creativity, and a chance to speak their mind. Chalk of the Town is a line of chalkboard products ranging from T-Shirts (kids and adult sizes, short and long sleeved too), to Tote Bags to Patches, allowing your favorite tween (and siblings/adults too), to create and design their own wearable fashion using Chalkboard markers. PLUS they’re both erasable and reusable so you can design again, again and again! 

chalkofthetown collage

We were sent a good sampling of their available products, as you can see!

chalk of the town tshirt collage
Miss Grace immediately wanted to check out one of the t-shirts, so she opted for the short-sleeved heart one, and decided to use optional seasonal Nutcracker and Best Day Stencils (there are 7 different stencils you can buy)with it. The kits, as we received, come with 2 chalk markers- white and pink, an erasing cloth, and a washing/wearing an instruction guide. She called her final creation #SantaRocks, and I have to admit it looks pretty cool There is just enough room to write inside the outer frame of the heart, for some additional hashtag and keyword fun! The markers are easy to use and easy to erase if you make a mistake. We both loved how they dried very quickly, and did not smear or wipe off after they had sat just a short time. The stencils were easy to clean with just soap and water too!

chalk of the town tote collageThen we decided to make another holiday-themed project, with the Chalk of the Town tote bag!  They have 2 tote bag options (the other one is an 'I'm reading..." tote), plus a chalk patch, you can adhere to any tote bag (or clothing) This is the smaller of the two. Like the T-shirt, it comes with a pink and white marker, eraser cloth, and instruction guide. I do wish there were more color choices available with the tote bag, as far as markers go. Even one more color (green), would have been better! The other tote bag, FYI, comes with a blue and a white marker. But we used the Nutcracker stencil and made a fun bag to use while going to see a local production, or for gift giving to your favorite ballerina (along with the markers, so they could change it out if they wanted!). You can purchase additional marker sets , and I would highly recommend it, if giving more than one item to your favorite tween/teen! The tote has a fancy silver outline around the heart, for a fancier look as well. But the tote turned out really cute and won a high five of approval from the kid! 

The stencils can be used on more projects than just the chalk ones, and there is a lot of fun in being able to write up what you want YOUR t-shirt to say, on any given day! One wash, and all the marker come off with ease, and you're ready to start again! You can purchase all of the Chalk of the Town products on their website, or you can get them through their Amazon store! They even have some Halloween kits in case you need some last-minute 'this is my costume' fun!

              Looking for something equally handy, but not so creative?

from Amazon is perfect for your favorite tween/teen, 
to remind them how much you love them, thanks to 
the words engraved on the underside of the ring! And it reminds them to be sunny, stand tall, spread seeds of happiness and to hold their head high! 

And it's worry-free for you, as it's inexpensive, but looks much pricier. So if it gets left behind accidentally, you won't be so crushed with the loss of an expensive ring. 

Plus they have different styles if your free spirit likes open or curled rings!

And how about some fun stocking stuffers too?

eco lips collage
Eco Lips was the first organic balm on the market AND their USDA certified organic facility is powered by renewable energy and solar energy. 5,900 square feet of solar panels on their roof, powering 75% of their electricity.

Eco Lips sources all of their ingredients sustainably and ethically from trusted sources around the globe. Their products are Fair Trade Certified™, Non-GMO Project Verified, Leaping Bunny Certified, and gluten-free.

We were sent half of their seasonal Holiday pack (which comes with 2 of each flavor): Candy Cane Raspberry Truffle and Gingerbread! Miss Grace declared Candy Cane her favorite, and she really liked how well it kept her lips smooth and free from wind and sun, while outside during the cool Fall weather we had last week! Plus they seem rather sturdy, taking quite a fell falls (pun intended) from her purse and pockets! She loves how great they are made and sourced, so it's a win-win!

playmobil single collage
So yes, your tween may SAY they are out of the Playmobil stage, but add in a little Comic Con love, and suddenly they just MIGHT like a Comic World Viona Surprise Set in their stocking this year! PLAYMOBIL is expanding the magical world of EverDreamerz with the new Comic World line!! With 12 magical characters (plus Colorista, a new limited edition character! ), there is sure to be one your tween might like to have as her mini-me! Especially if her school colors are green and white, then she might just want this little set! Each mystery box has five surprises inside- including the surprise character, a character-specific charm, trading card, sticker, and accessories. This one is fun, as they can add their own writing to her banner and #1 'foam' hand! Plus the included sticker shows its true message with some applied water! It's a little bit of fun in their stocking this year! 

And now for the fun part:

flashing Win


teen holiday gift pack

Pack includes:
- Chalk of the Town Long Sleeve Royal Blue T-shirt Kit w/ Speech Bubble Surface
- Chalk fo the Town patch Kit
Comic World Viona Surprise Set (review set-was opened, but resealed in box)
-Blessed buffalo plaid Christmas ornament, cause you know they need some grace...LOL

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