Saturday Share: Recipe, One Dish Chicken and Rice Bake

I cook brown rice as my mom always called it, but many of you haven't changed from the white rice you grew up eating.

This easy bake recipe is for you. It serves 4-6, and it's put together and baked in one dish.

Easy to make, easy to clean up, and tastes good too.

Here's a tip when cooking chicken breasts. Each chicken breast is larger on one end than the other. 

If you flatten the "big end" so it's more nearly of uniform thickenss, the chicken breast will cook evenly. Simply put the big end between 2 sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper and whack it with the bottom of a skillet or a meat mallet.

One-Dish Chicken & Rice Bake

1 can of Cream of Mushroom Soup
1 cup of water
3/4 cup uncooked regular white rice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon paprika
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut in half
1/4 cup grated cheese of your choice (can use Kraft Parmesan if that's all you have)


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. In 2-quart casserole dish, whisk together the soup and water.
3. Stir in the raw rice.
4. Sprinkle the salt on both sides of the chicken breasts.
5. Place the chicken on top of the rice and soup mixture.
6. Sprinkle the paprika and pepper over the whole thing.
7. Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees F. for 45 minutes. Chicken should no longer be pink when done.
8. Remove covering, sprinkle cheese overthe top.
9. Return to oven and bake uncovered an additional 5-7 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.
10. Serve immediately.

Takeaway Truth

Try this one-dish easy bake entree for Saturday's dinner.

Make Your Website Sticky: Step 3

Welcome back to How to Make Your Website Sticky.

Read Step 1: Content.

Read Step 2: Community.

Stickiness, in case you just dropped in, means the desireability of a website.

Stickiness is why people stick around, spend time on a website, come back often, and tell their friends about the website.

I'm not talking about the visual design which I'll cover later.

Step 3: Commerce

Ah, yes, filthy lucre as it was once called, or the almighty dollar as my grandfather called it. If you're like me, you were raised not to talk about money. In business, employees aren't supposed to tell others how much they make. It's considered impolite to discuss salaries, perks, and such in social settings.

However, commerce, buying and selling, is of crucial importance to anyone who operates a website with the hope of making money from it. This doesn't apply only to Amazon, Apple, and other big corporations with websites.

It applies to you too if you have even one thing you want the public to recognize and eventually, hopefully, purchase.

Big businesses pay a lot of attention to successfully converting visitors into buyers. 

They offer discounts, bonuses, reward points, and special offers to entice a visitor to buy and to return at a future date to buy again.

This is something small business websites should model. Look at what the big guys do and see if you can adapt that to your small biz website.

Can you offer free books or reports or free samples of your online cookie company? Can you have a giveaway? 

Can you join with other small biz websites to cross promote? Are you willing to promote whatever you decide to do? Do you offer links to other websites that your visitor might be interested in? Do you "share the love" and blog about friends and their products?

Remember, even in Commerce, the goal is to give your website visitors what they want and need. Maybe they want print books, but you don't offer print books. Send them to a friend's website who does.

Takeaway Truth

That's my 3 C's of making a website desirable and magnetic, or sticky. A sticky website will bring more visitors and keep them coming back for more, and that will promote you and your product whatever that may be as well as those with whom you cross-promote.

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Make Your Website Sticky: Step 2

Welcome back to 3 Steps in Making Your Website Sticky.

Read Step 1: Content.

Want to make your website hot? Make it the bomb? Then you want to make it sticky.

A sticky website is one that attracts visitors, makes them stay on the site, and return often. 

Stickiness is why visitors tell others about a website.

Step 2: Community

Create a community built around your website, you, and your product. Do this by giving your visitors a way to interact with you.

Enable and encourage comments. Always reply when someone takes the time to leave a comment—the quicker the better. 

If you have a huge volume of traffic, then make use of any of the popular social network sites like Facebook, Twitter, etc. to interact more frequently. Whether on your website and/or your chosen social media site, maintain a daily presence if at all possible.

Post a Contact Page on your website with a special email address for communicating with your website visitors so they can contact you privately. 

Screen these emails carefully, of course. Respond to anyone who is legitimate and takes the time to contact you.

Do not engage with anyone who emails inflammatory content. Also, do not use your personal email which you use for friends and family.

What you want to do with your website is what Barnes and Noble did with their bookstores several years ago. Do you remember when book stores just sold books? Barnes and Noble changed the whole brick and mortar bookstore scheme by installing coffee bars.

The longer a B&N customer hung out at the coffee bar, the greater the chance that he/she would think of another book that should be bought, or someone might mention a book, and the customer would go find it. The coffee bar experience brought more people into the store, and they stayed longer. B&N made the store sticky.

Model Success of Others

Take that idea and create a similar atmosphere with your website—a comfy, cozy place where you chat with anyone who drops by.

Visitors, leave comments when you find something that resonates with you. 

Ask questions. Make suggestions. Give your opinion. A website owner doesn't know what you feel, think, or need unless you tell him/her.

Takeaway Truth

Create a community of like-minded visitors, and you'll have fun every time you post to your website and interact with those who leave comments.

Come back tomorrow for Step 3 in How to Make Your Website Sticky.

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Make Your Website Sticky: Step 1

If you have an online presence of any kind—whether personal or business—you need a compelling website.

Website means either a blog or a domain named website.

You want your website to be like a beautiful woman or a handsome hunk. That means it should be desirable, charismatic, and enticing.

In internet parlance, that means you want it to be sticky so people will stick around, spend time there, and come back and visit often. Of course the visual design of the website should be compelling, but that's something I'll talk about another time.

3 Ways To Make Your Website Sticky

Making a website desirable is easier than transforming oneself into a raving beauty when you weren't born one. 

Stickiness, the desirability of a website, was a term created many years ago by Thomas H. Davenport, Professor of Management Systems at Boston University.

Davenport, in an article he wrote for CIO Magazine, defined stickiness as “a measure of how much attention a website gets over time.”

How Stickiness Is Measured

Stickiness is measured by how long a visitor stays on a website and how often that visitor returns to the website. 

Why Do You Want Stickiness

Of course, you want to entice people to your website in order to promote yourself and your product. You want them to stay on your site so they will get to know you, like you, and return again and again. You also want them to tell others about your website.

The more people who come to your site, the more your name and brand recognition increases.

Step 1: Content

Content really is king/queen. You don't want your website to be about nothing but selling.

You must give in equal measure, and what you give is content that is of value to the visitor. 

Always think about how you can help those who visit your site. How can you give them something they need? Always let your content address the needs of your audience.

If you're a writer who blogs about writing and publishing, then give content that helps other writers. 

If your blog is focused on readers, then give reviews, profiles of other authors, discussion questions for your most recent book, links to online book discussion groups, other kinds of book chat, etc.

If you're selling water filters, you should have articles about contaminants found in tap water to explain why purified water is healthier, articles explaining why water is the better choice over soda or even juice, reviews of various filters. This content is information the visitor needs, and it supports the value of the product you sell.

Takeaway Truth

After design, Content is the first step toward making your website sticky. 

Come back tomorrow to discover Step 2 in making your website sticky.

Subscribers are the first to know about New Books and Giveaways. When you confirm your subscription, you'll receive a link to a free romance ebook.


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Review: Design Wizard Online Graphic Design App

I'm always looking for free graphic design apps to offer readers since most of us use them.

If you're looking for a user-friendly graphic design app, you can add Design Wizard to your list which should be good for personal use for invitations and celebration events as well as book/product promotion.

I tried the Basic Free version to create the 2 graphics in this post.


Design Wizard contacted me and asked me to review their app which I did this morning. Like other online Graphic Design Apps, Design Wizard offers a free, or basic, version and a Pro Plan which you can try for 7 days to see if you want to pay for the $9.99/month Pro Plan.

When you first go to the website, a video pops up on the home page that gives you the basics of using their app. You can close that and scroll down to read the details too. There are 3 steps in the process of using it.

1. Select a Template from their Template Library (I've linked it so you can open a new tab and look right now.) According to the website, their "graphic design team have created thousands of pre-made templates in a wide range of styles suitable for social media and print.

2. Edit or Tailor the selected template with one of their Premium Images, Videos, and Fonts. Every element is editable, and it works on the layers system like Adobe and other graphic systems.

3. Schedule, Share on Social Media, and/or Download Your Design. What you create can be downloaded to your computer or downloaded in print quality. You can share immediately on social media, and videos can be downloaded in standard or HD to be shared immediately or scheduled using their Buffer, Hubspot, or Marketo integrations.

Signing Up

After checking all that out, you can go back to the top of the home page and click the Become a Design Wizard button. 

You'll be asked to sign up for an account. 

After you've accomplished that, an ad for trying the Pro Plan pops up immediately. If you only want to try the Basic for now, as I did, you'll find below that in small text, a clickable Just Want to Try the Basic or some similar text. 

Positives for Design Wizard

1. Intuitive and easy to use without going through long tutorials.
2. Creates an attractive graphic.
3. Download fast and easy.
4. The usual fonts offered with design apps were there.

Negatives for Design Wizard

1. I didn't find many free templates or images. Most were available for the paid plan or individually priced if you weren't on the paid plan.

2. The app is geared more for the usual retail businesses/products and general social use. If you're an author, you'll probably have to upload your own images. However, I could see it might be useful for making signs like the one I made with the books graphic. I found only 2 free templates that contained books graphics, but I gave this only a cursoy examination. If you have time to explore more deeply, you might find more suitable graphics.

Takeaway Truth

Let me know if you try Design Wizard and your experience with it. Feel free to leave a comment or email me: Contact Joan.The 

Modern Magic: Time Converter Online App

In this international world of readers and writers, I'm constantly juggling times in different time zones. 

That's pretty easy, but when you start jumping from a U.S. time zone to a foreign country.

When Daylight Savings Time comes into play, it gets a little tricky sometime.

I found an online time and date converter that makes it easy to jump from any place in any country to another time and date. It's called Time and Date.

You just put in the city, time, and date in one location then add a different location, and it will compute the time for that location and that date if it's out into the future when DST of Standard time may have changed.

Takeaway Truth

I save these useful utilities in a Bookmark Folder named Magic Tricks.

Review: Out of Time by Deborah Truscott

I just finished reading Out of Time by Deborah Truscott.

First, an explanation. This year, one of my goals has been to wade through all of the books on my Kindle. 

I hate to confess this, but Out of Time has been on my Kindle since 2012!

I think I'm like many non-author readers. I grab free books, bargain books, and new releases because I'm a girl who can't say no!

I find it difficult to turn down free and bargain books especially so I've ended up with hundreds of books on my Kindle.

When a new "bright shiny" captures my interest, I grab it too and maybe go ahead and read it if it's by a friend.

Therefore, I've set a goal of reading at least 3 books a week. That should help me whittle down the mountain To Be Read backlog on my Kindle.

You can look forward to more book reviews, and I hope you'll grab some of these for yourself. It's a good thing to discover new authors. When you read a book you like, please leave a review for the author. It doesn't have to be long. Think of it as what you'd tell your friend if you read something you liked. 

Out of Time by Deborah Truscott

I enjoyed this book very much even though I knew, going in, how it was going to proceed and how it would work out in the end. That's the curse of being an author or a reader who's voracious. You pretty much know from the get-go what each book is about.

The surprise in each book is getting to meet characters who pull an emotional response from you, and that book does this. 

Kathleen—or Kathy Lee as she's called by most—is married to a cad, her mother is driving her crazy and her life is falling apart. Then her uncle dies, leaving her the family’s Revolutionary-era home and, she believes, an escape from her chaotic marriage. But one afternoon, while searching for a rake, she discovers a man in her garden shed — and a free fall through the centuries.

As her life spins wildly out of control, Kathleen finds her heart and in the process, her own place in time.

Kathleen is stuck, and the book is all about her journey to the realization that she's stuck. Along the way, we get to meet the man of whom she wants to rid herself. He's irascible, intelligent, and a manly man who's quick to grasp ideas. Since I'm from the South, I appreciate novels with southern charm, and Out of Time has that too.

Takeaway Truth

Lovely book with winning characters, intelligence, a mystery, and a feel-good ending. All of that makes it easy to decide whether to read the book in this Time Series

Free Romance: Old Enough To Know Better

FREE from MARCH 17, 2021, at 12:00AM, PDT

UNTIL MARCH 19, 2021 at 11:59PM, PDT


She's a woman with a past.
He's the man who wants to be her future.
Every woman makes mistakes. Stormy Clarkson, haunted by three huge ones she made, learned from them, and vowed never to repeat them. Now she's on the brink of turning fifty and crushing on a younger man, sexy vineyard owner Sean Butler.

Sean's been after Stormy for months, but she's resisted every advance—determined never to risk her heart, denying her desire for Sean.

Once an interrogator for the U.S. Army, Sean knows a lie when he hears one, and that's all he hears in Stormy's icy refusals. He's smart enough to know that the only way to deal with a control freak like Stormy is to make her lose control. He has a plan to win her heart. His plan? Whatever it takes.

Get Old Enough To Know Better while it's free!


"This is truly a feel-good book. ... Sean is wonderful and sexy and Stormy is aptly named. She is complicated and emotional and needs to feel the love and lust of a good man." —Lynnie Review

"I loved this perspective of finding a good man to fall in love with! I was 45 when I met my second and current husband who was 39 at the time! Younger men are awesome!" —GMartin Review

"Sexy page-turner. Don't miss this read. Sean - sexy, hunky - occupying her mind night and day. Stronger and stronger, and she has no choice but to let him in. WOW! Does he come in...and nothing is ever the same. Sexy, funny, emotional and as always an ending the reader wants." —EbookLuver Review

Old Enough To Know Better free till 03/19 at 11:59pm PDT

Takeaway Truth

Every month I publish a free newsletter, Joan's Reader Friends, for subscribers. In it, I offer at least 1  free book, 99¢ bargain books, and  giveaways. These books come from me and my author friends. Sometimes, there's a limit on how many free copies to be given away.

Subscribers always get first crack at these free and bargain books because the Newsletter lands in their Inbox during the wee hours of the morning.

Become a subscriber today!  You'll get a free newsletter each month with bargains, new releases, and giveaways. When you confirm your subscription, you'll also receive a download link for a free romance ebook.

Irish Proverbs & an Irish Romance

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I was up past midnight putting together my free newsletter for subscribers.

I'm running on coffee today because I'm so sleepy and tired.

Irish Proverbs

What a perfect day to share some Irish Proverbs  with you. We all need bits of wisdom to help us in trying times. 


A good beginning is half the work.

However long the day, the evening will come.

Do not resent growing old, many are denied the privilege.

Complain that you have no shoes until you meet a man who has no feet.

When the apple is ripe, it will fall.

Beware of the anger of a patient man.

Life is like a cup of tea; it’s all in how you make it.

You’ve got to do your own growing, no matter how tall your father was.

If you are looking for a friend without a fault you will be without a friend forever.

It takes time to build castles.

A sex only relationship? That's what Maura O'Reilly says she wants. Just the thought of being tied to one man scares her. 

No matter how many times she tells Liam it’s over, her resolve to resist him melts when she thinks about him.

Of all the women in the world, Liam Harper had to fall for the one who seems to have no interest in him—outside of the bedroom. A lot of men would think that was the perfect arrangement—hot sex with a beautiful woman who doesn't want a relationship.

Unfortunately, Liam isn't one of those men. He wants Maura, and he wants more than sex. He wants her heart too. Can he have the luck of the Irish on St. Patrick's Day and finally get Maura to commit to him?

Liam's Wild Irish Rose is Book 4 of A Moment in Time, a short story romance series with each story introducing new characters and bringing back the heroes and heroines of previous stories.

These highly sensual romance short stories prove that A Moment in Time is all that's needed for Love to be revealed.

Liam's Wild Irish Rose, a short romance read to give you an escape from a mundane day.

Available at these ebook sellers for only 99¢:

I hope you enjoy Maura and Liam's story. If you do, please leave a short review on Liam's Wild Irish Rose.

Takeaway Truth

May the luck o’ the Irish be with you always!

Review: Midnight Special on Netflix

Sunday evening we decided to watch Midnight Special, streaming on Netflix since last year. (If you're not a Netflix subscriber, it's also available at Amazon.)

I guess we hadn't watched it before because we thought it was aimed at a children's audience simply because of the movie poster.

We found ourselves literally on the edge of our seats from the minute the movie began. We had not read the blurb. We often ignore the blurb because it gives away any surprises the movie may have in store.

This film kept us guessing from the beginning. When it started, we thought it was going to be another Waco-cult film. Then it seemed like a parental abduction of an adopted boy.

Then the weird stuff started happening. I will not spoil the surprises. Watch it before you read anything about it.

My Opinion

This is a sci-fi movie from Warner Brothers, and it's a must-see if you like speculative books and films. 

Written and directed by Jeff Nichols who confessed that the story was inspired by his child's illness, it stars Michael Shannon as Roy, Joel Edgerton as Lucas, Kirsten Dunst as Sarah, Adam Driver as Paul Sevier, and Jaeden Martell as Alton, the boy at the center of the film.

Great premise, great story, great acting, great directing, and spot-on special effects. I think that's enough greats. I had only 1 problem with the movie, and that's what all movies like this have in common. I won't share that here because I don't want to detract from how good the movie is.

If you don't have Netflix, you can rent it on Amazon Prime Video.

Takeaway Truth

If you like science fiction, watch Midnight Special

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Review: Magnetic on Netflix

A lot of people like to take an armchair vacation by watching a good travel documentary.

If you're looking for an armchair vacation that's a thrill a minute, look no further than Magnetic, now streaming on Netflix. 

This is the kind of adventure that makes you scratch your head in bewilderment as these athletes risking their very lives to catch that BIG wave—and when I say big, I mean 100 feet (30 meters) high at Nazare North Canyon, Portugal!

These crazy people athletes travel the globe looking for the impossible snow-capped mountain to ski in a near vertical descent that will have you on the edge of your seat, waiting for them to go flying off into a death drop!

I can only describe this documentary with adjectives.

Unbelievable! Death-defying! Amazing! Insane! 

In the end, let's call it a must-see documentary! Better to watch it than try to do it.

Takeaway Truth

Magnetic? You better believe it. Your gaze is steel and the film is a giant magnet. 

Subscribers are the first to know about New Books and Giveaways. When you confirm your subscription, you'll receive a link to a free romance ebook.


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Saturday Share: Recipe, Fresh Tomato Ravioli

I've been gone all week so I'm wanting something easy to cook for Saturday's dinner.

Fresh Tomato Ravioli fits that description perfectly since you use cheese ravioli from the frozen food section of your local supermarket.

Actually, any frozen filled pasta like ravioli or tortellini will work. I usually buy cheese ravioli or the spinach and cheese ravioli at Costco.

I don't give a quantity measurement for the pasta because I just cook as much as I need for a meal. If there's any sauce leftover, I store it in a container in the fridge.

Here we go!


1 Package of frozen cheese ravioli
1 small onion diced fine
1 cup grape tomatoes cut in half
1/2 to 3/4 cup dry white wine (more if like a more distinct wine taste to the sauce)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 to 4 fresh basil leaves, sliced in strips, or 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste


1. Cook the ravioli according to the instructions/
2. Saute the onion in the olive oil until translucent.
3. Add the tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes.
4. Add the butter and wine to the shallots and tomatoes. Stir gently for another 5 minutes.
5. Add the basil. 
6. Drain the ravioli if you haven't already done so and add it to the sauce.
7. Toss the pasta gently in the sauce.
8. Serve immediately with a fresh grating of Parmesan if desired.

Takeaway Truth

This rustic dish is easy to make and pleasing to anyone who likes Italian flavor.

Review: The Sinner on Netflix

After I returned from our house in the country, I've been dog sitting.

Freddie is a delight—most of the time. He's 1 year old so he's basically still a puppy with a puppy's energy and playfulness. 

If he sees something, he wants it in his mouth. Pretty much like a toddler.

What that means is I must keep a watchful eye on him because he's large enough that he can reach the counter top and just about any place he fancies.

Binging on Netflix

It's amazing how crafty Freddie is in getting to something that has been put away to keep him from getting it. So there has been so writing this week, but a lot of Netflix watching and Freddie monitoring.

That brings me to my review of The Sinner, the third season of stories that are part  suspenseful police procedural and part psychological suspense, starring Bill Pullman, who was nominated for Best Actor by Screenactors Guild and Critics Choice. The Sinner has been nominated several times for best this or that.

Review of The Sinner

Billed as an anthology series that analyzes why seemingly ordinary people commit brutal crimes. This is the third season of the series which is noted for its plot twists and twisted characters. 

Actually, the "seasons" are not referred to as season 1, 2, or 3. Instead, they're named for the character who is the subject of a murder investigation. 

Season 1 was named Cora with Jessica Biel starring as Cora. Season 2 was Julian with Elisha Henig in that role. Season 3, which I'm reviewing, is named Jamie, played superbly by Matt Bomer who really displays his acting skills.

What ties all the seasons together is Harry Ambrose, an experienced police detective headed toward retirement, whether he wants it or not. Ambrose is portrayed so well by Bill Pullman that it's difficult to imagine another actor in this role.

Detective Ambrose is the one who investigates the crimes that are the centerpiece of each season. 

Ambrose is obsessive when it comes to solving the murder or murders, but solving them, for him, means understanding the psychology that drives the person to commit murder.

In watching movies and TV series about brilliant detectives, one must wonder if any genius sleuth has a functional relationship with a lover or spouse or children/grandchildren. It seems not.

I'd be interested to know if real live police detectives are as single-minded and obsessive as the fictional ones. 

Jamie, the recent installment of The Sinner, is creepy and disturbing. Matt Bomer is amazing in his characterization of a man beset by his demons. 

I'd look for Matt Bomer to be nominated for best actor for Jamie. He's that good. As Jamie, he makes you hate him, fear him, know he's going to be evil but wish he'd find his way back to normal, and even feel sorry for him. 

The viewer feels Jamie would have lived a normal life if he had never met Nick, a psychopath who is basically a nihilist. Nick, compellingly portrayed by Chris Messina, knows just how to tempt Jamie and leads him into some truly weird crap. Suffice it to say, Nick fills some emptiness inside Jamie. (Messina is too believable as Nick, yet he makes you feel sorry for him—you'll know that scene when you see it.)

If you've read much about psychopathic killers, you probably know that a psychopath with a dominant personality looks for a weaker person to dominate. True crime annals are filled with stories like that.

At some point, Jamie breaks aways from the spell cast by Nick and tries to have a normal life, marrying, and seemingly happy, about to become a father. But his past with Nick is ever-present in his thoughts.

If you're looking for compelling characters, great acting, moody suspense, psychological creepiness, and emotional truth that pushes all of your buttons, watch The Sinner, but start at the beginning with Cora

Watch them in order because each story adds to Ambrose's emotional growth. The first story begins in Dorchester, New York, where Ambrose is a police detective. The second story, Julian is set in Keller, New York, the town where Harry is from. Jamie, the third story, is back in Dorchester.

Takeaway Truth

Each story or season of The Sinner is brilliant. To me, it's Pullman's best acting ever, and he should have won the Emmy, Golden Globe, and all the other best actor awards. 

No Will Power When Faced With Girl Scout Cookies

I miss those times when our daughter was in Girl Scouts. Back then, I had a legitimate reason for buying lots of Girl Scout Cookies.

At least that's my rationalization.

I can't remember the last time a little Girl Scout knocked on my door and asked if I'd like to buy cookies.

Fortunately, Girl Scouts and their moms hang out at the entrance and exit doors of most supermarkets. So I scored a box of Tag Alongs, now called peanut butter patties, and Thin Mints, still named the same.

I don't like Thin Mints, but Darling Hubby does. His favorites though are what once were called Samoas. Those were the coconut with caramel stripes. I don't know if they're still sold now.

I hope they're still selling cookies next weekend so I can score some more. Sadly, the peanut butter patties vanished with a day of bringing them home. *LOL* (And they were SO good.)

Takeaway Truth

Support the Girl Scouts and buy a box of cookies.

Saturday Share Recipe: Irish Cottage Pie

Since it's the month we celebrate all things Irish, I thought I'd share an easy to make recipe for Irish  Cottage Pie.

You probably have all the ingredients to make this so bake it for dinner tonight.

Irish Cottage Pie

Most people probably call this Shepherd's Pie, but in Ireland a Shepherd's Pie is made with lamb.

A Cottage Pie is made with beef, usually ground beef. If you want to get fancy, you can have your butcher grind up beef short ribs and use that instead of a package of ground beef.

Cottage Pie harks back to 18th century England when the potato was being introduced as a cheap food for the poor. The dish became popular among people living in modest cottages hence the name.

Ingredients for Meat Filling

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
1 and 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 cup beef stock or broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste (I buy the stuff in a squeeze tube.)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 to 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Ingredients for Mashed Potato Topping

1/2 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons of butter + 1 tablespoon to be melted and brushed on top
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
3 -4 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut in chunks (The number of potatoes depends on what you view as large. Should be enough that when mashed will cover the top of the meat pie.)
water to cover
1 teaspoon salt

Directions for Potatoes
  • Boil until done.
  • Mash with 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese.
  • Mash or cream the potatoes until they’re smooth and have no lumps.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Set aside until Meat Filling is ready.
Directions for Meat Filling
  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Heat the oil in a skillet and sauté the onion and carrots until soft but not browned—about about 5 minutes. Remove to a bowl for use later.
  • Sprinkle salt and pepper over the ground beef and brown it, breaking it into a nice crumble.
  • If it has a high fat content, drain some of the grease off, but leave enough to combine with the flour to make the roux for the gravy.
  • Add the flour and whisk well, Let it brown for 3-4 minutes.
  • Add the broth, tomato paste, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce. Mix well.
  • Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 to 20 minutes to allow the gravy to thicken and reduce a little. If it gets to thick, add a little more broth to the consistency you like.
  • Add the vegetables back into the pan and mix well.
How to Put It Together
  • Pour the mixture into a large pie plate, casserole dish, or leave in the skillet if it’s oven-proof.
  • Spread it out evenly in the baking pan.
  • Pipe the mashed potatoes over the top of the meat mixture or spread them if you don’t want to go to a lot of trouble.
  • Melt the 1 tablespoon of butter and brush over the mashed potatoes.
  • Bake for about 50 minutes, or until potatoes are browned and the meat mixture is bubbling.
  • Serve with a salad and/or green vegetables of your choice.
  • Wait for the compliments!
Read an Irish Romance

While you're waiting for this to bake, read a short story Irish Romance like Liam's Wild Irish Rose, only 99¢. 

Takeaway Truth

I'm making Cottage Pie tonight. Let me know if you try it and like it.

Why Do We Say TGIF?

This morning after dealing with the problem du jour, I muttered, "Thank God it's Friday.

I've said those words a lot whenever a week has been especially brutal.

So it was an appropriate incantation today when the last 2 weeks were when Hell froze over and chaos reigned.

Feb. 15 began the Winter Storm and a week of no power. Feb. 24 was my deadline for a manuscript.

No power means no working on a manuscript. I put in 18 hours a day from Feb. 21 to 6pm Feb. 24 to get edits and proofreading done. I made it, but I think I'm too old to pull 18 hour days.

Escape Became No Escape

With a temporary fix on our plumbing problem here, we left to go to our house in the country only to discover a broken water line from the well to the holding tank. Fortunately, the water well is the source only for our yard sprinklers. We stayed a few days to recuperate from the winter storm ordeal.

On the way back to Houston, we hit every Home Depot and Lowes in an effort to find the parts to repair the water line in the country. I lost count of how many places we've visited looking for male connections. Male connections for plumbing are as hard to find as a good man, I guess.

Why Do We Say TGIF?

The phrase is one of those whos origins are disputed. Some sources say it came from a 1941 entry in the Encyclopedia of Slang.

Supposedly, the first time TGIF was seen in print was a quote from The Marion Star, an Ohio local  newspaper: "I thought I’d heard of everything in the way of booster clubs, alumni organization and the like, but this city, home of the Ohio State university Buckeyes...has...the “Thank God It’s Friday” Club, composed of college undergraduates."

Of course, in the 1960s, it was common to hear, "Thank Goodness—or God—It's Friday" from those in the workforce. The expression just meant they could relax and have fun on the weekend.

Alan Stillman, a founder of the restaurant chain T.GI. Friday's, chose that name because to him it was perfect for a place where single young people would go on Friday night. I guess he must have been right because T.G.I. Friday’s has more than 1,000 restaurants in 61 countries.

Then there was the movie, "Thank God It’s Friday” which opened during the disco-fever decade. The song "Last Dance" from the movie actually won the Academy Award for Best Song in 1979.

Takeaway Truth

So why do we say that? Because it fits the work week where everyone, those working outside the home as well as those who work from home, have that feeling of relief that the work week is over.

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Love Letter to Texas On Independence Day

Happy Texas Independence Day!

Texas Independence Day is a legal holiday in the state, celebrated every March 2. 

Many towns have parades and festivals. 

The large metropolitan areas once had parades too, but those urban centers have gone "big city" and conduct business as usual.

Texas is the only state of the Union that was once an independent nation. Perhaps that's why Texans are uniquely proud of their state and love it so much.

Second only to the refrigerator state of Alaska in size, Texas is  about 1,000 miles across from the piney woods of East Texas to the mountainous desert area of El Paso, and 1,000 miles from top to bottom—from the Panhandle to the Gulf Coast. 

Why Settlers Came to Texas 

When Spain acquired Louisiana, Americans were allowed and encouraged to apply for land grants in the northern province of the Louisiana Territory in an area called Texas. As early as 1803, Americans settled there.

In 1824, Mexico rebelled from Spain. The new republic of Mexico needed settlers to protect it from foreign invasion so they offered liberal land grants to anyone who would become citizens, accept the Catholic faith, and settle in the area.

A huge migration began with settlers coming from Missouri to Texas in the 1820s with many of them coming from Tennessee. It was the same kind of east to west migration that had brought people from Ohio into Iowa and Nebraska.

Stephen Austin, known as the Father of Texas, arrived in Texas in 1821 and was the holder of a land grant of thousands of acres. He was the leader of most of the English-speaking settlers. Other American-born grant holders came along with squatters who had no legal claim to the land.

Common to see Texas flags on rooftops
Break Away From Mexico

When Mexico became independent of Spain, everything changed. Restrictions under Mexican rule created conflict. 

For several years, settlers had petitioned for changes. The Mexican government ignored and/or refused. 

The settlers became more vocal about their displeasure and were branded rebels.

In December 1835, in the early stages of the Texas war for independence from Mexico, a group of Texan, aka Texian, volunteers led by George Collinsworth and Benjamin Milam overwhelmed the Mexican garrison at the Alamo, a former Franciscan mission located near the present-day city of San Antonio, and captured the fort, seizing control of San Antonio.

General Antonio López de Santa Anna, a Mexican general tasked with keeping Spain from recapturing Mexico, led his army of thousands to crush the insurrection. On February 23, 1836, they surrounded the Alamo.

Within the Alamo were 200 defenders commanded by William Travis and James Bowie. The defenders included famed frontiersman and folk hero Davy Crockett who famously told his  political foes, "You may all go to hell and I will go to Texas." Crockett had arrived in Texas just  a couple of weeks before the Batte of the Alamo.

It took the thousands in the Mexican army 13 days to defeat the 200 in the Alamo. Battle casualties on the Mexican side were estimated to be anywhere from 600 to 1600. 

On the morning of March 6, 1836, Mexican forces broke through a breach in the outer wall of the courtyard and overpowered them.

Santa Anna ordered his men to take no prisoners, but a few were spared including Susannah Dickinson, the wife of Captain Almaron Dickinson who was killed, and her infant daughter Angelina.

They were sent to Sam Houston’s camp in Gonzalez with a warning that what happened at the Alamo would happen to all of the Texans if they continued their revolt.

New Republlic Is Born

Instead of quelling the revolt, Santa Anna's action had the opposite effect. A month later on March 2, 1836, 59 men met at Washington-on-the-Brazos and wrote a document proclaiming Texas was freeing itself from rule by Mexico. 

That was 185 years ago, and that's what we call  Texas Independence Day. Historians believe the original and five copies of the declaration were made and signed by those 59 men. With their declaration of independence from Mexico, the Republic of Texas was born, led by interim-President David G. Burnet until the election of President Sam Houston later that year.

Remember the Alamo

Santa Anna wasn't finished with the Texas rebels. The second battle in the war for independence was fought at Goliad. 

After the Battle of Goliad, he personally ordered the execution of 400 Texan prisoners.

Remember the Alamo became the rallying cry in the Texax struggle for independence. On April 21, 1836, Sam Houston and about 800 Texans met Santa Anna in battle again at San Jacinto, near the present-day city of Houston. Houston's 800 men fought a Mexican force of 1,500 men. 

They defeated the Mexican army and took Santa Anna prisoner. The defeated general came to terms with Sam Houston to end the war.

Things You May Not Know About Texas

1. Sam Houston always intended for Texas to be part of the United States. Nine years after becoming a republic, Texas was annexed by the U.S. in 1845, making it the 28th state of the Union.

2. Texas, the name of the state derives from the Caddo word thecas, meaning “allies” or “friends.” (The Spanish spelled the word tejas or texas and used it to describe the area where the Caddo tribe lived. 

3. The men defending the Alamo probably never knew that Texas had declared independence.The battle took place from February 23 - March 6, 1836 and word probably never reached them that the vote to declare independence had succeeded.

4. Only 1 of the original 5 copies of the Texas Declaration of Independence remains. It was found at the U.S. State Department in 1896 and now resides in the Texas State Archives in Austin.

5. The Republic of Texas had five other capital cities before settling on Austin. In order, they were: Washington-on-the-Brazos, Harrisburg, Galveston, Velasco, and West Columbia. 

6. Texas is the only state to enter the Union by treaty. The most common misconception about that treaty is that Texas is the only state to fly its flag at the same height as the American flag. That is not true. The Texas flag, like all the other state flags, is flown below the U.S. flag. 

Takeaway Truth

Although I wasn't born in Texas, like many others, I got here as soon as I could. I love you, Texas!

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5 Random Thoughts on a Gray Day

I'm sitting here, looking at another gray day, and wishing it were mid-March with spring doing its magical rebirth thing.

Here are some random thoughts flitting through my mind.

1. Why is it when we need rain, we suddenly have 2 weeks of solid rain flooding freeways, ruining homes, and drowning people?

2. Why do they say, nice weather for ducks when it's raining?

We have ducks on our lake, and they never frolick in the rain. They hunker down under the bushes.

3. Why does the Morton Salt company use the slogan: When it rains, it pours? When it rains here, the salt clumps up unless you put grains of rice in the shaker.

4. If you're going to have car trouble, why does it always happen on the rainiest, coldest, or hottest day of the year?

5. Why do weeds continue to proliferate in droughts, floods, and winter storms, but grass, shrubs, and flowers die painful deaths—painful for me knowing I'll have to spend a lot of money to replace them.

Takeaway Truth

Why am I sitting here writing this when I should be writing? Procrastination is often a daily affliction for writers.

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