Totoro Puzzle Planter

A few weeks ago my fiance and I celebrated our anniversary! He got me this awesome Totoro puzzle planter. Since the first time I saw it at the store, I’ve wanted this puzzle planter. I’ve seen the completed display piece at the store but I’ve never seen a work in progress. I open the box and see 2 bags, 1 with all the puzzle pieces and 1 with the planter pieces, and a card of instructions that have no English what-so-ever.

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I begin by opening the puzzle bag and dumping it out on my table. First thing I notice is that every piece has a number on the back. Unlike a normal puzzle where you look at the picture while you are putting the pieces together, you have to assemble the pieces in numerical order without looking at the final picture. 80 pieces shouldn’t be this difficult right?

After assembling 1 thru 16 completed the top ring of the planter. Overall it wasn’t too difficult to figure out. Everything snaps tight when its in the correct position. After completing this ring I opened up the bag of planter pieces. There are 4 pieces in this bag, the bottom base, the middle support, the planter insert, and the top support. I need the top support piece to attach to the ring I just created. The grooves on the ring of puzzle pieces fit into the slots on the support ring. Just like the puzzle pieces everything snaps tightly together when it is in the correct position. By attaching the top support now it helps to stabilize the the puzzle ring i have already assembled.

I continue working on the puzzle until I have snapped together the last piece. I now have a completed puzzle bowl. At this point I wish I could read the instructions about how to attach the remaining pieces, but a little trial and error eventually worked out fine. The middle insert, which is the one without the holes, slides into the bowl and sits on top of the top support ring, carefully flip upside down and put the base piece on which locks everything in place. The planter insert fit inside the middle insert and the puzzle planter is completed!

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Picking out a plant was difficult since it is currently fall in my area. There wasn’t too much of a selection of plants would even fit this small of a planter. Mums are nice and all but most of the time they grow into really large and sprawling plants. Eventually I found some smaller Heather plants that were meant to be indoor decor plants and thought that was perfect! It has made a nice addition to our growing Anime garden.

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This was my first ever 3-D puzzle attempt and a challenge for myself that I’ve wanted to try out for many years. After assembling mine all I can say is that this was very different from any sort of puzzle I’ve done before and I would love to try something a little larger next time.

Plastic Shopping Bag Holder

Tired of seeing piles of plastic shopping bags lying around the kitchen and/or cupboards? Then look nor further to the ultimate plastic shopping bag holder! I seriously don’t know anyone that doesn’t have at least 1 of these things. They really are a great way to use scrap fabric and to keep those plastic shopping bags from floating all over the house.

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Here is all that you need: some  1/4″ braided elastic, some twill tape, and a  piece of fabric roughly 19″ X 22″. I mostly use this method of making my plastic bag holders using a single sheet of fabric. There is also this method, which uses multiple pieces of fabric sewn together to make a single sheet of fabric. Either method looks great and holds your plastic shopping bags so the choice is yours as to which method you wish to use. I actually use a combination of the 2 methods to make mine because I am not hauling out my iron for a 3 second press just to put it away again.

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First thing I do with my fabric is trim up the frayed edges. I was lucky enough to find a cheap piece from the remnants bin at my local craft store so there wasn’t much trimming to do. Next is the tricky part, making a pocket (aka casings) for your elastic pieces to go into.

The casings go on both of the short (19″) sides of the fabric.There are a variety of different ways to go about making a casing, my preferred method for something like this is to fold the end up 1/2″, sew across the rough edge(left picture), fold over another 1/2″ up and sew along the top folded edge(right picture). And then repeat the process for the other side. Its a little nontraditional but I feel like this gives it a little bit more reinforcement.

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This is where an oops turned into an interesting opportunity for some ingenuity. Typically at this point you would use a safety pin to pin one end of the elastic and use it to wiggle the elastic through the casing. This is when I discovered that I had no safety pins in the house. I had no desire to go back out to the store so I came up with this trick that worked pretty well. I used one of my needles and a little bit of thread and I sewed through the middle near the top of one piece, made 1 overcast stitch and back really close to the knot. this made it secure enough to use the needle and thread to wiggle the elastic through the casing until the non stitched edge is in line with the edge of the fabric. make 1 stitch across the end to close this end of the casing and sew the end of the elastic in place. Continue to wiggle the needle and elastic through to the other end of the casing.

Once the needle is carefully wiggled through the casing and out the other end, you can gently pull the elastic through until edge of the elastic is at the edge of the fabric. In this instance I lined up the knot from the thread to be inside the casing but in line to also be stitched across. Once the elastic is lined up stitched across the open end closing the casing and securing the other end of the elastic in place. I give a quick tug on both ends to make sure the elastic is secure on both end before I the thread off the end of the elastic. I repeated this process for the other short side of the fabric.

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When both pieces of elastic are securely in place it is time to make it a complete cylinder matching right sides together. Carefully make the long (22″) sides meet and carefully stitch together. I  stress on carefully because one of my elastics had broken at this point and I wasn’t going back to fix it. If you have a similar issue its best to use that end as the top part of the bag holder.

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Cut a 10″ piece of the twill tape. I carefully melted the end with a lighter to help prevent fraying. Fold in half matching edge together and then stitch it with the seam of the casing. Carefully flip the bag holder inside out and fill it up.

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Filling it was actually the fun part. This little plastic bag holder cleared up about a 2 weeks worth of plastic shopping bags that were hanging around on my kitchen floor plus it looks cuter than a mountain of plastic bags under the kitchen table.

 

Treasure X Kings Gold

My fiance and I were out on our vacation  a few weekends back and came across some new Treasure X dig kits. We got really excited and each got our own kit.20190818_1904486683922439555404844.jpg

First thing that you see after you ripping off the outer packaging is that you already know which ‘army’ your King is from by looking at the shields. So it looks like the one on the left(a.k.a mine) will be from the Shadow army and the one on the right (a.k.a my Fiance’s) will be from the Astral Army. I think is a really cool idea showing a sneak peek  of what you are getting but still leaving enough mystery to keep going. The kit continues with this sneak peek theme with a literal treasure map. Its the list of all the treasures you can find in this series as well as telling you “Your quest for Treasure begin in the…(insert your army’s homeland)”.  So at this point you have narrowed down which army and treasures you could possibly get.

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This kit features a new ‘magic rocks that only sticks to itself’. Because of the new ‘magic rocks’ there is some slightly different packaging. First off the dig tool has received quite a beefy upgrade from the last series. Its more like a multi-tool and unlike the last series you really do need it. Secondly you have a weird wax/rubber casing to break through. I’m certain this to help seal the magic rocks into the container but I like the neat feel of it.

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The multi-tool is required to break through the waxy part to get into the magic rocks. Its tough to describe what this waxy stuff is. It feels waxy but its quite durable so maybe a wax/plastic hybrid? Anyways, once you get a large enough hole you can grab and rip it off.

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Underneath is the magic rocks. This is also tough to describe. Its small gravel similar to fish tank gravel but its a weird sticky. Playing around with it kind of reminded me of when you make rice crispy treats. Pull it apart and see all these sticky strands and crumbing bits.  It does what the outer packaging says “stick only to itself” which made clean up really easy. After we were done playing around with the magic rocks it was pretty easy to dump everything into the trash can.

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all your creature pieces and treasure pieces are sealed in this baggie. Well 2 baggies are inside this 1 baggie. So much mystery!!!!  So I open up the first baggie and I have discovered my creature, his weapon, and a weird plastic piece.

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The second baggie contains a locked treasure chest. The weird piece of plastic is actually the key for the treasure chest. You just jam the little piece of plastic in and give it a wiggle and the chest flies open to reveal your treasure pieces! Mine literally flew out of my treasure chest.

Overall this was an awesome experience! I had a lot of fun opening this version compared to the previous Treasure X dig kits.

Cutetitos Babitos

While I was out and about shopping with my family I came across the next generations of Cutetitos. I saw the new Series 2 cutetitos, which were completely sold old at this particuliar walmart, but there were also these ones called Babitos! basically it looks like you get baby sized creature instead of the full sized ones.

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The little creature still comes wrapped up in a smaller tortilla shell, think more street taco sized. Unlike the bigger versions that you have to actually unwrap, babitos just need to be flipped over. It looks like I have opened up a Cheezito (Mouse).

20190818_1830554648116599774148747.jpgThe added bonus to the Babitos that is different from Cutetitos is that the babies can be either a boy or a girl! Basically pink Diaper for Girl or blue diaper for boy.  After further inspection I noticed that each boy and girl have a different name. For example my mouse could have been Mousito (boy) or Cheezito (girl).

If you are unsure about which one you got or what its name is you can flip over the rarity list and you can see all the information about your Babito. Overall I still think its a pretty adorable idea to have cute animals wrapped in a tortilla as a mystery street taco. I can’t wait to get my hands on a Series 2 Cutetitos!

Both Babitos series 1 and Cutetitos Series 2 are available for sale at any place you normally buy toys (I usally do well at walmart).  Or if you prefer using amazon you can go to Babitos or Cutetitos.

Grandma’s Biscotti

It took me many years of searching and begging but I was finally able to get my Grandma’s, highly in demand, biscotti recipe. My only regret is that grandma did not get to test out this version of her recipe before her passing. It was her rule that she did not like sharing the recipe with anyone. So to respect this decision I will give a basic recipe. That way you get to enjoy figuring out what the secret ingredients are!

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I begin by adding unsalted softened butter, eggs, granulated sugar into a mixing bowl. I let this mix until there is a lose liquid batter. At times the dough mixture will look a little weird. If at any point the mixture doesn’t look or feel right try mixing for another 30 seconds.

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I then add flour, salt, and baking powder and mix until there is a soft slightly sticky dough. At this point you can add in your flavor. Grandma’s recipe calls for anise extract, but you can use any flavor extract or add in baking pieces such as chocolate chips. Really any flavor that sounds good to you will work.

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Once the dough has been mixed enough to incorporate your flavoring, it needs to be split in half. Each dough ball needs to be rolled out to approximately a 2 inch thickness sheet. Extra flour is optional for handling the dough. I find that this optional amount of flour is based on what you choose for flavoring the cookies. Place the 2 dough sheets side by side on a baking sheet and place into a pre-heated 350 degree oven until slightly golden (about 20 minutes). This will turn the cookie sheets into cookie loaves.

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Once the cookie loaves are slightly golden, cut individual cookies into desired thickness. It is important to not allow the cookie loaves to cool too much during this process. Once cut, lay the pieces on the side.

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Once the cookies are spread out on the cookie sheet, place back in the over for a few minutes to make the top of the cookies golden brown (about 5 minutes). Then pull out the baking sheet and flip the cookies to the other side and then place back into the oven to allow the other side of the cookie to become golden brown (about 3 minutes). Take out the cookies and immediately transfer to a cooling rack or open table/counter space. Do not let the cookies cool on the baking sheet otherwise the cookies will become burnt.

Once the cookies have cooled down you can enjoy them. Most of my family though prefers to let these cookies sit for a day or two in a cookie jar. This make the cookies a little stale and in their opinion better for coffee dunking.


Ingredients

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups flour, plus a little more if needed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Flavoring
    • 1 Tablespoon of extract or 3/4 cup of baking pieces

Directions

  1. Add butter, eggs, and sugar into a mixing bowl and mix until the ingredient are mostly integrated.Then add flour and salt and mix until a soft sticky dough has been achieved. Add in you flavoring and mix the dough to integrate your flavoring into the dough.
    • if using extract use mixer. If using baking chips use a spoon or spatula to mix
  2.  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Divide dough in half and gently roll each dough section into a ball. If the dough is still a little bit to sticky to handle add a little sprinkle of flour. Roll out each dough sheet to approximately 2 inch thickness and place each sheet side by side on a baking sheet and place in the oven for 20 minutes
  4. After 20 minutes pull baking sheet out of the oven and quickly cut each cookie sheet into individual cookies of desired thickness and lay each cookie on its side. Put the baking sheet back int he oven for 5 minutes then flip the cookies to the other un-toasted side and place back into the oven for 3 minutes.
  5. Once the whole cookie is golden brown remove baking sheet from the oven and immediately place cookies on a cooling rack or open table/counter space to avoid burning the cookies. When the cookies are cooled enjoy immediately or allow them to go slightly stale and enjoy with coffee.

 

Nut-Free Pesto with Pasta and Veggies

Today was a hard day for me. Grandma would have been 91 today. While it was easy holding things together to get through my workday, after work was another story. I had made plans to pick up a bundle of Gladiolas and bring them to her. I got extra lucky and my Fiance had finished work a little early and was able to be there with me and help me get the flowers situated  in the vase. After a few emotional moments we headed home and decided we should make a recipe of grandma’s that I have tweaked and changed. Grandma’s recipe is a basic pasta, zucchini, yellow squash, with olive oil. My recipe includes the addition of chicken, and a pesto instead of using just oil to coat the pasta

20190812_1631126637389299058216408.jpg I start by prepping the chicken and cutting them in half through the middle so that they will be thinner pieces and will cook more quickly. I just add a little salt and pepper to the cut breasts and pass them off to my fiance. He prefers to have the chicken cooked on the grill. While I wait for the chicken to be cooked, I start getting my pot for pasta coming to a boil and get some butter melting in a skillet for my veggies.

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I slice up my veggies and toss those in the skillet with salt and pepper and let them cook. Once the pasta water come to a boil I add in my pasta. This time we used fettuccine but literally any shape will work for this recipe. Once everything is cooking make sure to keep the heat on low so that we can make the pesto without worries of burning or over boiling.

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Pesto is pretty simple. Though unlike a normal pesto, I cannot eat pine nuts so this recipe is nut-free! I add in all the needed ingredients, garlic, basil leaves, salt, pepper, olive oil, and red wine vinegar, and then blend.

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Typically I blend for a few seconds, stir the stuff on the stove and repeat 3-4 times. The pesto will look a little watery but all the pieces should be finely chopped. Once the pesto is ready I let it sit until the pasta and veggies are finished cooking.

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When the veggies are cooked I shut off the burner and let them sit until the pasta is ready. Because I used fettuccine it takes just a little bit longer to get all the noodles cooked.  Once the pasta is ready I drain out the water and flip the noodles into the skillet with the veggies. I add in a glob of butter and mix it around to keep the noodles from sticking to each other.

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Once the butter is melted I pour the pesto onto the pasta and mix it around. You need every bit to be coated by the pesto. I know this doesn’t look like much sauce but it is enough for the amount of pasta and veggies.

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Once the pesto is fully mixed into the pasta, I plated my pasta and veggies into a bowl, added my chicken and of course some Parmesan cheese! Its definitely a favorite anytime I make this recipe there is usually no leftovers!


Ingredients

  • 1 box of pasta
  • 1 or 2 zucchini, sliced
  • 1 or 2 yellow squash, sliced
  • 3 chicken breasts, thinly sliced
  • 1 container of Basil, leaves only
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/3 cup of olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons of butter
  • 4-6 cap fulls of red wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper

Directions

  1. thinly slice chicken breasts. Add salt and pepper to taste. cooked until no longer pink in the middle. let it cool then slice up into bit-sized pieces. Set aside.
  2. Fill a pot with water and bring to boil. Add in pasta. Add 3 tablespoons of butter to a skillet. After most of the butter has melted, add in the chopped squash and zucchini.When the veggies are cooked turn off heat.Once pasta is cooked drain water and add pasta to skillet with veggies.Toss in remaining 3 tablespoon of butter into pasta noodles to avoiding sticking.
  3. While pasta and veggie are cooking add basil, garlic, olive oil, red wine vinegar, and salt and pepper to a blender. Blend for 5-10 seconds using the blend setting. repeat 3 to 4 time until pesto is watery and have fine basil and garlic pieces. Pour pesto over pasta and mix until  well combined.
  4. Serve pasta in a bowl. Add the chicken and Parmesan and enjoy!

Power Rangers Pillow Case

The past month has been a very hard month for me. My grandmother had passed away.

60786125_10219287628603718_6574309021262544896_nAfter a year of fighting shes finally freed from her breathing machine, which she hated. She is definitely the source of my goofiness and also my cooking and baking skills. Many of the recipe that I have previously posted about have either been taste tested by her, were a twist on her recipes, or something she requested to have.

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My family has begun to arduous task of cleaning out the house that we all grew up in. Its been difficult to find some time since then for me to wind down. I decided to just stay in on my day off from work and play around with my sewing machine.

My fiance and step son are big fans of power rangers. While we were at the local craft store, they found this power rangers fabric in the remnants bin and just had to get it. So I decided to sew a pillow case for them to fight over.

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I began by pinning up and sewing the top opening edges of the pillow case. This was actually the most difficult part because this was my first sewing project on this machine. After much trial and error and cussing out the not-so-helpful owners manual I was able to figure out my thread tension issues and finally get some real sewing done. My lines aren’t the straightest yet but a little more practice and adjusting machine should help with that.

All I had left to do was sew up the remaining sides and flip the pillow case right side out and put the pillow inside the case.

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For my first sewing project on the new machine I say it went fairly well. Now to decide what my next sewing project will be. Project suggestions are always welcome! You can leave me a comment below or email me with your suggestions.

Dragonite Kit

The family and I were out and about window shopping/grocery shopping over the weekend and we came across this cool Pokemon build kits. After much debate I decided to that Dragonite was the best choice.

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I’ve build a few different kinds of model kits but never one from Nanoblocks. Judging from the outside it does not look like something that is going to be overly difficult, maybe mildly annoying. So I ripped the top and dumped the packaged contents onto my work space.

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Its a little sparse on words for directions. The few words that are in the instructions are in Japanese but the pictures are done very well. So this should be relatively easy to follow. The package of parts how ever will require some sorting. I find that sorting everything out may seem like an extra step but, it is very helpful in just grabbing the pieces as you need them instead of hunting for them.

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For the extra small pieces I used my empty diamond puzzle trays to help keep them organized. The larger pieces I sorted out on my table. This step was probably the most crucial piece of prep work in the assembly of Dragonite. Having all the pieces out and organized was one less thing I had to concentrate on while trying to decipher the pictures for assembly.

20190526_1349212375102933729861057.jpg 2 afternoons of work later I had managed to build all the individual ‘main’ pieces. The head, the body, and both wings. All that is left to do is figure out how they all attach to each other. This step was the most difficult because the few words that were in Japanese are the ones that help tell you how to hold the pieces in order to find the right places to connect.

20190526_1354168490530502974786164.jpgDragonite is finally completed! Its about the same size as my Triceratops model. Overall it was a pretty alright kit. It had enough challenge in it to keep me intrigued but it wasn’t heavily dependent on translating the Japanese words to get the model completed. I definitely would like to purchase more of these kits in the future and have a bunch of pokemon built!

Meaty Zucchini Pasta Sauce

I occasionally get bored with my normal pasta sauce routine. Brown some ground meat dump some sauce in and let simmer. I recently felt like I needed to change it up a bit. So I wandered my grocery store until I found this combination to try with my sauce.

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I start this off by chopping up some prosciutto and throwing it into a skillet with some oil. The pieces will stick to each other, which is fine. I try to break up the clusters of meat as much as possible while the meat gets crispy.  The meat will need to be stirred around occasionally to make sure all parts are crispy.

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Once the meat is nice and crispy, I add in the zucchini and summer squash pieces to the skillet. I cook this down quite a bit, sometimes it is necessary to add a splash or 2 of  water to keep everything from sticking to the skillet. I also add a very small amount of salt, a generous amount of black pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder. Keep the use of salt to a minimum since there is a lot of salt in the prosciutto. But you will need to add a  little salt to help break down the squashes.

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Once the zucchini and summer squashes have been cooked enough, I pour a jar of tomato sauce into the skillet. It is important that almost all of the liquid is gone from the skillet before adding in the tomato sauce.The water needs to evaporate away otherwise your sauce will be too runny. As the sauce simmers I taste test and adjust the seasonings. It is important to not add any more salt at this point, otherwise it will be a very salt sauce. While the sauce is simmering away I cook my pasta. Once the pasta is cooked I drain the water and add some butter to it to help prevent the pasta from sticking to itself once the water is gone. I do not run cold water over the pasta after it has been drained of water. I use the heat of the pasta to melt the butter.

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After the pasta is cooked I add a little into a bowl. Then add my sauce to it. And of course some parmesan cheese goes on top. Then enjoy!


Ingredients

  • splash of oil, canola or olive
  • 1 package of prosciutto
  • 1 zucchini, cut to your liking
  • 1 summer squash, cut to your liking
  • pinch of salt
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • onion powder to taste
  • garlic powder to taste
  • 1 jar of your favorite tomato sauce
  • cooked pasta
  • 3 Tbsp of butter, preferably unsalted

Directions

  1. Set a pot of water and bring to boil. Set up your skillet with a splash of oil with the heat set to medium. Allow the oil to warm up and coat the bottom of the skillet.
  2. Add chopped prosciutto to skillet. allow the meat to get crispy. Stir occasionally to help get the meat evenly crisp. Once the prosciutto has reached desired crispiness, add in the cut zucchini and summer squash.  Stir around a little bit then add in the salt, black pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder. Stir to prevent the veggies and meat from sticking. If oil is completely gone and there is some sticking add a splash of water.
  3. Once the veggies are fully cooked add a jar of tomato sauce to the skillet. Stir to combine ingredients. Set stove to low and allow to simmer. Add pasta to boiling water. Once the pasta is cooked drain and add 3 Tbsp of butter to noodles and stir.
  4. Serve up and top off with parmesan cheese, if desired, and enjoy