Monthly Archives: July 2013

Chicken Taco Salad

Chicken Taco Salad

Saturday lunch: Chicken Taco Salad.

On most Saturdays, after walking with my sister and the pups, I take Molly back home and fix lunch for my mom and I.  I come up with something from what I find in her fridge – usually some variety of salad.

This week, we were still celebrating Mom’s birthday. Since there were five of us for lunch, I wanted to fix something special.  I saw this recipe on The Pioneer Woman.  I’d also made this dry rub the day before (from Smitten Kitchen) and I had some of the spice mixture left over, so decided to use that on the chicken.

This isn’t really going to be a recipe.  Check out those links if you want more specifics.

Ingredients Chicken Taco Salad

Chicken Taco Salad

lettuce – I used Green Leaf

boneless, skinless chicken breasts (two would have been enough but this package had three)

taco seasoning or dry rub mixture

1 can of beans or corn, rinsed and drained (better yet, use fresh corn, as in the Chicken Taco Salad on The Pioneer Woman site)

A bunch of grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half

1 avocado; peeled, seeded and cubed

red bell pepper, diced

green onion, thinly sliced

grated cheese

cilantro, roughly chopped

tortilla chips


sour cream


BBQ Sauce (I was using homemade, but bottled is just fine)

fresh lime juice (use half a lime for juice, the other half cut into wedges for garnish

Cooking Chicken Breasts

You want to get the chicken cooking.  Pat the pieces dry with paper towel than sprinkle with seasoning.  Spray pan with nonstick spray and cook on medium heat until cooked through (cut into a piece to check for doneness).

Shred the lettuce and put into a large serving bowl then just keep adding the other ingredients.

bowl of lettuce

Building the Salad

Once your chicken is cooked, cut it in strips and then into cubes.

Chicken Breast

Add the chicken to the bowl and toss together.  I like to serve the tortilla chips separately so they don’t get soggy.  I had the cilantro on the side because some people don’t like it. But it can be added to the dressing or tossed in the bowl with all the other ingredients if you prefer.

Taco Salad

For the dressing, combine about a half cup of sour cream, a few spoonfuls of salsa, a splash of barbecue sauce and a squirt or two of lime juice in a jar and shake to combine.  Put in a small serving bowl and let everyone dress their own serving of salad.

Chips can be combined in with the salad (my choice) or eaten on the side.

Serving of Taco Salad

Thank you for your visit.


Filed under Cooking

Celebrating National Cheesecake Day

Cheesecake Factory Pager

Pager goes off in less than five minutes while we look at all the cheesecakes and try and decide which one to get at The Cheesecake Factory.

Cheesecake Abundance

Murals on the walls and ceiling add to the colorful ambiance.


I chose the Classic.

Classic Cheesecake

Rem picked the 30th Anniversary Chocolate Cake Cheesecake: chocolate cake layered with classic cheesecake and chocolate truffle cream.

Chocolate Cake Cheesecake

If you ever eaten at The Cheesecake Factory, you know the portions are very generous.


Leftovers for dessert tomorrow night.

Rem's leftovers


Filed under Life

Canine Closeups

I thought it was tricky getting pictures of hummingbirds last weekend until I tried to get a picture of four dogs today.

But first…

This is Wedge, tightrope walking on the railing of the desk at my mom’s house.  I don’t know if anyone has told him that most dogs don’t walk on deck railings.

Wedge on a Railing

My sisters, one sister-in-law and mom were having lunch. Mom has Molly and we were at their house.  Sarah brought Wedge, the new dog in their family.  Victoria came with 9 month old Patsy, who was playing shy.

Patsy under the table

Kathleen had 14-year-old Ruby along.

Ruby Duby

I brought my camera.

I think Kathleen wondered if we could get all the dogs in one picture and Sarah was the one that decided to try.

Three Dogs

Three dogs, Wedge  looking the other way.  Fail.

Snacks are offered.


Still only three dogs.  No Patsy.  Fail.

Well…there ARE four dogs in the photo.

First of the Four

But with Ruby searching for biscuits and Patsy keeping her distance…Fail.

All the dogs are interested in the snacks my mom is offering, just off camera.  Patsy gets a little closer, but she’s still playing it safe.

Patsy Gets Closer

Come on over, Patsy!

Patsy Keeping Her Distance

Four dogs in motion.

Here’s a nice shot with Wedge and Ruby.

Wedge and Ruby

And one of Wedge who was wonderful on his own.  No distractions, just sit and look handsome


I never really did get one perfect shot of all four dogs together.  But I had fun trying.

Thank you for the visit.


Filed under Life

Hum Baby

Hovering Hummer

My mom has two hummingbird feeders outsider her kitchen window.  Last week, we sat and watched the hummers as they fed and chased each other away from the feeders.

Two feeders, 1 bird

Feeder Flowers, close bird


Close to feeder


The spend a lot of energy chasing each other away, even though, with two feeders, there are 8 spots for feeding.

Red Throat Hover

One feeding, one flying

It is hard to tell which bird is which when they are zipping by, but in the photos it is easier to see some differences in size, color and markings.

Red Throat IMG_0291

Two on Feeders


Eventually two would sip at adjacent feeders, than three hummers must have decided that getting to the food was more important than keeping someone else from getting it.

Three hovering

3, 1 hovering

Three Feeding

I was captivated, watching them as they dive in intricate loops, and listening to them scold each other (and us) and to the whirring sound of their wings as they zip by.

Miss Molly was unimpressed.

Miss Molly

It isn’t a great picture, but I was finally able to get a shot that shows 4 hummingbirds!

Four Hummingbirds!

Two are on the feeder on the left side, one is fluttering at the feeder on the right and the fourth hummer is just showing on the upper right part of the photo.

A tiny feather that my mom found on the deck is most likely from a hummingbird.  Here it is with other feathers in my growing collection:


Feather and Dime

One last look at the hovering hummingbird.

Blur of Wings

Warm wishes to my mom on her birthday.  Happy Birthday, Mom!

Thanks for stopping by.


Filed under Life

One Pot Farro with Tomatoes

Farro and Tomatoes

Something that I like to do on Sunday is fix an easy supper that makes enough to have leftovers for a lunch or two during the week.  Actually, I’m a big fan of getting a second dinner out of leftovers too.  This dish is pretty simple to put together, it is cooked in one pot and includes delicious little tomatoes, one of the joys of summer.  It is from Smitten Kitchen, which in turn was adapted from a version in Martha Stewart using pasta instead of farro.

Bowl of Farro & Tomatoes

It is one of those creations that seem to be greater than the sum of its parts. I picked up grape tomatoes at the Farmer’s Market but this time of year you can find colorful, sweet cherry or grape tomatoes at Trader Joe’s and Safeway too. The Smitten Kitchen recipe calls for ½ of a large onion and I used a whole medium-large one and it cooks down in the finished dish, which was so sweet, mellow, and tomato-y that I am ready to make it again.  Basil and grated Parmesan cheese are the finishing touches.  Without the cheese, you might want to increase the salt a bit.

Farro Ingredients

Farro with Tomatoes

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Serves: 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side (or dinner and a lunch or two)

2 cups water

1 cup semi-pearled farro (sometimes labeled whole farro) or Trader Joe’s 10 minute Farro (I’ve only done it using the 10-minute Farro)

1 onion (I used a yellow onion)

2 cloves garlic

9 ounces grape or cherry tomatoes

1 1/4 teaspoons kosher or coarse sea salt

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

To serve:

Grated Parmesan

Few basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons

Grated Parmesan cheese


Put water and farro in a medium saucepan to presoak while you prepare the other ingredients. Five or ten minutes is enough time.  If you are using the 10-Minute Farro, you can omit the presoaking.

Cut onion in quarters and thinly slice.  Add to the pot

Thinly slice garlic and add to the pot.

Halve or quarter tomatoes and add to the pot.

Add salt and 1 tablespoon olive oil to pot.

Ingredients in Pot

Bring uncovered pot to a boil, and then reduce to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally. Cook for 30 minutes.

Farro Simmering

Farro should be tender but with a little chewiness, and the cooking water will be completely or almost completely absorbed. If needed, cook for 5 more minutes.

Closer to Done

You can double the recipe.

In the comments on the Smitten Kitchen site, several people suggested adding some canned white beans near the end of the cooking time, which is a great idea.  I had this with leftover grilled chicken and a green salad.  Delish.  I thought it was also great cold for lunch.

Closer View

As always, thanks for the visit.  Please do comment as it makes me so happy!  If you try the recipe, I’d love to hear about it.


Filed under Cooking


Rem and I recently enjoyed an evening out at Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland.  It was a fun and educational visit.

Commander Rem

I was fascinated by many of the exhibits.  Some were aimed at a younger audience but Rem and I both found them interesting.

I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of living on the International Space Station – their schedules, food, working weightless and more in the exhibit “Beyond Blastoff”.

Dianne Jetson

Another exhibit, “Touch the Sun” has some incredible real time close-up images of the sun.

Chabot has a ‘dinner and a movie’ program that included entrance to the center and all the exhibits, dinner (with candlelight and flowers), the Planetarium show (if you attend the earlier dinner) and entry to a movie, which that night was Men in Black!

When the movie ended, shortly before 9PM, it was just getting dark enough outside for stargazing.

Crescent Moon

We were able to view the moon, stars and planets through one of the three giant telescopes that are part of the center as well as several other smaller telescopes set up by hobbyist, amateur astronomers and students.  The moon was stunning through the lens of the telescope.

Darkening Sky

We also saw Saturn (though I didn’t see much in the way of rings beyond a fuzzy blur of gasses) and a pair of stars, one shining gold and the other blue.

Chabot is not that far from home but we just hadn’t made it over there until now.  If you live in the area, please consider a visit.  Here is a link to other observatories around the country. Take a look and see if there is one close enough for a visit: US Observatories.

For another kind of stargazing, we went to see recently unveiled statues in a new park in my hometown of San Anselmo.

Star Wars Created in San Anselmo

Wise Yoda.


Indiana Jones, from the movie created in San Anselmo in 1974.  However, my mom and I rather like the idea that we have a statue of Harrison Ford in town.

Indiana Jones

Nice View

Me in Imagination Park

It is a sweet little park..

Imagination Park

Thank you for coming by.


Filed under Life

Something New

I’ve added a new tab at the top of the page called “Art Journal Pages”.  It is a work in progress and is a compilation of one (or occasionally two) photos from each of my Art Journal pages.  There is a title, a link to the blog post about that page (or most often, that 2-page spread) and a photo.  Check it out. Thanks, Kathleen, for the suggestion.

In other news, I learned today that the little swallow fledgling didn’t make it.  I called for an update and was told he or she “expired” and though the report didn’t specify, the person on the phone said the injuries just may have been more severe than they realized.  I find some comfort in thinking at least this little bird wasn’t just sprawled on the hard pavement, but being cared for in a safe, warm environment.

I admit to imagining a little swallow angel, finally able to fly. May your spirit rise safely.


Filed under Crafts, Life

3-D Hand Drawing

3-D Hand Drawing

I love how this flat picture looks three dimensional.  I saw the how-to on Pinterest here.  I did it a few times before I liked it enough to add color.

Trace your hand with pencil.

Old Paw

Somehow my hand has been replaced by this odd, pinkish wrinkled old paw.  Strange.

Now take a marker and draw a straight line until you get to the pencil line.  Than draw an arc to the other pencil line and then go back to making a straight line.

Straight, Curved, Straight

I tried using a ruler but in the end it was easiest just doing it freehand.

You can go back and erase the pencil line when you’re finished with the black lines.


It kind of reminds me of topographical maps with their contour lines.

It looks effective from every angle too.



Felt markers add color.

I glued it into my newest Art Journal. Unfortunately, I think it loses a little of the 3-D effect going over the two pages.  But it is still cool.

3-D Hand in Art Journal

I had slicked down some gesso first and after gluing the hand picture I covered it with Mod Podge.  The water-based markers smeared some with the water-based Mod Podge.  Oops.  I tried to heat-set the color with a heat gun but it wasn’t completely effective

This new Art Journal is in an old textbook from my high school, found on the shelf at my mom’s house.

American Lit


Adventures in America Literature, published in 1952.

It is overdue.


I don’t know how it got onto the shelf at Mom’s but it wasn’t me.  I graduated before that!

I appreciate the visit!


Filed under Crafts



I started another Art Journal.  I’ve got one just for the doors and entries spreads but I wanted to have another general one that I can fill with whatever I want.

Pinterest continues to give me ideas and inspiration and these triangles were inspired by these triangles at Pie ‘N the Sky. Which, in turn, were inspired by these triangles at A Beautiful Mess.

Triangle Template & Tools

I first cut out some triangles that were 1.5 inches on each side but I decided they were too small, so I went with 2.5 inches instead.  I made a template out of heavy card stock (the front cover of a mini calendar), measuring the triangle and cutting it out with an Exacto knife.  This was great because I just put the template down on paper to decide exactly where I wanted to cut out the shapes from that page.

Be sure and cut some triangles with the design oriented with the point at the top and some inverted so the design or photo is oriented with the wide part at the top.

Lots 'o Triangles

Most of my triangles were cut from magazine pages but some came out of textbooks, there is a triangle from a dictionary (with the definition of triangle, of course), a paint swatch (the photo on the reverse side of the paint samples), sheet music, a postcard, the lining of an envelope, and pretty patterned paper.  Thin paper is best for the center of the two pages if you are doing a two-page spread in an art journal because it is easier to smooth it into the crease.

Golden Gate Bridge

I did my initial layout on the back of a manilla folder.  In one of the blogs I looked at they had all the triangles touching but I liked how they looked with a little space in between.  I also think it is a little more forgiving as a layout because if you’re like me, the shapes are probably not all identical.

Triangle Layout

Before I started on my pages, I’d painted them with a coat of gesso for a more neutral background.  My glue of choice is a glue stick, although a glue pen was helpful when I found a corner I’d missed.


I forget this tip but it is helpful when you have a project with a lot of gluing: use a magazine (one you have read and pulled out any articles, recipes or material for future craft projects) when putting glue on the triangles and when one page gets too sticky, simply turn to a new page.


After I did my layout, I took a picture of it which was also helpful.  I started transferring triangles from the layout to the page and I got off track once but was able to refer back to the picture to see how I originally had it.

Even a 2.5 inch triangle is large enough to capture a familiar gaze.


Or a famous musician. Or two.

Johnny & Miles

An optional finishing step is a coat of Mod Podge or similar medium.  If I were doing this on the cover of my journal, I would do this step by I decided to skip it for this spread.

Thanks for stopping by.


Filed under Crafts

Fine Feathered Friends

My feather-finding of the last year or so has escalated.  Now I’m finding birds (or maybe they’re finding me).

On Friday, just after I returned from an appointment, leaving our front door ajar, our neighbor called out to say there was a duck in the carport!  The duck, a female Mallard, was an unusual sight  in that spot, as we are on a fairly busy corner with a steady flow of traffic going by, and no creeks or ponds nearby.  Although she didn’t seem injured, it soon became clear that she couldn’t fly well at all, lifting off and landing a few feet away.

Eventually the Marin Humane Society came and managed to capture the duck and take her to WildCare, a San Rafael nonprofit whose mission is to advocate for wildlife for a sustainable world, and who actively pursues this mission through nature education, wildlife rehabilitation and community outreach.

On Tuesday Rem called and learned that “our” duck had a misaligned wing and couldn’t fly.  She is in a pond at their site with another Mallard and under observation.

Update: We learned the duck had a fracture at the end of her wing, in the “wrist” but is healing well and regaining strength.

Yesterday I left my building after work and found a little fledgling swallow on the pavement.  There are light fixtures in the outdoor ceiling of the entryway and I’d noticed sparrows swooping in and out of them. I guess this little bird had tried to fly just a little bit too early and had made a rough landing.  She was hunched on the ground with both wings partially outspread. Rem was waiting in a parking lot, down one level, and I called down to him.  He helped carry my things so I could hold the tiny bird.

As I started towards the stairs, an adult bird cheeped from her nest, up in the light fixture. My little rescue bird peeped feebly in response.  I felt terrible taking the baby away but it seemed injured and I knew the mama couldn’t get it back up to the nest and I felt sure it would not be able to survive on the ground. I was hoping to give it a chance at making it.

We went to WildCare and they confirmed that the little bird, a Violet-green Swallow, had a broken left wing and perhaps injury to her chest.  I was relieved when they said I’d done the right thing to bring her in.  She was going to be put into foster care as swallows are insectivores and need feeding every 30 minutes from dawn to dusk! Talk about dedicated volunteers!  We hope she’ll recover and be released back into the wild.

Update: Sadly, we learned today (7/22) that the swallow died as a result of his or her injuries.

I made a thank you card for the dedicated and hard working staff and volunteers at WildCare.

Bird Collage Card

Our little juvenile doesn’t have the colorful markings that adults do.  Her feathers were several shades of grey with a white face. This picture of an adult male shows beautiful violet and green markings.

Photo by Ashok Khosla

Photo by Ashok Khosla

Last night, at my Threshold Choir rehearsal, I learned a song from our repertoire that was new to me, called Help Her Fly.  It was written by choir member, Helen Greenspan, writing to her teenaged daughter.  It seemed appropriate in light of the little swallow I’d found.  I sang the song with the little fledgling on my mind. Here are the lyrics:

Help me love her. Help me free her.  Help her fly, her own wings to hold her safe in her flight. Safe through the night.

Thanks for stopping by.


Filed under Life