Sunday, August 12, 2012

Salamander Sal comes to Visit...

Sophie was so excited for Bryan to get home from work last night.  She's always excited to see him, but this time she couldn't wait to give him the lemon-flavored petits fours we bought to surprise him with.  And by that I mean she couldn't wait to eat them herself. 
Of course, being his "Friday" night, it was a late one and he didn't get home until about 1am.  About 5 minutes before he arrived Sophie and I had stepped out on the back porch.  We sat for just a minute before we heard a noise like the wind blowing through the trees, yet the night was very calm.  When I looked toward the sound I remembered the mouse I found trapped in a ventilation thingy (I believe that's the technical term) a few years ago.  We call that little area the "Mouse Hole".  The wind blows dried leaves down in the hole, and when a critter gets stuck in there the leaves make a rustling sound as the animal walks around.

I assumed we had another mouse, but realized it was a lizard (later to find out it's a salamander) when I used my handy iPhone flashlight app to shine light into the hole.  At this point Sophie started freaking out and Bryan was pulling into the garage.  She ran to tell him that we have a lizard (forgetting all about the petits fours!), and hustled him in one door and out the other.  I had went in to retrieve my big camera and started taking photos of the next few minutes.

Bryan used a stick to get Sal out of the Mouse Hole.
Then he lowered him to the ground so we could see what he'd do next.
He mostly just sat, but as we quieted down he began to crawl toward the grass.  As we admired how cute he was, we noticed he had something stuck to his left arm.  It looked like an old goat head to me.

When we moved here we had never heard of the Goat Head, also known by other names like Devil's Vine or Puncture Vine.  I just remember Nick's mountain bike bicycle tires deflating at least twice a week.  The poor kid, I was so frustrated that he wouldn't tell me where he was riding that sometimes I'd even yell at him!  He just kept saying, "I'm not going anywhere, Mom.  It's the goat heads.  They're everywhere!"  It was literally years before I understood what he was talking about.
The Puncture Vine and flower actually looks quite lovely.
Then you see the fruit, also called a nut or seed, in it's fresh stage. 
And THEN you see the dried up seed after it falls off the vine.  Clearly the various names this plant goes by are appropriate.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure that our friend Sal has a goat head stuck in his arm.  

 So Bryan puts him in a little box and grabs a pair of needle-nose pliers to pull out the goat head.  The first chunk was the biggest and didn't seem to bother Sal, but the second chunk was definitely embedded in his arm.  He jumped good when Bryan pulled the spine out.

Surgery was successful!
We took Sal out to the front yard and released him under the Mt. St. Helen's Plum tree.  It was pitch black under that tree.  I shot only one photo because after the flash went off a mass of birds living in the tree freaked out, and fled the scene.  Of course, the sound of all the leaves above us moving at once nearly gave us heart attacks.  I'm pretty sure I peed a little.  LOL (just kidding!)

Good luck, Sal!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

This recipe,  Farfalle (Bow Tie) Pasta With Chicken & Sun-Dried Tomatoes, posted to by Just Call Me Martha, got 7 rave reviews at my house, including two 5 year old girls!  Thanks to a couple previous reviewers, noting the company-worthiness of this recipe, I chose to make it for dinner last night.  Our 5 year old's best friend and her parents were bringing grandma over to dinner and play cards while she's in town.  It's always a little difficult to cook for someone new, and to be honest, I was really nervous this time.  I was choosing a recipe that would normally be on the maybe list for my own family, simply because it's a cream sauce, and in the past we have enjoyed only a handful of white sauced recipes.  I knew I wanted chicken and pasta though, so the sun-dried tomatoes and the previous reviews pushed me to give this one a shot.  I cannot tell you how happy I am!  This recipe is SO simple to prepare.  It really does only take 10 minutes to get the onion, garlic, herbs (I used fresh basil), tomatoes, and chicken prepped.  The cooking is so easy that I was stirring the chicken/cream mixture and the boiling pasta in between hands of cards, and the end result tastes like you worked all day on it.  The sun-dried tomatoes aren't overpowering, even though I probably used an ounce or so more than called for, and the only thing we needed at the table was more salt & pepper.  Following is my version, which calls for a cup less of cream, crushed red pepper and extra sun-dried tomatoes.

Farfalle (Bow Tie) Pasta With Chicken & Sun-Dried Tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into strips
2 onions, finely diced
3 ounces sun-dried tomatoes, julienned
2 Tablespoons fresh basil (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 cups heavy whipping cream
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 lb farfalle (bow tie) pasta

 In large skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat.  Add the chicken, onions, sundried tomatoes, basil, thyme, oregano and garlic.  Sauté until chicken is almost cooked through, and then slowly stir in the whipping cream and Parmesan cheese.  Bring mixture to a simmer, and continue to cook (stirring occasionally) until slightly thickened.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  While chicken mixture simmers, bring water to boil in large pot, and cook the pasta until al dente; drain. Serve pasta and sauce with a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, black pepper and a sprig of fresh basil.
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TinksTreats by Lorilyn Tenney is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License