Saturday, February 28, 2015

American Kestrel Catches Sparrow

We've had several snow storms coming through our region in recent days, and so many of us have enjoyed watching all the little birds - sparrows, cardinals, blue jays - out in the snow.  Some neighbors keep bird seed feeders outside their apartments, others of us just throw out the occasional bread crumbs. 
This particular day I was taking some pictures of the birds outside and suddenly I saw this colorful bird I'd never seen before hopping around on top of the shrub. 
Come to find out this is an American Kestrel, a type of small falcon.  He had been hunting the smaller birds feeding on the ground, and I captured his catch.
Needless to say, some of the photos below may be a bit graphic as it involves the dying sparrow that the Kestrel caught.
At first, I did not realize that the Kestrel was hunting the other birds since he disappeared into the shrub, but I realized when he came out he was carrying one of the small sparrows. 
The sparrow was still alive, but regardless of whether I tried to shoo the falcon off save the little guy, he was already injured enough that he wasn't going to make it.  I figured the Kestrel needs to eat too, but I did feel a little guilty for throwing crumbs out and that the sparrows had their guard down while they ate.
It was such a neat opportunity to see nature happen at my doorstep.  It is such a beautiful bird, and I'll like him so long as he doesn't stay here and hunt all the little birds that always eat here.
He obviously saw me taking pictures of him, since he looked directly at me several times before he flew to a nearby tree with his dinner.
While the birds look beautiful in the snow, I'm hoping winter and all these snow storms will die off during March. 
How is winter looking where you live?
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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Route 66 Leg 1 (2011)

Since I have given you a series over the past couple weeks about our recent road trip on Route 66, I decided to take you back in time to before I had this blog on our first Route 66 adventure in 2011.

It was just a month or so after Tyler and I were "official" and about 3 months after we initially started dating, we decided to take a roadtrip one January afternoon to see some sites on Route 66.  I'd never seen any of them although I've always lived in Oklahoma, so we started making plans.  Tyler's roommate at the time came along with us, and the two of them planned our trip to visit the sites from Oklahoma City westward.

We took 66 through parts of the city, near the State Capitol, and suburbs in Bethany and Yukon.

A blurry picture of the Oklahoma State Capitol.  In my defense, I took this picture a long time ago.

Flour mill in Yukon from Route 66.

While the boys were mapping out the course of travel, they found a place called "Smith and Turner Mortuary."  It was funny, because Tyler's last name is Smith, and my last name was Turner.  I had no clue where we were stopping until we pulled up in front of the sign and got out to take a picture.  Clever and funny, those two silly boys were.

After that stop, we headed west on different broken sections of Route 66.  Since that highway has been replaced by newer highways, you can't always drive the whole stretch without having to jump onto the new highway and get off again onto the old 66.  

We went through El Reno, and stopped at Tyler's all time favorite onion burger joint in the state of Oklahoma, Robert's Grill.

I will now speak for Tyler, and tell you that you have to eat at Robert's Grill.  Because he always tells everyone that when the subject comes up.  A nice plus to this place is that their burgers are a really good bargain, but if you're into yummy, greasy, onion burgers then the quality is great.  I'm pretty sure Tyler is a walking advertisement for this place.

There really aren't a lot of stops for Route 66 in western Oklahoma.  The first major thing you'll see once you're west of El Reno are giant windmills from the highway.

 One of the other few 66 sites along the way.

We drove west to Clinton, Oklahoma and visited the Route 66 Museum, which was very interesting.
It was filled with a lot of antiques and Route 66 memorabilia.

Tyler in the telephone booth!  I'm not sure why he is squatting though.

Don't you wish gas pumps still looked this pretty instead of the smelly ugly boxes that they are now?
I'm sure these were still smelly, but atleast they looked nice.

Did you know the first parking meter was installed in Oklahoma City, and designed by professors at Oklahoma State?

After the Route 66 Museum, we headed back toward our little college town in Norman.  

But first, to stop by a tank on the side of the road.

Now both of the boys with the tank.

Just the beginning of a pretty sunset.

And really, when has Oklahoma not ended the day with a beautiful sunset?

I do believe this is about half of the Devon tower while it was under construction.  Hard to tell with the awful picture quality.

Have you ever driven any parts of historic Route 66?  What is your favorite Route 66 site?  

For those who aren't from the US, do you have any famous historic highways or roads in your country?

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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Fan Qie Chao Dan

When I lived in China, I came to appreciate one of the best yet most simple to make Chinese dishes.  It is known as Chinese comfort food - kind of like how we eat Chicken Noodle Soup when we don't feel well here in the west.  It is called Fan Qie Chao Dan, or Stir Fried Tomato and Egg.  

A restaurant where I frequently bought this dish in Kunming also served it with a healthy mix of green onions and cilantro, however it is not always cooked by all Chinese with these ingredients.  I love both of those ingredients, so that is how I make it.  There may also be other methods to make this dish, but this the method that reminds me most of how it was at this particular restaurant where I used to eat it.

For your ingredients, you'll need about 4 roma tomatoes per person, 2 eggs per person, 2 tablespoons of sesame oil, salt, and optionally green onions and cilantro to taste.  The nice thing about a lot of Chinese cooking is measurements are quite often not "exact" measurements, just proportions and estimates.  Of course some dishes do have measurements, but I've never watched too many Chinese who were cooking straight off a recipe.

I made this serving for two people, so I used 8 tomatoes (quartered), 4 eggs, about 2-3 tablespoons of sesame oil for frying, 2-3 stalks of green onions, and a heaping handful of cilantro (because I love cilantro, you may choose to use less).

First, heat a wok or a skillet with a tablespoon or so of sesame oil.  

 Add your eggs and scramble them.  I'm aware that some stir up the eggs prior to dropping them in the skillet - that's just too many unnecessary dirty dishes for me.  You can still do it that way if you'd like to wash the extra bowl.

Scramble the eggs...

 Put the scrambled eggs into a separate bowl while you cook the other ingredients.

Add another tablespoon of sesame oil into the skillet and let it get hot.

Add the green onions to distribute their flavor through the oil.

After about thirty seconds, add your quartered roma tomatoes.

I often add in between 2 - 4 tablespoons of water to help the tomatoes cook down without becoming too dry.  

I usually let them cook until the skins just start to turn away from the sides and the juices are starting to turn orange-red.  It is usually about this point that I give the stir fry a good salting.

Then add the scrambled eggs back to the skillet.

Stir the tomato egg mixture back together, and let cook just a little longer.  In the last minute or so add the cilantro and stir it into the mix.

You don't want to cook the cilantro too much, just enough to wilt it slightly and the flavor will distribute a little bit.

Add to a bowl by itself or over rice and enjoy!

While this may be one of the simplest Chinese dishes, it really takes me back to my good times there, and it definitely a wonderful specimen of comfort food.

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