30 Days Wild…Week Four.

As I embark on the last week of The Wildlife Trust‘s 30 Days Wild, it becomes important more than ever, to continue to value and respect the wildlife that is around us.

Monday:

I find it difficult to enjoy nature while I am out and about going to work. However today I snapped a picture of a flower that was gracing the gates of my employment. I did a quick Google search and found that it was a Rosa canina, or Dog Rose which is a deciduous shrub.

White heart shaped petal flower

White heart shaped petal flower

Tuesday:

James Horner

James Horner

Though not nature orientated, I woke up this morning to the sad news that composer James Horner had died in an aeronautics accident. I admired Horner’s music well before Hans Zimmer’s. My first CD of his, was his stunning American Civil War soundtrack to the film Glory!


The weather turned out to be half decent today. In the afternoon I managed to sit out and potter about my garden. The Passion Flower has grown ‘madly’ again and has hundreds (maybe an exaggeration) of buds on it! There are also purple flowers on the Hebe!

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Wednesday:

I decided to follow a suggestion from the 101 ‘wild’ things to do which was to watch a nature webcam. Years ago I used to visit a websi from a farm in Yorkshire, called Marlfield. The website is called Lambwatch. (It’s best viewed on IE.) I checked it out today and found that they not only have one webcam pointed at a field, which during spring is filled with lambs, but have three others! One of which was a webcam in a Swallows nest. Knowing I love Swallows I spent a good hour watching the brood of about 4 growing baby Swallows.

I wonder if the visiting Swallows near me will also be feeding a brood of similar size? I shall have to wait until they fledge, it was mind July last year! I shall keep my eyes towards the sky!

Thursday: – Norwich… ‘a fine city!’ (Indeed!)

Thursday was the beginning of our night away to Norwich to see the Go Go Dragons street art exhibition! Mum kindly looked after Artie while we were gone the night.

It was not the first time we have gone on a hunt for dragons. The first was in 2010 in Newport!

Newport dragon 2010

Newport dragon 2010

We set off on the M62 around 9am. I didn’t see much nature along the motorways, save for a few silhouettes of Buzzards and Kestrels hunting and along the A11 there was a field full of purple and white foxgloves!

We got to Norwich by 1.30pm and spent the next two hours walking around the city streets. The weather was very humid and come the evening the sun shone through heavy laden clouds.

We first visited Norwich two years ago when we popped in, on our way to Colchester, to see their Go Go Gorillas trail.

Go Go Gorilla - Optimus Prime

Go Go Gorilla – Optimus Prime

I was impressed by the artistic talent, so much so that come news that dragons were going to grace the city’s streets I had to pay them a visit!

The dragons I think even surpassed the gorillas! Here are just a few from the first day!

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With tired feet we made our way to the B&B for the night. We stayed at the same B&B, 175 Newmarket Road, and incidentally the same room as two years ago!

175 Newmarket Road, Norwich

175 Newmarket Road, Norwich

For the evening’s meal we went to The Merchant’s of Spice, curry house north of the River Wensum. David ordered Chicken Tikka Pasanda, which was flavoursome while I had the Vegetable Karahi which was filled with peppers, green beans and new potatoes. The naan was nice though was drizzled with a lot of butter! The atmosphere of the restaurant was luxurious and the ambient music was not overpowering. The service was efficient and they cleaned unused plates and cutlery swiftly. At the end of the meal we were once again handed orange soaked hot towels to wipe our hands, always a plus in my book! 😀

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Friday:

We had breakfast early on Friday so we could leave the B&B and head into Norwich before 9am! While we were packing I noticed a colourful Jay amongst the tree canopy around the house. It moved too quickly for me to get a picture so one of David’s taken on a day trip to Yorkshire Wildlife Park will have to do!

Jay

Jay

I must comment that Norwich has fully embraced planting for wildlife and on most of their roundabouts and along the sides of dual carriageways there is an abundance of wild flowers!

We spent the next four hours walking the city’s streets with map in hand! The positive of following a trail map is that you get to see parts of the city you wouldn’t necessarily see! There are some lovely churches and narrow tudor-esque streets in Norwich. However the north of the city is a bit derelict, like many towns. We found ourselves in a part of the city that was covered in graffiti! We did not feel safe! So we hurried back south towards the river.

We saw 31 dragons on the Thursday and the Friday we saw a total of 32! So we saw 63 out of the 84 dragons on the streets, though we did see several more but could not take photos!

Here are some of my favourite dragons from Friday’s hunt!

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Even though we never got to see the whole 84 dragons, I found following the trail map more satisfying than going to see them all in one place which we did last year when we went to Aberdeen to see ‘all’ the dolphins!

Wild Dolphins

Wild Dolphins

Here’s a selection of some of the art work found on the dragons and of David and myself posing with our favourites! 😀

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After lunch at around 1.30pm we said goodbye to Norwich and set off on our journey home, and what a ‘long’ journey home it turned out to be! Instead of the 4.5 hours it should have took us, our journey lasted over 7 hours! Arriving home around 9pm!

There was news of the M6 being shut around junction 16 and then the A14 was at a snails pace. There was nothing to do but to try and stay cheery, listen to the radio and try to keep hydrated and well fed. We took regular breaks. We tried to get the sat-nav to navigate around the blocked part of the M6 but it wanted us to go further afield into Wales, so we decided to see what was in store for us on the motorway!

We paid the £5.50 to go on the M6 toll and the first junction was at a stand still. I thought that it was a waste of money but once we past the first junction it was smooth travelling until the M6 toll merged into the M6. Then the travelling was in fits and starts, so much so that I got a migraine with the stress. I thought we would never get home and my phone decided to die! We stopped off at Keele Services and had a fast food dinner! It was not what I had planned. I had planned something more healthy, after the curry the night before, but there was nothing to be done. So a Burger King it was. I had a vegi wrap while David had a chicken sandwich and chips. I also had a Costa coffee which, with the Zomig I had taken, helped ease the migraine!

For the next two hours, though fuelled, we continued on our slow journey home. To break the monotony David said I should take some pictures of the Cheshire countryside.

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On our arrival home, we were welcomed by a familiar sight. Artie looking out of the window at us!

Artie welcoming us home

Artie welcoming us home

Saturday:

Back home to ‘normality!’ I found that the Passion Flower had started to bloom! There was one sitting proud for all to see! I look forward to many more budding!

Passion Flower

Passion Flower

For Saturday’s dinner I made a healthy Roasted Pepper and Bean soup.

Ingredients:

  1. Two pointed peppers sliced in half
  2. One red onion sliced in quarters
  3. Two garlic cloves
  4. One chilli chopped
  5. 500ml of reduced vegetable stock
  6. Tin of choppd tomatoes
  7. Tin of cannellini beans
  8. Pepper to season
  9. Serve with wholemeal bread

Method:

  1. Put peppers, onion and garlic on a roasting tin and roast for 20 mins on oven 200°/gas mark 6
  2. Chop the chilli
  3. In pan put in stock, chilli, tomatoes, and beans and warm to simmering
  4. Once skin is blackened on peppers take out of oven, strip and chop
  5. Return chopped, peppers, onion and garlic into pan
  6. Season with pepper
  7. Cook for 20 minutes

I served the soup with Wholemeal granary bread that I had made and David had shaped into dogs!

Red Pepper and Bean Soup with Dog shaped Wholemeal bread

Roasted Pepper and Bean Soup with Dog shaped Wholemeal bread

Sunday:

I spent today’s lunch with our finches. We let them fly around the living room at weekends. Here’s a selfie I took with Chocolate our Bengalese Finch, she was getting very close to me!

Chocolate and Christine

Chocolate and Christine

More webcams! This time from Paradise Park in Cornwall. They are streaming a webcam from their Red Panda den. Their female panda has had cubs. You can view the webcam here: http://paradisepark.org.uk/events-and-news/webcams/

I think I am going to have to attempt to separate the Borage seedlings either today or sometime during next week! Look how much they have grown in a month!

Borage seedlings

Borage seedlings

There are only two more day’s of June and 30 Days Wild, but I will continue to admire the nature that is around me in the coming weeks/months. Will the Borage and Teasel seedlings bloom? How many Passion Flowers will I get? Will I see any fledgling Swallows? Only time will tell!

A Typical Saturday!

Most of my Saturday’s start with a trip to the shops. There is only two of us and Artie (the cat), living in the house, but every weekend the shopping bill nears or exceeds £100!! 😮

Today’s shopping consisted of buying lots of fruit and vegetables and cat treats! 🙂 People say I spoil Artie, but with a face like this, how can I not?! 😀

Artie

Artie

Usually by noon we are home, the shopping is put away and I have attempted some kind of flower display with a new bouquet I have bought!

Recent flower display

Recent flower display

We occasionally have lunch in the living room. David lets the finches come out of their aviary to stretch their wings and fly around the room. Today, Chocolate and Romeo the Society Finches sat on the sofa with me!

Chocolate and Romeo the Society Finches

Chocolate and Romeo the Society Finches

After lunch, it is all about cleaning the house. It can take up to two hours! If I am alone, it can take more! David helps by vaccuming while I do the dusting, dining room and bathroom.

If it is sunny outside then I forego doing the floors until Sunday and go out into the garden and enjoy the flowers, birds and insects.

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Today though, it was cold and cloudy so after doing the chores I listened to Classic FM and noticed a House Sparrow visiting the feeders.

After 5pm I turn my attention to the kitchen. I listen to Saturday Night at the Movies while making a start on the evenings meal. Tonight’s meal was my version of a Mexican Bean and Vegetable Soup with home-made Wholemeal mini loaves. I got the recipe from the Change for Life website/recipe app, though I adapted it.

Recipe for Mexican Bean and Vegetable Soup:

Ingredients:

  • Vegetable oil for pan
  • 2-3 garlic cloves crushed/chopped
  • 2 small onions chopped
  • 1 chilli chopped
  • 1 pepper chopped
  • 2 celery ribs chopped
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder (I used medium)
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 850ml of vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 can mixed beans
  • 1 can sweetcorn or frozen
  • Handful of red lentils (it was a last minute addition)
  • 1 tbsp fresh coriander (I got ours from the garden!)
  • Pinch of ground black pepper and salt to taste
Coriander

Coriander

Method:

  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan and gently cook the onion until softened.
  • Then add the celery, pepper, chilli and garlic and cook for 5-10 minutes (use your discretion as to when to stop cooking.)
  • Add the chilli powder and the tomatoes and bring to the boil.
  • Pour in the stock and add the tomato puree, mixed beans, sweetcorn (drained if tinned) and lentils (if using). Heat and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
  • Add the coriander (if using) and season with some salt and pepper. Ladle into warm bowls and serve with a slice of wholemeal bread
Mexican Bean and Vegetable Soup

Mexican Bean and Vegetable Soup with Wholemeal Mini Loaves

For the wholemeal mini loaves I followed the recipe I use for easy white bread. I just changed the strong white flour for Allinson Wholemeal Seed & Grain Bread Flour. It’s delicious, I don’t think I will ever go back to baking with just white flour again!

Saturday evenings tend to be a mixture of wine and music while David often plays on GTA5 with his brother and cousin. At the moment I am reminiscing about playing Final Fantasy VII in the 90’s. The story was engaging, had a baddie that you love to hate (Sephiroth) and the music written by Nobuo Uematsu was out of this world too! You can listen to Final Symphony on Spotify, though I actually bought the mp3 from Amazon!

I shall sign off now and enjoy the last remaining light of day.

Goodnight!

© 2015 Christine Lucas

Good Friday

Phew… what a long day!

On this dreary, rainy morning, David said to me that, ‘I would lie in bed all day listening to the Classic FM’s Hall of Fame countdown’. I did indeed lounge for the first hour of the day. I wanted to hear who was at no. 300. It was Henry Litolff with his Concerto Symphonique No. 4. I snuggled with Artie who suckled, but by 10am I was up and have not stopped since!

Artie suckling

Artie suckling

Firstly I made a start with the laundry and then onto the glass/window cleaning in the house. The dining room table is always the first to get a once over!

I then paused for an hour for a chat and a coffee with Mum. Then after lunch and after David had annoyed me for not eating, I carried on the cleaning. I cleaned the bathroom and bedroom before disinfecting Artie’s cat boxes and the rooms with vinyl floors. While I left David with the vacuuming, (a chore I despise!) I checked on the plants in the garden and refilled the fat balls for the visiting Starlings and Pigeons. The Dwarf Rhododendron is flowering and the Flame of the Forest is living up to its name!

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I then did 20 minutes on the treadmill and really put up a sweat before making a start on the evenings dinner. I cooked Aldi’s Atlantic Side of Salmon with lemon, tarragon and cheese crumb. We had this fish for New Years dinner and it was very filling, so I thought it would be ideal for Good Friday! I served it with Aunt Bessie’s roast potatoes and salad. It was scrumptious!

Atlantic Salmon with lemon, tarragon and cheese crumb

Atlantic Salmon with lemon, tarragon and cheese crumb

Now that the end of the first day of Classic FM’s Hall of Fame draws to a close with Handel’s Xerxes, I am finally relaxing with a toasted hot cross bun (that I was craving yesterday) and a wee dram of whiskey.

Toasted hot cross bun and a dram of whiskey

Toasted hot cross bun and a dram of whiskey

Buonanotte!

Christine xx

‘Our Day Out!’ by Christine Lucas.

[The bedroom of number 49. Early morning sun lights the bedroom. The strain of music from Classic FM stream into the chill morning from the radio. The sunlight highlights a woman sitting at her dressing table, applying foundation to her face. A mobile phone beeps.]

Christine: Who is that?

David [lying in bed.] It’s Keith, he will be with us in ten minutes.

Christine: What time is it?

David: Just gone eight.

Christine: He said he’d be here at eight thirty. I am not ready! I will be ready for eight thirty, but not eight fifteen!

David [climbing out of bed]: I’ll tell them they can come in or wait.

 

[Outside, in the road, before a Citroen DS3. Keith and David pack lunch bags and a silver foiled package into the boot of the car. Christine welcome’s Bilgen and Gary. Bilgen holds the door as they all climb into the car. Christine, David (in the middle) and Gary all sit in the back seat. Keith is at the wheel.]

David: Is everyone ready?

Keith: The only postcode for the Angel I could find began with NE?

Christine: I couldn’t find one either. [The satnav calculates the route.]

Keith: It say’s we’ll be there at 11am!

Christine: Only takes two and a half hours from Liverpool.

 

[They set off on their journey. The M62 from Liverpool, then the M60 (around Manchester) then back onto the M62. Bilgen falls asleep. Gary tries to take her picture. Christine cheers when they get to the highest point of any UK motorway, some 372m! The roads are pleasantly quiet. David jokes to Bilgen that it is because after a certain point in England, like the film ’28 Days Later,’ parts of the North are barricaded as a hoard of zombies roam the northern wilds. They leave the M62 and join the A1 (M). Christine looks out of the window and gets excited. They are drawing near to their first destination.]

Keith: We should be getting close now.

Christine [looking at her phone]: It says after the Washington Service Station continue on the A1 (M) until the main roundabout and take the A167 turn off. The Angel site is on your left and parking available nearby. [Looking up] There she is!

 

[They pull into the parking bay beside the A167 and excitedly get out of the car. Christine leaves her jacket in the boot of the car, though there are rain clouds overhead. They all have cameras and mobile phones in hand as they walk the short path towards, Sir Antony Gormely’s ‘The Angel of the North.’]

Christine [taking a different path from the others.] Isn’t it wonderful! [David follows after her.]

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[After a quick bite to eat in the car at the Angel car park. The five-some travel on towards Middlesbrough to visit friends Paul and Gemma. On arrival at their house, Christine hands Paul the silver foiled package.]

Christine: You asked for bread?

Paul: Thank you!

 

[Some four hours of chatting goes by and many pictures taken of Paul and Gemma’s King Charles Spaniels, Kash and Ruby]

Kash

Christine [to David]: What time is it?

David: Half five.

Christine: We can’t stay here all evening, it’s not fair on Paul and Gemma!

Bilgen: I’m getting hungry.

Christine: We have to go home and have dinner.

[They say their goodbyes.]

Paul: Thanks for coming.

Christine: It was nice to meet you!

Gemma: Have a safe journey home.

 

[In the car, they seat belt up.]

David: So what do we do next?

Christine [deflatedly]: Go home. [Cheerful.] Or go to Whitby like Gemma suggested.

Keith: We could go to Maggies?

Christine [corrects]: Magpies in Whitby. [She looks at her phone and finds the postcode for Magpies.] YO21 [Keith programmes the satnav.]

David: What happen’s if it is busy like Gemma said it would be? It being a Saturday and all!

Christine: Then we look for food elsewhere, or go hungry!

 

[They travel for 40 minutes, mainly in silence. Everyone is hungry and tired. Christine looks out of the window at the heathland around them.]

Bilgen [to Gary]: Do you have pain killers? I will have a headache if we do not eat soon!

David [to Christine]: What time is it?

Christine: Six o clock.

David [to Keith]: Put Classic FM on, Saturday Night at the Movies. 

 

[Music from the film The Prestige plays. As they near Whitby they see the ruined Abbey on the headland. Christine think’s Anne Bronte is buried in St Mary’s Church, but [looking at her phone] finds it is in St Mary’s of Scarborough. They look for the Magpie Cafe and have to turn back as they travel too far. They end up parked in a makeshift car park by the harbour. Keith and Gary go to the paying machine and an Asian man hands them a ticket. They return to the car as a rain shower beings.]

Keith: The Indian man gave me a ticket. It looks like he paid for 24 hours not 4!

Christine: Did you give him any money for it?

Keith: No, he didn’t want it!

 

[They leave the car and walk down the main street of Whitby. They look at the harbour arched in a rainbow. They pass many groups of rowdy men and women dressed in 1950’s clothes. They take pictures of the town and on finding the Magpie Cafe. They look at the menu.]

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David: Do you want to eat in our get a takeaway? It looks busy.

Christine [resigned]: I don’t mind.

David: Shall I look for the takeaway menu?

Christine [sighing to David]: I don’t mind want we do. [David and Keith walk further up the road. Christine turns to Bilgen and Gary]. He never takes me out to restaurants. I would like to go to a restaurant once in a while.

Bilgen [to Christine]: I want to go and get a table inside. I want to eat a proper meal. [Christine shrugs. David and Keith come back.]

Keith: The takeaway menu is on the other side.

Christine: I’ll do whatever you all want to do.

Bilgen: I want to go inside.

David [To Christine]: We’ll do whatever you want?

Christine [To Bilgen]: Go inside and ask if there is a table for five.

Bilgen: Come with me! [They all walk up the steps to the entrance.] 

Maître d’: A table for two?

Bilgen: No five.

Maître d’: The table in the corner over there is available. [Bilgen looks around at Christine and they share a smile.]

Bilgen: A nice table. [The view is over the harbour and towards the abbey. The waitress Joanne comes and takes their order.]

Bilgen: I’ll have grilled Salmon and vegetables.

Gary: The same but no vegetables.

Keith: The Cod and Chips.

David: Grilled Salmon and chips please.

Christine: I’ll have the poached Lemon Sole and vegetables, lots of them! [They order drinks. Christine orders two small glasses of the pinot grigio, for herself and Bilgen. Gary tries to order Bilgen a lemonade. Christine corrects him and laughs with the waitress and the others.]

Christine: I’ve not ordered two glasses for myself. I’m not that bad!

 

[As dusk descends on the fishing village and they tuck into their food. They laugh and enjoy each other’s company.]

 

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[After 9 pm thoroughly fuelled they head from Whitby back along the A1 (m), and M62 to Liverpool in pouring rain. The journey takes just over 2 hours. Christine enjoys listening to the 80’s songs on the radio and watches the cats eyes light their way. She marvels at the cities they pass sparkling with lights. 

On disembarking Keith’s car. Christine thanks them for inviting her, she had had a nice time and gives Bilgen a hug and another silver foiled gift.]

Christine: For Jeanette. [and Christine and David wave them on their journey home!]

 

Christine Lucas © 2014 

I don’t usually like…

…flowers. I prefer them to be growing in the ground and I am terrible gardener. However my spirits have been low of late and David kindly has seen that.

This Saturday, we were in Asda doing our weekly shop, when we passed the fruit and vegetable section. I gasped in exclamation at how lovely a bouquet of flowers was. They were a collection of lovely cream roses set amongst deep red ones, a kind of red berry type foliage and green leaves. They were expensive so we walked quickly past! I don’t usually notice flowers in the shop but these were a lovely combination of colours.

20140208_202116

Later on that evening I set about to cook up a mess in the kitchen! I followed a recipe in the January Asda magazine. Mexican Bean Wraps. (Serves 4)

The ingredients were:

  • 1 red onion
  • 2 celery sticks
  • 3 mixed peppers
  • Tin of chopped tomatoes with garlic
  • 2 tsp of ground chilli powder
  • 1 tsp of ground cumin
  • Tin of mixed beans in tomato sauce
  • Tortilla wraps

Method:

  • Fry the onion and celery until soft in some oil
  • Then take from the heat and cook the peppers until brown at the edges
  • Return the onion and celery to the peppers and add the tinned tomatoes, beans, chilli and cumin powder
  • Cook all for 5 minutes in simmer
  • Warm up the wraps and serve

It only took me 40 minutes to complete the meal. In that time I had lain the table, poured the drinks and was waiting for David to return from his brothers. I told him to be home for six o’ clock and he was late! I was getting worried! I needn’t have as he came in soon after wielding the bouquet of flowers I had coveted earlier.

20140208_183959

Even though at times I get disheartened and feel like I am unloved, I should be truly blessed for what I have in my life. It could be so much worse!

The meal was nice, different from my usual ‘made up’ Mexican Bean with Soya concoction. I like cooking and following a recipe to see the end result. Even David ate which is one reason why I cook fresh foods, to try and get him to have a more balanced diet.

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Now, listening to Classic FM, watching David fiddle about with his bird aviary in the making and a glass of Chardonnay in my hand. I wonder can life get any better?

Christine x

One for Sorrow…

Well the news on David’s car just kept getting better and better!!

Thursday evening, David faced a garage bill of over £1000!! It was not only something to do with the car’s exhaust but the flange that joins both parts of the exhaust together???? Meaning having to replace the whole exhaust system!! My advice never buy a Fiat!

I had had a really nice day on Thursday at work with my student Rachel, revising for her exam on Friday. However coming home to David’s news and a letter from the University of Liverpool saying the course I had enrolled on to become Excel proficient was cancelled, really ‘ground my gears!’ (Line from Family Guy!) How am I to get ahead in the workplace when I can’t even get on an academic course is beyond me? The only good thing is that they are refunding me… Looks likely I’ll be teaching myself!

*sigh*

I only need one more bad thing to happen and that makes three!!

Friday, however was a much better day. David took the car from Quick Fit (why he took it there I don’t know!) and took it to the mechanic he usually goes to (though on Thursday he thought that he was closed!).

The car will remain at the garage over the weekend as the mechanic tries to bring it back to life!

Shopping was a funny affair on Saturday, as David for years has been saying we should walk to the shops as the supermarket is just down the road! However I think he now realises that lugging loads of bags back home is another matter. Burning biceps and cut fingers from where the plastic bags have dug into the skin is no fun!

This weekend was the RSPB’s ‘Big Garden Watch’ 2014. I went into mum’s house next door (as she still has all the feeders) and sat for an hour and counted the birds. Before my count there were lots of Starlings visiting the fat balls, but when I sat for the hour not a single Starling came. All I saw was 9 Goldfinches, 12 Pigeons and 2 Blue Tits. Very sparse this year!

To cheer myself up after all the upset over the car. I decided to cook a salmon teriyaki and vegetable rice for dinner on Saturday. (Thanks to my student Rachel for making me think of this recipe!) I was surprised at how easy it was to make. Boil the rice and then add vegetables, marinate the salmon with the teriyaki sauce and cook for 20 minutes! Voilà! 🙂

teriyaki salmon and rice