Easy chicken gyros and tzatziki sauce

I picked up this recipe from the Say Yes blog a few months ago and it has become a staple in our house. It couldn’t be easier to throw together these gyros on a weekend night when you don’t have a lot of time to cook. Just put the chicken in a bag to marinate while you do a few other things and then saute up the meat. 

Go here for the full recipe.

We have just a few cherry tomatoes growing in our back yard (when Harper doesn’t pick off all the green ones) and they work great as a topping. 

Any kind of pita, lavash, or pocket bread will do. 

You can whip up tzatziki sauce in just a few minutes. Here’s my recipe:

1/2 cup Greek yogurt
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
1/2 teaspoon salt

Taste it and see if it needs a little more of anything. It’s not a terribly precise recipe. 

When your chicken and onions are just starting to brown, they’re done. Put everything together and dinner’s ready. 

Gluten-free chocolate chip cookies

If I thought my last stab at gluten-free baking was successful, these cookies were even better.

I’d been looking for a way to use almond meal (a bargain at Trader Joe’s, though you can grind it fresh yourself) for a while and when I saw this recipe for coconut-chocolate chip cookies I had to try it. 

Though the cookies don’t plump up like traditional chocolate chip cookies, they are a little crisp on the outside and chewy inside. I used mini chocolate chips instead of chopped dark chocolate but otherwise stuck with the recipe. It’s a good base that would be good with other add-ins too.

Everyone in my house loved the cookies. They’re not too sweet. More like granola bars than cookies. My only complaint is that the recipe doesn’t make enough. You’ll definitely want to double it!

Reggie and Charlotte

I am so entertained by Reggie and Charlotte’s relationship. Reggie has always been pretty aloof towards Sadie. When Sadie tries to cuddle up with her she’ll allow it for a couple minutes, then get up. But not with Charlotte. Those two are cuddle buddies.

Charlotte is also a dog that doesn’t care much for other dogs. She’s always been a dog who loves her people. But from day 1 she has found a kinship with Reggie. I’m always finding them together on the couch, positioned so they both stay warm. It’s pretty adorable.

Heading west

So back up about 4 weeks. 

My mom and I enjoyed an unseasonably cool week in Kansas (THANK GOD) while selling her stuff, packing and cleaning her house. But by the time we left Lawrence it was sweltering. We were not sad to leave 100+ degrees and 80 percent humidity, not at all.


Thankfully we had a full-on midwestern buffet at mom’s sendoff.

But after all that chaos the drive really was peaceful and beautiful.

I was heartened to see that wind energy has really taken off in unexpected (albeit incredibly windy places) like western Kansas and Wyoming. Wind farms made for spectacular sunsets.

Charlotte only wanted to be in one place: on the passenger’s lap. She’s a great traveling dog, just along for the ride.

We stopped in Denver to visit my sister, dad and stepmom. Wish I could have stayed longer, but not this time.


We kept remarking on how much taffy there was at truck stops. 

On day 2 we made it to Salt Lake City just as a storm threatened to make our drive a lot scarier. But instead of hitting us we just drove alongside the storm, which was really kind of cool.

The cheap hotel I picked was pretty awful, but had the benefit of making us leave extra early on day 3. We were so motivated to get home to Mike and Harper that we barreled through the salt flats (isn’t that what you’re supposed to do?) and arrived at home before Harper’s bedtime. 

It’s been a tough few weeks, but it was all worth it for moments like this. 

The best spray painting tool

My mom and I have been working on a lot of spray paint projects lately. It’s just the best way to transform something and bring a scattered room together.


Take this once ugly, now turquoise mirror, for example.

So one day at Home Depot I found myself in the spray paint section once again and I noticed this little tool that you attach to the top of a can to make it easier to spray. Genius! I think it was $3.

It really does help you spray smoothly without drips, and it keeps you from getting the dreaded “spray paint can finger.”

I will not be spray painting without this guy anymore!

What happened

The last time I blogged I sure wasn’t thinking it would be another month before I blogged again. Oops. 

At some point after writing that post I turned on my computer and got nothing but a blank screen. I took it to the Apple store where they told me what I expected to hear: Even though the computer looks like it could be brand new, it’s 7 years old and can’t really handle the operating system anymore. I’m gonna have to buy a new computer. That is the last thing I had time to deal with then, so my computer sat unused while I ordered an external hard drive to store all my data. At least I didn’t lose my files.

At the end of July I flew to Kansas to help my mom sell most of the stuff in her house and prep it for renters so she could move in with us. It was a tough trip, emotionally and physically. We had this Herculean task to complete in just a few days, and although we received a ton of support from family and friends, it seemed like the only people who believed we could do it were mom and I. And even we didn’t believe it at times. But we did it. A dead car battery just about did us in one day, but we rallied from that (feeling grateful that we discovered it while the car was in the driveway and not in the middle of Nevada). Then we packed the Rav and headed west. 

Three days later we arrived in California. Mike was still working on the workshop construction, so it took a few days to complete that, then get all of my stuff moved into the workshop. Then we had to buy new furniture for mom’s room, clean up all our construction trash, and start to get organized as a 4-person household. 

Needless to say, I haven’t had a lot of free time lately. And even if I had time, I had no computer! So that’s what’s been going on. I also found out that the Goodsmiths blog is suspending paid posts, so I guess that gig is over. On the plus side, it means I can share more recipes and projects here, and I intend to! Now that mom’s here I can have a regular work schedule again. I’m still playing catch-up, but I look forward to having some uninterrupted time for blogging here pretty soon. 

Thanks to those still hanging in there. You’re the best!

Road trips recap

I was just watching this show about fun not-so-touristy things to do in San Francisco (note to self: book sunset kayaking tour), and it made me think I should gather up all the posts I wrote about our road trips in California. Summer isn’t really the best time weather-wise here, so sometimes I forget that it’s still the main tourist season. But regardless of when you come, these are all road trips I would recommend taking at some point.

Close to San Francisco:

Angel Island
Take the ferry from Tiburon in Marin County for a day trip or overnight camping. Lots of history and beautiful views of the city, bay and bridges. 

Point Bonita Lighthouse and Crissy Field
Great places to escape the crowded city and take photos, especially at sunset. 

Rockaway Beach/Pacifica
Not far from the city you can really escape to this little beach on the ocean. 

Point Reyes
One of our favorite places to relax is Limantour Beach, and it is just one of many cool places to explore in Point Reyes.

Wine country:

Coppola Winery
Frances Ford Coppola’s winery is really worth a visit up north. It has a museum about his cinematic roots plus a swimming pool and restaurant. And of course, wine!

Sonoma
Napa’s less-snooty sister, Sonoma is a really relaxing getaway less than an hour from our house.

North of SF:

Bodega Bay and Eureka
Bodega Bay for fresh crab sandwiches and spectacular ocean views. Eureka for the Avenue of the Giants, which better be on your bucket list.

Reno/Lake Tahoe
Reno is much more than slot machines (wild horses!). Don’t miss the Awful Awful burger.

And Lake Tahoe is one pretty place I intend to visit much more.

South of SF:

Los Angeles
I loved LA much more than I expected to. The hipster food culture doesn’t hurt. And there’s so much to explore in all the different neighborhoods.

San Diego
One word: tacos. Actually two words: al pastor.

Catalina Island
This is a really beautiful side trip if you can swing it. Touristy, yes, but you can also escape the crowds and go for a hike.

Palm Springs
Palm Springs is hot as hell and super quirky, but we really loved it. Don’t miss the Ace Hotel and the crazy mountain tram.

Full-on nature:

Sequoia National Forest, part I and part II
Unfortunately, this trip always makes me think of being 8 weeks pregnant and super nauseous. But man, was it spectacular. I highly recommend you explore the giant sequoias and King’s Canyon if you get a chance.

Mono Hot Springs
Will I ever make the extreme journey to Mono Hot Springs again? I don’t know. But I’m glad I went once. It was beautiful, peaceful and endearingly weird.

Monterey and Big Sur
In this case, I definitely saved the best for last. The drive along the Pacific Coast Highway to Big Sur is absolutely incredible. It’s right out of a movie. And when you get to Big Sur, the redwood forest is equally amazing. Airstream glamping there is on my life list.

Putting together this post has made me realize how much we need to get back in the car and start traveling again! As many places as we’ve been, we still have many more to see (thinking of Joshua Tree and Yosemite, for starters). Anywhere else we should go?

Some thoughts on raising a girl

I read this post on Design Mom about the #yesallwomen discussion the other day and it really struck a chord with me. It’s about all the uncomfortable experiences, big and little, we have as women that we tend to brush off as “just the way it is.” But if you really think about it, these things can’t be OK with us.

In my life I can’t say I’ve experienced much blatant sexism, as in “you can’t do X because you’re female,” and thank goodness for that. But there have been many, many other small things (paper cuts, as someone called them) that add up over a lifetime to a feeling of being vulnerable and less than. I remember at my first job at a fast-food restaurant there was another guy who worked there who would stand in the doorway so I had to touch him in order to get by. And one of the managers used to punch me on the arm. I know it was in a joking way, but like, why was it OK for him to touch a 16-year-old girl he barely knew? I don’t know how many times I’ve been cat-called while running, ugh. And I remember reading “Wild” and thinking how sad it was that a woman couldn’t do a spectacular hike like that without fear of being assaulted.

There are so many ways in which our culture still needs to change to be more fair to women, and it feels so much more important now that I have a daughter. I really don’t want her to have all the same struggles when she grows up, but I fear she will. (Don’t even get me started on the division of color in the toy aisle…) On the other hand, I sense a change that I’ve never quite felt before, and it gives me hope.

All the discussions “Lean In” brought up about women in leadership roles, all the commercials that have been going viral that address the way we urge girls away from math and science, all the brave women on college campuses speaking up about rapes going unpunished — those are all conversations that are so key to our girls having a better experience.

I think the one thing that desperately needs to change is asking, or demanding, more from men. I’ve often thought the conversation about rape has to stop focusing on women and become much more about the men who commit rapes. Who are all these seemingly normal men who think it’s an acceptable thing to do? And why? And why aren’t we upset about THAT?

So I guess what I’m saying is that I’m glad we’re finally waking up and realizing the ways the feminist movement is far from over. And I think as moms we have to be honest about our struggles so our kids can learn what is and isn’t OK. Harper is such an adventurous little girl, and I just hope we can raise her without putting up any barriers to her success. I hope that someday when I tell her she can be anything she wants to be when she grows up that it’s really true.

Progress in the yard

I finally got some gardening done. Some of it is working, some of it isn’t. So it goes.

This hanging basket came with the house, so I filled it with a mix of annuals.

I love the combination of purple and orange flowers. They seem to be doing well.

I’m trying a pot of basil again, which I’ve never had success growing here. So funny since I always used to have so much more than I could ever use.

I got two cherry tomato plants. They seem to do better than full-sized tomatoes, which thrive in warmer weather, too.

I got new chives, thyme and lavender plants. Mint ended up in the ammo box. I wanted it to have plenty of (contained) space to grow.

It’s happy there, and we’ve already used it several times!

I’m so happy to report that 1) the orange tree has several oranges on it,

and 2) the little potted orange tree seems to be coming back to life. After looking nearly dead for a long time, new leaves are growing and I spotted one tiny orange.

About half of the first strawberries I planted keeled over, so I bought 6 more and made a little patch. Had to dig up a big plant to make room, but that’s OK.

The blueberry bush I bought looks pretty droopy, though. I’m not sure what it needs. I think I need to do more research.

I think I am going to end up removing these overgrown geraniums to make room for more berries.

I don’t really care for the red ones and we have a bunch of pink ones elsewhere in the yard.

I was thinking of planting something in this bare spot, but Sadie loves it so much I can’t do it.

I managed to kill all three zinnias I planted. Maybe I shouldn’t have tried to separate them.

I don’t want to give up on having zinnias, though. I really love them. The dahlias I bought look great.

I think they’re really too big for their pot, though. So maybe I’ll plant them in the ground and get more.

There are some pretty little marigolds scattered throughout the yard that I might transplant once the workshop construction is gone.

I’ll at least clean up the weeds and try to give them a dedicated space.

I’m happy to say these pretty mums are doing well after getting cleaned out and watered.

And my fave fucshia plants are happy as can be.

Overall, I don’t think I can expect too much from the yard this summer, but it’s fun to get started on it. 

Skillet meals


Skillet enchiladas, so good.

These days I’m a big fan of dinners that come together in one pot, pan or skillet. It’s kind of the Hamburger Helper concept — saute meat and maybe some onions or other veggies, add in pasta or rice plus water and seasonings, put the lid on and let it simmer until the pasta is cooked through. Top with cheese (no cheese powder needed…) and serve. Usually the prep is under half and hour and you only have one pan to wash. My kind of dinner!

Here are some of my favorite recipes. They are getting me through life with a toddler, that’s for sure:

Chicken enchiladas skillet

Cheeseburger mac (I always use less paprika and add more cheese)

Mexican taco bowl spaghetti, great with macaroni pasta too

• Southwestern chicken and rice skillet, topped with cheese 

 
Skillet lasagna (I add sweet red peppers)
 
 
All-veggie options:
 
 
 
I’m surprising myself at how many of these recipes I have! Hopefully it helps if you need a quick recipe.