Thursday, November 25, 2010

Our Thankful List

On this cold, beautiful Thanksgiving, it's a good thing to make a list of all of the things we are thankful for. Actually, it's good to do this any day of the year....
10. Every day when I drive to Cal Poly, or to the store, or to the high school, or anywhere, I drive past trees and scenes like the one pictured above. Amazing!
9. My neighbors, this year, have shared walnuts, fruit and vegetables, books, knowledge about making feta cheese, tree-trimming skills, and gardening hours with each other, among other things. Most recently, they purchased about 500 dollars worth of cookie dough from Grace for a cheerleading fundraiser. They are generous and cool.
8. This summer we got to travel to El Salvador, which is a beautiful place, and meet some of the sweetest, kindest people in the world, and whom we now count as friends. And Jamey and I are heading back next week for another quick visit.
7. For dinner today, we got to choose from dozens and dozens of options and combinations (yams with pecans, or yams with marshmallows? green salad, or green beans?), causing us to be thankful for the plentiful food that we enjoy.
6. My parents are here to visit, and Jamey's parents are with his sister (they will come here for Christmas) - what a blessing to celebrate holidays with all of the grandparents!
5. It rained over the weekend.....and our roof didn't leak!
4. Found at Ross this month: 6 Johnson Brothers "His Majesty" turkey plates for $2.50 each. What a deal!
3. My brother made his second trip down from Portland this year to celebrate Thanksgiving with us. He is definitely a crowd favorite!
2. Our kids amaze us every day with their character, intelligence, humor, insight, and abilities. We are their biggest fans and can't believe how awesome they are.
1. While making this list, I realized that I could make it 100 times longer and still have things for which to be thankful (there, I made it grammatically correct that time). There seems to be no end to our blessings!
And for all of these things and so much more, we are very, very thankful!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


The walnuts have started raining down upon us, which means that it truly now is fall. We are having a bumper crop this year in the neighborhood. My amazing neighbor Monica has 5 acres of walnuts and you wouldn't even believe how many 10-gallon buckets she has harvested, given away, etc. People are actually coming from all around just to pick up all of the walnuts in her yard. Three varieties, and here's how much I know: one kind is "round", one kind is "very small", and the third kind looks a lot like a small brain. In our back yard we have one wonderful English walnut tree. It's the one right out the back door...the one that Max and I guard with vigor all year for these moments (see Pappas Clan vs Squirrels on 8/15/08 for that story). As soon as the nights drop down to about freezing, the walnuts begin dropping, and each morning I go out and collect them. The first couple of days, I could hold them in my hands, but for the past week I've had to use a 4-gallon bucket, or the large basket pictured above, because there are so many. My master gardener neighbors tell me that we are getting so many walnuts because it was so rainy last winter, but I have been pretending to be Annie Oakley since I was a child, so I like to think that some of our bumper crop is because of my sharp-shooting abilities with the squirrels.
The walnuts must then be shelled, which, I have discovered, is a good thing to do while you are watching Steelers games on television, and stored, which I do in 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bags, of which I am currently on my fifth. Wow, it is a good year for nuts!
Here are some of the things I do with walnuts:
Roast them with butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon to use in salads, pumpkin bread, cinnamon bread, all kinds of bread, muffins, or to eat by the handful.
Pasta with roasted broccoli and walnuts (recipe from - note: any magazine called "Real Simple" is my kind of magazine!)
Make candied walnuts to give away as Christmas gifts (there's a good recipe at
At our house, walnuts can also be used as tiny dog treats, and as a treat that can lure 5 unruly chickens back into the coop - the girls will come running from all over the yard if they hear me cracking a walnut shell. That's how we entertain ourselves in the neighborhood.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

One Of These Pumpkins Is Not Like The Others...

These are most of the pumpkins that we got out of the garden this year. There's another one that stayed on the back deck because it is very heavy, and I was too lazy to pick it up and move it. And there's another one out in the garden that looks like a rectangle, and is a little gooey on one side. Too unattractive for the front porch, alas. Of this bunch, the pumpkin on the far right is about the size of Jason's basketball, so we have some nice big ones this year. And the one on the far left, well, it actually isn't even a pumpkin. One of my neighbors gave us all what she thought were baby butternut squash plants. But to my dismay, when the squash started growing, they turned out to be 'gold ball squash' - they don't store well, and they basically taste just like zucchini when they are cooked, and we had a million zucchini, so this was about the last kind of squash we wanted.
Now, according to the UC Davis web site (which is where we go for 99 percent of our agriculture questions), a gold ball squash should be picked when it is 'the size of a baseball'. But since we were tired of squash, we decided to see just how big one of these bad boys would get. So we left it for a couple of months past its prime, and, tada! A giant, slightly lopsided, pumpkin-y looking yellow squash!