Thursday, November 22, 2012

Pick a Peck of Pecans

 Today I am thankful. Thankful for God’s love and grace, thankful for my family and thankful for my freedom. I am also thankful for the wealth of blessings around us. We live in a unique, amazing state that provides plenty of entertainment, beauty and stories to keep life very interesting.

One of the best things about living in Texas is the abundance of fresh fruits, veggies, nuts, etc. just growing wild. Blackberries in June, plums in July, pecans in November. Not even at famers markets or roadside stands-just out there free for the picking. The biggest problem with this wild abundance is that every year the places to find them get fewer and fewer.

The best blackberry patch I ever saw as a child is now a Super-Target. The great old pecan trees left over from two family farms nearby are now fenced in behind a construction site. The plum trees that grew along every fence line are now barely clinging to the few fence lines that are left.

You can, obviously, go to one of the myriad of “pick-your-own” farms in East Texas. Peaches, blueberries and figs are perennial favorites. There is just something about foraging for your own fresh food that feels a little more satisfying.

I’m not going to say that blueberry cobbler is less delicious because somebody planted the blueberry bushes in rows 30 years ago and they weren’t growing wild in the woods. It would be a bit more satisfying if that’s how you picked them, though. You Maine folks (Downeasters?) know what I’m talking about.

Anyway, the reason this is the subject of my post today is that we wound up with a great Thanksgiving pie from our spoils. It looks awesome and I can’t wait to throw some Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla on top and dig in!

But before we get to slice it up (stop drooling) we have to have a backstory…

Doodly doodly do…
Doodly doodly do…
Doodly doodly do…

*you should absolutely be visualizing Wayne and Garth saying this and waving their hands around, by the way.

I started noticing that the squirrels were deep into kamikaze street streaking-Frogger style. I saw that they were going from pecan tree to pecan tree. Aha! Pecan time. There are many pecan trees in our area that are natives, growing in common areas, greenbelts, empty lots and medians. I snagged a box and a few bags and stashed them in the car. Periodically I would pull over and hop out and gather a few that had fallen to the ground.

One day, I had the younger two girls with me. I asked if they wanted to go for a pecan hunt with me and they agreed. We advanced on a stand of pecan trees and started gathering. They were quickly excited as they counted out the ones they picked up. Not satisfied with the pecans we were finding (they were pretty small as most native pecans are) we moved on to other trees.
We finally found a bunch that were decent sized and we started gathering like crazy. At one point, we had to take the middle child to a birthday party and the youngest and I went back to our harvest.

“This is quite fun and we are quite successful,” she said. “We should do this again!”

We found a lot that had fallen in the wind still in their green cocoons. We peeled the casings back and tossed the nuts in the bag.

“I’m like a monkey peeling a banana,” she said.

I showed her my fingers and told her to look at her hands.

“Oh, they are so stained!” she said. Pecan juice turns your fingers a lovely brown shade.

We kept picking up pecans until we had a huge bag full.

I said, “So after Abby’s party do you want to come back and get more?”

The youngest child looked me in the face and said,” I’m good. I’m done.”

I guess we reached our limit.

Later that week, while the kids were in school, I decided to drive up to Muenster, Texas. About an hour north, the German-heritage community has a fabulous meat market-Fischer’s-and a place to have your pecans cracked. I decided to stop at the aptly named The Pecan Shop on my way to the meat market and see if I could drop off our pecans. Silly me.

I walked into the building and came face-to-face with who I am now calling “The Pecan Jerk”.

I said, “my daughters and I picked up these pecans and I was wondering if I can have them cracked.”

He looked in the bag and said, “Honey, I wouldn’t even turn on the machine for that few pecans.”


“Hasn’t that tree got any more nuts on it? Come back when you get more,” he said. “And tell those girls I’ll pay them $.55 a pound for any they want to sell.”

“Yeah, right! So you can sell them for $8.50 a pound? I wouldn’t even turn on my car for $.55 a pound!”

In my head.
In real life, I said, “thanks anyway.” And I left.

On my way home, I saw another pecan shop in Gainesville. I pulled over and the lady there said, “Sure we’ll crack eight pounds. Just set them there and we’ll get them done.”


So, back to today. We have apple, pumpkin and pecan pies ready to roll. The pecan is all our freshly found and gathered pecans.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Ghosts of Halloweens Past

In the spirit of exhaustion from staying up most of last night with our new dog, I am posting merely a gallery of past Halloween photos for your viewing pleasure. Since there were so many words in my last post I'll let these pictures do most of the talking here. 

Here they are in order from oldest to newest. Child numero uno was too tiny on her first Halloween for a real costume so these pictures begin when she is about 17 months old.

Enjoy! Lauren-this is for you, live by request.


"Deep in The Hundred Acre Wood..."


"What's New, Scooby Doo?"

"Baby #2 dresses up early!"

"The Pumpkin grew and now has its own patch!"


"Kim Possible gets ready in the hospital room!" 

"Rufus, the Naked Mole Rat!"

"Brand new, Baby #3 going home on Halloween!"


"She's a flower-NOT a Fairy!"
"Jack Sparrow, Flower and Hunny Pot"
"Does this costume look familiar?"
"Yo, ho, yo, ho, a pirate's life for me!"

"Rapunzel, let down your hair!"

"Annakin Skywalker, Rapunzel and Rufus Returns!"


"Pocahontas and Princess Aurora."
"Pocahontas gets her groove on!"
"Indiana Jones!" 


"Ready for candy!"
"Strawberry Shortcake."
"Scarlett from G.I. Joe."


"Candy Time!"
"Custard, Strawberry Shortcake's Cat."
"Ian Kinsler!"
"Agnes from Despicable Me. Unicorns, I love them!"


"50's Diner Waitress."
"Cookie Monster!"
"Wonder Woman!"
"Captain America joins in!"


Hope you had a fun Halloween. Our Grown-up Indiana Jones, Ranger Nelson Cruz, "Devilish Prison Escape (correct, she is not a person, she is an action) and American Girl Doll had a lot of fun. And enough candy to last until next year! I would love to see your photos. feel free to send them on.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Punkin Pandemonium

Well, Halloween is over. We made it through, and started a new tradition.

I decided at the last minute to throw a Punkin Pandemonium party for my little ones. We haven’t taken on pumpkin carving since the oldest was about two. I know…shameful. Please hold for redemption.

"Let the insanity begin!"

While embarking on this wackiness, there were eight loads of laundry in various stages of unclean scattered around the upstairs, a cluttered kitchen and a garage that could have been on Hoarders. I just figured, Halloween comes once a year and the laundry would be there tomorrow! I guess you can have a spotless house and no fun or lots of fun and a mess… or at least that’s how it goes around here.

As I write this, we are watching Punkin Chunkin. Awesome!!!!

Now, on to the fun and mess. At about 2:00 p.m. on Halloween, I decided to appease the kids and acquiesce to the carving of the gourds. But then, probably because it was only two hours until they were all home, and adrenaline was flowing, I decided to kick it up to an eleven.

I downloaded spooky music and made a playlist of fun Halloween tunes. I ran to the store for orangey treats and tossed kettle corn and Cheese-Its in a huge bowl. I bought some orange soda (sugar-free!) and hustled back home.  

On a time-crunch (I really felt like it was a Food Network show called Halloween-Kids-Pumpkin-Carving-Party-Wars) I enlisted the hubby to help put out a table on the driveway, and haul out the pumpkins.

I used a cardboard box scrap and slopped paint on the front for a fun sign. I pulled out some jelly jars and the cuuuuut-est lids that turn them into pretty pseudo-sippy cups for bigger kids. These lids are from ShopSweet Lulu online and are adorable. Also from that site and awesomely vintage are the striped paper straws I used in orange, yellow and white.

With the addition of the smartphone speaker (yep, that’s right, fruity phone maker, no free advertising for you) we had the makings of a surprise carving extravaganza.

And then came the kids.

“Ahhhhhh!!!!! We’re carving them today!” the youngest child squealed!

“What is Punkin Pandemonium?” she asked. “Why not Pumpkin?”

“Because PUN-kin is cuter,” said the middle child.

“It is a good thing we are doing this today and not two weeks ago,” the youngest child said. “Then they would be rotten!”

I gave them each a glass jar filled with orange soda and had them pick out a pumpkin. They had a little orange-and-white snack mix and then they were ready to go.

“Let’s blast the music and get…this…party…staaaar-ted!” The youngest child did a little jig as she said it.

I queued up the playlist and the rockin’ tones of Purple People Eater filled the driveway.  I actually saw the oldest child smirk when the music came on. Now it wasn’t a full-blown grin, I’ll grant you, but it was there.

We planted the three chosen pumpkins on the carving table and I had the kids stand back so I could cut out the tops. I started with a knife that looked like it belonged in The Jungle instead of our kitchen. A bit scared, I asked the hubby to take the knife inside and I switched to a serrated tool from the carving set I bought in a post-Halloween sale a few years ago.

Once I cut the tops, the girls got to pull them off. As they lifted up and the viscous, slimey innards stretched from pumpkin to lid, they let out a collective “eeeeewwwwwwww!!!!!”

Before she started cleaning out her pumpkin, the youngest was gung-ho:

“Time to get our hands dirty! Can I just go in?”


“This is going to be awesome,” she said.


She stuck her hands in the pumpkin and immediately her face looked like someone opened some Rochefort (isn’t that a smelly kind of cheese?) and she was not pleased.

“Ewww, this is nasty!”

I guess she got over it soon, because she started separating seeds from pulp pretty fast.

The middle kid stuck her hands in her gourd and went crazy.

“Time to pick out the brains,” she said, with a sort-of creepy cackle. I ignored it because it was Halloween after all.

The eldest opened her pumpkin and held the lid up by her face.

“This is like that thingy at the back of your throat,” she said. Ick.

 They all started cleaning out their pumpkins with both hands, turning orange up to their elbows.

“How about a hug, Mommy?” said the youngest as she tried to grab me.

The middle child said sagely, “Like Miss Frizzle always says, ‘take chances, make mistakes, get messy!’”


Pretty soon, there was a quiet rhythm going. The hubby and I each picked a pumpkin and started cleaning them out.

We had one epic-fail when we cut open a veeeery mold-filled pumpkin and had to toss it in the compost pile.

Once they were all cleaned out, and we had a huge pile of seeds for roasting, everyone started sketching their designs on their pumpkins with a black crayon. Then we each took a little cutter and started working. Even the youngest did her own.

"Ready to Roast"
Some of our friends walked over and got into the fun. They offered suggestions and decided to come over next year for Punkin Pandemonium 2013 because we will do it again.

 When That Old Black Magic came on, they took a break for a little creative ballroom dancing, and The Monster Mash had them Franken-walking around like crazy.

 We lined the pumpkins up when we finished, and lit them to guard the house while we went out for candy-gluttony. As we went inside to wash up, the middle child asked me, “Did you know that vampires hate pumpkins more than garlic?”

I did not.

But I do now.

"Mischief Managed"

Guardian Dog


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