Holy Tomales!

We have new pets. Their names are Clammy and Pearl. They are oysters. It’s a long story with lots of pictures but I have a moment if you do.

We had the most wonderful day trip on Friday to Tomales Bay. We drove out Hwy. 37 to Lucas Valley Road and then on to Nicasio Valley Road. The scenery was just so beautiful and the drive there was almost as good as our time spent on the bay.

Once we arrived, we visited the Tomales Bay Oyster Company.

There are picnic tables and grills right there along the shore.  You can schuck your own oysters and barbecue them up with no waiting. We already had made plans to have lunch elsewhere but I love oysters and the idea of having fresh ones right out of the bay was quite tempting. 

I love this picture of Doug and Jacob.  It reminds me so much of a shot I have of my dad when he was probably about 2 or 3 standing alongside his dad.
Doug told the girls we were going to buy a dozen oysters to take home. Anna had a worried look on her face and said, “We’re not going to eat them, are we??? I don’t want to eat them. I want to keep them as pets.” Lauren immediately chimed in with the same sentiment and so Doug agreed they could keep two of the oysters for a few days as their new pets. They spent the rest of the day thinking up monikers. You’ve already heard the final names….

The scenery along the bay was quite lovely also.  

Afterwards we headed into Point Reyes Station for lunch at the Station House Café.
The kids wanted grilled cheese but Doug and I thought it would just be wrong to leave without having any oysters. I had the Po’ Boy while he had the fried oysters.  All three kids were enjoying themselves. Lauren was in a great mood, Anna kept singing songs, and Jacob decided to break out a few kisses. As these are few and far between, not to mention quite precious, we all jumped to take advantage of the windfall.

Once he graced each of us with a few, he decided he’d had enough. Anna didn’t get the memo and tried for another but was rebuffed.

He then plugged his ears to any further requests.

Point Reyes Station is so cute and eclectic. I fell in love with Toby’s next door to the café. It is a family owned and operated general store and working feed barn. They seem to offer a little bit of everything, from flowers to organic fruits and vegetables to honey and baskets.

I wish I could have brought all of the flowers home with us.

In the back they host the Gallery Route One Artists in School art show.  Toby's even had a kids' section.  There was something for everyone.

We also stopped by the Cowgirl Creamery. They were making Red Hawk cheese while we were there. I’m sure their cheeses are just amazing. I thought perhaps we could get a little ice cream and maybe some cheese to taste but the girls decided the creamery (i.e. the cheese) was just too stinky and wanted to leave.

The kids wanted to go swimming and as Doug initially thought there would be crowds he had planned to take us to Shell Beach. We drove out that way and it was just beautiful. However, since we hadn’t encountered any crowds at all during the day, we decided to give one of the bigger beaches a try. We headed out to Heart’s Desire but once we arrived we thought it would be fun to hike the ½ mile trail over to Indian Beach. The trail was so beautiful, thick, and luscious.

 We emerged from the trail to this sight:

As soon as we hit the beach, the kids started making plans….so much to do and so little time.

The girls headed in for a swim

while Jacob opted for a little castle making time.

Afterwards Anna convinced everyone to bury her in the sand.

Everyone was having a good time until Jacob pulled out the big stick. He walked right over and whacked Anna on the forehead with it and that was the end of being buried in the sand.

Once Anna dried her tears she came over and hunted for shells with Mommy.

We were amazed at how much wildlife we encountered. There were stingrays and fish, and lumpy little sluglike things that appeared to turn their stomachs inside out to display a flower for (I guess) some type of filter feeding. Here's Lauren trying to catch one.  She did catch a baby crab earlier in the day at the Oyster Farm (see the picture at the top)!

The girls also found a baby seal skeleton. There were birds everywhere and Lauren discovered a chipmunk she named “Pop”.  Finally, we decided it was time to head back and so we packed up and set out on the return trip.

It was such a great day and I highly recommend taking a trip out that way if you've never been!


The things you learn

I'm really amazed by all of the things I don't know.  Several times a week, I tend to respond to questions from the peanut gallery by saying, "How do I know?  I'm a Mommy and mommies know everything."  Well, don't tell my kids but if I know anything, it's that I've still a lot to learn.  As a matter of fact, I'm learning new things everyday.  For example:  our garden.  I've been having so much fun tending it and I've been learning loads to boot.

We harvested some of our zephyr squash for the first time yesterday.  I was under the impression we needed to leave it until it grew quite large but we were already losing some of the smaller ones.  I googled it...again, Google is my friend, and learned you should pluck them when they're between 4-6 inches.  What??  So, we plucked and then we sprinkled on a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and some salt and pepper, and put them on the grill.  It was really delicious, more so, I'm sure because we grew them ourselves.  Anna came along and helped me snip about 8 from the stem. 

We also ended up with one ripe strawberry and a beautiful but small green bell pepper that had fallen to the ground.  That's the second one to fall without a clear reason.  They're almost too small and too cute to eat.

For a while I was worried we weren't going to have any squash.  I read an article about a woman whose garden was failing due to the lack of bees in her area.  I learned that there are male and female squash blossoms.  The male has only one stamen while the female flower has multiple stamens.

The solution for the aforementioned lady was to take a bit of pollen from the male and place it onto the female flower.  Before she knew it...voila, squash.  Hand pollination wasn't necessary for us but watching the squash grow and the beautiful flowers bloom has made me crave stuffed squash blossoms.  When we lived in Greece many years ago now, one of our sweet friends used to make this wonderful dish.  A few weeks ago, I asked her for the recipe.  She sent it along with a picture of one of her latest batches.  If you have a moment and blossoms from your own garden or your local farmers' market, you should give this recipe a try.  It's so, so, so good.

From what I've read about squash, I guess it's uniquely American and was revered by the Ancient Native Americans as the "apple of god".  The seeds were thought to increase fertility if plants were planted near your home.  We certainly don't need any increased fertility here but it's awfully interesting nonetheless.  Even the name "squash" is an abbreviation of the word "askutasquash" from the Narragansett Indian language.  The variety we planted is known as zephyr squash and has a distinctive green band at the bottom.  We received a bunch in one of our shares from our organic farmer in Wheatland and fell in love.  He's also the person who introduced us to lemon cucumbers.....absolutely the way a cucumber should taste....d.e.l.i.c.i.o.u.s.  We have three hills of cucumbers planted as well.  I could go on but without further ado, here's my friend Maria's recipe.  Let me know if you try it and what you think!!

Stuffed Squash Blossoms (courtesy of Maria Marouli)
Here is a simple one:
for 12 flowers you need
12 soup spoons rice
3 soup spoons olive oil
mint or any other you may like
3 medium onions
you saute onions with oil
you add the rice
you saute for about 5 min
and then you add the mint or parsley and the tomatoes
and then you start fill the flowers
you can also fill tomatoes peppers egplants
when you cook make sure you put a plate over them
to keep them in a good look
good luck

For more cooking details, I found these directions online by searching for Greek stuffed Squash Blossoms (most recipes want you to fry them but these are cooked like dolmades).
Rinse the zucchini blossoms individually, removing any external green leaves and internal pistil and stamen, using a sharp knife. Take care not to tear the blossoms. Once rinsed, place the bottom of each blossom into the opening of another to prevent from closing, and set aside to drain thoroughly. Pat dry before using.
Note: The pistil and stamen do not need to be removed, but most Greek cooks do take them out.
In a mixing bowl, combine rice, onion, tomatoes, parsley, mint, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Add 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil to help bind and mix thoroughly.
Carefully fill each blossom with 1 teaspoon of the mixture. Fold the open end of the blossom inward and turn underneath, and place in a wide pot or deep skillet. Continue until all blossoms are filled, and placed snugly in a single layer in the pot.
Add 1 cup of water and 1/4 cup of olive oil.
Bring to a boil and cook over medium heat for 30 minutes.
Meatless stuffed zucchini blossoms are served at room temperature.


And they all lived happily ever after...

Once upon a time there was a prince who wanted to marry a princess;
but she would have to be a real princess.
He travelled all over the world to find one,
but nowhere could he get what he wanted.
There were princesses enough, but it was difficult to find out whether they were real ones.
 There was always something about them that was not as it should be.
So he came home again and was sad,
for he would have liked very much to have a real princess.

One evening a terrible storm came on; there was thunder and lightning,
 and the rain poured down in torrents.
Suddenly a knocking was heard at the city gate, and the old king went to open it.
It was a princess standing out there in front of the gate.
But, good gracious! what a sight the rain and the wind had made her look.
The water ran down from her hair and clothes; it ran down into the toes of her shoes and out again at the heels. And yet she said that she was a real princess.

 Well, we'll soon find that out, thought the old queen.
But she said nothing, went into the bed-room,
took all the bedding off the bedstead, and laid a pea on the bottom;
then she took twenty mattresses and laid them on the pea,
and then twenty eider-down beds on top of the mattresses.

On this the princess had to lie all night. In the morning she was asked how she had slept.
"Oh, very badly!" said she. "I have scarcely closed my eyes all night.
Heaven only knows what was in the bed, but I was lying on something hard, so that I am black and blue all over my body. It's horrible!"

Now they knew that she was a real princess because she had felt the pea right through the twenty mattresses and the twenty eider-down beds.
Nobody but a real princess could be as sensitive as that.

So the prince took her for his wife, for now he knew that he had a real princess; and the pea was put in the museum, where it may still be seen, if no one has stolen it.

There, that is a true story.

On Saturday, we celebrated Anna's 7th birthday with a Princess and the Pea pajama party at Bounce U.  All the kids came in their jammies and we had such a good time.  Anna was so excited and said it was the best birthday she'd ever had.  You have to love her enthusiasm...according to her every party we have is always the best ever!  I always like to have our parties here at the house but Anna wanted to invite her entire class and I was worried we might be too crowded here at home.  I still wanted to decorate...you know I like to decorate.  So,  I made or attempted to make tablecloths to look like the stacked mattresses from the story.  I measured the tables at Bounce U and thought I could whip something up quickly...as I've mentioned before, it always seems like a piece of cake in my head.  It's never "that easy" once I sit down to make it happen.  I thought I'd start with jammie bottoms for Anna and so I made her ruffled pants.  I then convinced Doug we needed to take our dresser along with us to Bounce U to put the cake and pea on....he must love me a lot because I also convinced him we needed to paint it and add pea like knobs the morning of the party. 
 I'm telling ya....he's definitely a keeper!  I also made a chalkboard (although not a very good one-I must have picked up the wrong type of wood) for an open frame to display on an easel with part of the story written on it. 

There weren't many surfaces for display at the bounce house and so it stayed behind.  I also had printed the story in sections on cards that I wanted to hang with ribbons from white balloons.  I meant for there to only be one card with the line about the prince marrying the princess and that card was to be suspended from the only green balloon in the room. I ran out of time and didn't get my balloons. :(  I still think the tablecloths turned out cute though.

and Anna loved the crown on her "pea" cake. 

When all was said and done, the prince had his princess, Anna had her party, I had resolved to never attempt to make any more tablecloths to fit tables that are 145.5 inches long and we all lived happily ever after.  The end.

Here are a few more shots from the party:

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