Pumpkin Hacks & Tips!

It’s that time of year! Halloween is just around the corner and you want to carve the most epic pumpkin of your life. Well, lucky for you, I’ve found a few great tips and even a pumpkin hacks video. First, tips on how to make your pumpkin last longer:

  • Before you start, let your pumpkin dry completely. Scoop out all the guts and then let the interior get completely dry before starting carving. This means less moisture inside the pumpkin to accelerate rot.
  • Did you know cutting the stem off the pumpkin is actually bad for it? That stem is still delivering vital nutrients to the pumpkin, even after it’s been off the vine. Try cutting a hole on the side or back of the pumpkin to keep the stem attached.
  • Once you’ve carved, try making a DIY pumpkin spray! Just fill up an empty spray bottle with water and add one tablespoon peppermint castile soap. Shake the bottle to mix, and spray your carved pumpkin daily to slow down the decay process.
  • This may seem counterintuitive in a carved pumpkin, but you can avoid candles and keep the pumpkin from drying out too fast. Use one of those flickering battery-operated lights in there instead.
  • Those edges of your carved pumpkin that start to rot first? Try putting a little petroleum jelly on them to lock in moisture. Olive oil and coconut oil should have a similar effect!
  • If your pumpkin is starting to shrivel, that’s an indication that it needs a cold shock (pumpkins resist heat). Try giving it an ice bath for an hour or leaving it in the fridge overnight.
  • Finally, to keep fruit flies from eating away at your pumpkin, make sure ALL guts are removed (this is what attracts the flies). If they’re still coming, throw a small fruit flay trap nearby to get rid of those pests.

Now, on to some fun pumpkin hacks! Check out the YouTube video below. Enjoy your pumpkin-carving and trick-or-treating this weekend!

Cherry-Picking And Local Farmer’s Markets

I recently went to Brentwood for cherry-picking and we also stopped by a strawberry farm to pick a few strawberries. I went with my friend Veronica, her husband, Geoff, and their grandson, Tanner. Having an almost-3-year-old with us made it so fun, as we had the ability to see the experience through his eyes. He thought it was the best day!

There are multiple places to pick cherries, but the season is short (mid-May to early June). I recommend googling “u-pick cherries” in Brentwood, then on the day you want to go, visit the website to make sure they are open. As the trees get picked, they have to wait for others to ripen. I also recommend going early. We got there around 10:15 and by the time we were checking out about 90 minutes later, there was a line to get in.

Cherry Time was where we were going to go and they were already picked out, so they sent us to the neighboring orchard they share a parking lot with – Moffatt Cherries. There was another place on Sellers Pomeroy Farm, but with only parking along the roadside, it was a zoo trying to find a place to park.

We saw a Strawberry farm on the way in, and since it didn’t take that long to pick a 10-lb. bag of cherries, we decided to get some strawberries. Once we were done, we went to downtown Brentwood (the old part) and had lunch. Overall, it was a great day that I’d highly recommend. There’s nothing like fresh-picked cherries! I ate a few but saved most to can some boozy cherries for holiday gifts. Hit me up if you want the recipe! There is a map of the various orchards (can pick-up at the orchard) and what they sell in each month, so cherries are not the only thing you can pick (e.g., peaches!).

Thanks to Annetta Tsapouklis from Placer Title Company for sharing this lovely graphic about local Farmer’s Markets! Now that COVID restrictions are lifting and we’re into the best weather of the year, I can’t wait to explore a few of these and get my produce fix! If you can’t go cherry-picking yourself, do the next best thing and attend one of these:

Where To Go Camping Near The Bay Area

It’s that time of the year when the weather heats up – and so does the desire to get outside! We live in an area where camping opportunities are plentiful. There is no shortage of beautiful campsites near the Bay Area. Here is a 7×7 story about some of the best ones within 100 miles of San Francisco.

orange camping tent near green trees

From the redwoods to the beaches, this list has it all. It even includes a few campsites on our own Mt. Diablo, if you really don’t want to travel far. But it will take you as far as Mt. Tamalpais, or the cliffs of Santa Cruz.

Personally, I prefer going all the way up to Tahoe or down 395 for my camping adventures. But for a quick, local getaway, it’s hard to beat the beauty of the Bay Area. You can pretty much pitch a tent at any campsite around here and be satisfied with the nature surrounding you.

Where is your favorite place to hike in the Bay Area? Comment below and share!

Fun facts for St. Patty’s Day!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone! Under normal circumstances, this would be a happy day full of beer-drinking, block parties, and lots and lots of green outfits. The pandemic has put a bit of a damper on that, but we can still have some virtual fun. Here are 13 fun facts about St. Patty’s Day from MentalFloss!

St. Patrick's Day parade in New York City, 1960
A picture of New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, circa 1960.PETER KEEGAN/GETTY IMAGES
  1. We should be wearing BLUE on St. Patrick’s Day: apparently, the color green only became associated with the holiday after it was linked to the Irish independence movement in the late 18th century.
  2. St. Patrick wasn’t Irish: what?! Although he made his mark by introducing Christianity to Ireland in 432, Patrick was actually born to Roman parents in Scotland or Wales in the late 4th century.
  3. St. Patrick’s Day used to be a dry holiday: pubs were closed in Ireland and Northern Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day until the 1970s. Before then, it was a solemn, strictly religious occasion.
  4. NYC’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade has been happening since 1762: one of the world’s largest parades was actually canceled for the first time in its history due to COVID-19 in 2020.
  5. Chicago runs green for St. Patty’s Day: you’ve all seen it – the Chicago River has been dyed green on St. Patrick’s Day every year since 1962 (but won’t be this year).
  6. Some St. Patrick’s Day parades are…different: from 1999-2007, the Irish village of Dripsey hosted a 26-yard St. Patrick’s Day parade between two pubs. Today, the shortest one is in Hot Springs, Arkansas (98 feet).
  7. There’s a meaning behind the shamrocks: according to Irish legend, St. Patrick used the three-leafed shamrock (not a four-leaf clover, by the way), as a metaphor for the Holy Trinity when he introduced Christianity to Ireland.
  8. Credit where it’s not due?: in Irish lore, St. Patrick gets credit for driving all snakes out of Ireland. However, modern scientists suggest that Ireland has never been home to any snakes because the island was too cold to host reptiles during the Ice Age, and the surrounding seas have kept them away ever since.
  9. Corned beef, hold the corn: corned beef, a popular Irish-American staple on St. Patty’s Day, doesn’t have anything to do with corn. The name is a nod to the large grains of salt historically used to cure meats, which were also called “corns.”
  10. St. Patrick’s Day is a bar owner’s dream: it was estimated in 2017 that 13 MILLION pints of Guinness would be consumed worldwide on St. Patty’s Day. In 2020, it was expected that American beer sales would be up 174% and that Americans celebrating would spend more than $6 billion on the holiday.
  11. His name wasn’t originally Patrick: hold on, what? According to Irish legend, St. Patrick wasn’t originally called “Patrick.” His birth name was Maewyn Succat, but he changed it to Patricius after becoming a priest.
  12. There are no female leprechauns: in traditional Irish folk tales, there are no female leprechauns. Rude!
  13. The lingo makes sense: you can’t attend a St. Patrick’s Day event without hearing a cry of “Erin go Bragh.” What’s the phrase mean? It’s a corruption of the Irish Éirinn go Brách, which means roughly “Ireland Forever.”
Green Chicago River on St. Patrick's Day
Every year, the Chicago River is dyed green for the holiday.TASOS KATOPODIS/GETTY IMAGES

Must Love Dogs!

Here’s a fun, light-hearted blog for you today! As many of my clients, readers, and friends know, I’m a dog person. I love all dogs, and especially my Weimaraner, Bodie. He is my loyal companion (even if he thinks he’s the world’s biggest lapdog!). Bodie has traveled far and wide from Reno, Inverness, Monterrey to Tahoe … just an awesome companion!

Me and Bodie!

Better Homes and Gardens shared this list of Top 50 dog names in 2020, and I thought it would be fun to share! I didn’t see Bodie on there, but the freelance writer on my team has two dogs: a boy named Milo and a girl named Penny – both made the lists! Would love to see your dog, so share a picture with their name!

Top 25 Female Dog Names

  1. Bella
  2. Luna
  3. Lucy
  4. Daisy
  5. Lola
  6. Sadie
  7. Molly
  8. Bailey
  9. Stella
  10. Maggie
  11. Chloe
  12. Penny
  13. Nala
  14. Zoey
  15. Lily
  16. Coco
  17. Sophie
  18. Rosie
  19. Ellie
  20. Ruby
  21. Piper
  22. Mia
  23. Roxy
  24. Gracie
  25. Millie

Top 25 Male Dog Names

  1. Max
  2. Charlie
  3. Cooper
  4. Buddy
  5. Milo
  6. Bear
  7. Rocky
  8. Duke
  9. Tucker
  10. Jack
  11. Oliver
  12. Teddy
  13. Leo
  14. Bentley
  15. Zeus
  16. Jax
  17. Toby
  18. Winston
  19. Ollie
  20. Louie
  21. Finn
  22. Murphy
  23. Moose
  24. Loki
  25. Gus
My freelance writer’s dogs, Penny (L) and Milo (R).

Even though Bodie didn’t make it, Finn did! I always said if I got another Weimaraner I’d name it Finnegan and “Finn” for short, whether it was a boy or girl. Did your dog’s name make it?

Thanksgiving Trivia!

Let’s have some fun this week! It’s Thanksgiving week and I hope you all are planning a safe, socially-distanced, and delicious holiday meal. You may not be able to gather with family like usual, but you can always do a video call and quiz each other with some Thanksgiving Trivia. Read on:

The first Thanksgiving lasted how long? (answers at the bottom)

  1. One day
  2. Two days
  3. Three days

Which Indian tribe taught the Pilgrims how to cultivate the land and were  invited to the Thanksgiving meal?

  1. Apache
  2. Wampanoag
  3. Cherokee

What is a snood?

  1. The loose skin under a male turkey’s neck
  2. A hat worn by a Pilgrim
  3. A hot cider drink served at Thanksgiving

Which President is believed to be the first to pardon a turkey and start this annual tradition?

  1. President Lincoln in 1863
  2. President Roosevelt in 1939
  3. President Harry Truman in 1947

Today, our Thanksgiving is the fourth Thursday of November because…?

  1. It is the date the Pilgrims landed in the New World
  2. This was the date set by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939 and approved by Congress in 1941
  3. It was the date people voted to have it on

What is a baby turkey called?

  1. A chick
  2. A nestling
  3. A poult

It has been estimated that how many Americans eat turkey at  Thanksgiving?

  1. 88%
  2. 50%
  3. 75%

True or False: All turkeys gobble

  1. True
  2. False

Ready for the answers…? See how you did! Scroll down.

The first Thanksgiving lasted how long? 

  1. One day
  2. Two days
  3. Three days

Which Indian tribe taught the Pilgrims how to cultivate the land and were  invited to the Thanksgiving meal?

  1. Apache
  2. Wampanoag
  3. Cherokee

What is a snood?

  1. The loose skin under a male turkey’s neck
  2. A hat worn by a Pilgrim
  3. A hot cider drink served at Thanksgiving

Which President is believed to be the first to pardon a turkey and start this annual tradition?

  1. President Lincoln in 1863
  2. President Bush in 1989
  3. President Harry Truman in 1947

NOTE: Lincoln was the first to do it, some say Truman, but he never pardon, the first president to do so was Bush.

Today, our Thanksgiving is the fourth Thursday of November because…?

  1. It is the date the Pilgrims landed in the New World
  2. This was the date set by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939 and approved by Congress in 1941
  3. It was the date people voted to have it on

What is a baby turkey called?

  1. A chick
  2. A nestling
  3. A poult

It has been estimated that how many Americans eat turkey at  Thanksgiving?

  1. 88%
  2. 50%
  3. 75%

True or False: All turkeys gobble

  1. True
  2. False

NOTE: Only male turkeys gobble. They do so to attract female turkeys.

Oktoberfest: Just one of the things we have missed this year!

With this years Covid cancellations of Oktoberfest in Munich and even our local events in Walnut Creek & Clayton there as been a drought of lederhosen, dirndls and maybe even some German bier. Oktoberfest has been cancelled 24 times primarily due to war and cholera epidemics, and now Covid. The last couple of years I was invited to a friends house who does a wonderful Oktoberfest in her backyard. Like me they also lived in Germany and it is always a fun celebration of friends, food and bier. Thus I thought it was worth sharing a bit of trivia this last week Oktober regarding the Oktoberfest celebration!

Did you know, Oktoberfest actually starts in September? The original Oktoberfest was held October of 1810 in honor of the wedding between Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. Oktoberfestbier is brewed only by the breweries within the city limits of Munich. These are also the only breweries allowed to participate in the annual Munich Oktoberfest. For beer lovers, you might enjoy the “want to know link” below as to why they needed a festival in October to finish off the beer casks

Here are some fast facts and trivia about Oktoberfest. You’ll also want to know the history of this event, as well as the differentiation between Oktoberfest the fest, and Oktoberfest the brew! Once you’ve mastered those, try your luck at this Oktoberfest quiz. I did pretty well myself!

Should you decide to host your own Oktoberfest in the future, here are some tips about clothing and food. This year, you can just wear your lederhosen and dirndle for Halloween, but that seems to be cancelled too….

Ringing in the fall season

Yesterday brought us the official start of Fall with the Fall Equinox! That means it’s time for the cooler air to come through, as we settle into the time of changing leaves, Turkey Trots, and Pumpkin Spice Lattes. I wanted to share a few items that come with this season – ranging from silly, to important!

First, I just have to point this out: Krispy Kreme has released a new pumpkin donut for the season. I know pumpkin is all the rage during Fall, but even for non-donut lovers this has to be kind of exciting. I personally am on the fence about all things pumpkin, but look forward to squash soups and a chill in the air.

Next, check out this article on paint colors from Real Simple. If you are in a house where you think your painting duties are overdue, this is a great resource. Try to enjoy the time indoors (COVID-19 + smoky air = more time inside, right?) by repainting parts of your house that need a little touch-up. Instead of spring cleaning, it is fall touch-up!

Also, it’s almost playoff baseball season! As a sports fan, when I think “Fall,” I think playoffs. I also think football. The NFL is underway and college football has started in certain parts of the country, but the A’s just won the division and the Giants are battling it out for the final spot in their league. I know we can’t go to games, but are you watching? How do you think our local teams will fare?

My last random point of the day is to get out – when and if you can – to enjoy the changing of the seasons. Even though we don’t get snow here in Walnut Creek, we do get at least parts of all four seasons. The change from summer to fall is always spectacular, and I hope you get out and hike or just walk around and take it all in! And, last but not least Apple Season is here, so if you want to take a day trip up to Apple Hill off of 50, pick some apples, drink some wine, and get donuts and cider here is a link to the Apple Hill and a map. Oh wait, one more random thought about fall. I just picked a bunch of figs and was planning to make a fig, blueberry, pepper jelly, do you think I could find canning jars? NO, I went to every store I could think of and they were all out … at Ace, he said it is that time of year, they haven’t had a shipment since last week, next year I will plan better.

There are still adventures to be had during a pandemic

I know this pandemic has been difficult for a lot of us. Trust me, I love going out to try new restaurants, to go on adventures far and wide…and don’t even get me started on the ramifications and impact it has had on all of our work situations! But, I want to offer a glimmer of optimism – there are plenty of ways to get outside and still have fun, despite the virus!

For example, I make regular trips to Lake Tahoe and the Reno area. I love it up there, and my son lives in Reno, so I try to go up there as often as possible to visit, ski, or both. Additionally, we live in a great region where we have Shell Ridge and Mt. Diablo right in our backyards! When the weather cools and the smoke clears, you can try a new trail!

If you’re a foodie like me, you may be struggling to find good places to eat and new places to try that offer correct social-distancing practices. At wineries, however, they are seating outdoors at their beautiful gardens, thus you can distance yourself from other people quite easily. My friend Veronica and I recently did this at Rombauer Vineyards and Bennett Lane in the Napa region.

We went up Friday before Labor Day Weekend and it was the perfect time -not crowded, though they said they were booked solid for the holiday weekend. We had a great one on one experience at Bennett Lane and enjoyed most of their wines which was determined by what we toted to our car. We then headed to lunch at (Farmstead), and enjoyed the nice weather and lunch on the patio, although the hostess was a bit snooty as we showed up 15 minutes late. We had the trout and brick cooked chicken, along with shishito peppers from their garden. You can see the menu here.

Rombauer Vineyards has a beautiful view as noted in the picture with the roses in the foreground and their Zinfindel and Chardonnay are among my favorite wines. An interesting tidbit that I did not know, Co-Founder Koerner Rombauer’s great aunt Irma authored the cookbook The Joy of Cooking, and his ancestors originated from a famous wine-growing region in Germany.

What’s Cooking for the 4th?

I just took a long weekend to Reno to see some friends and my son. Time there is often spent having great dinners. I love to cook and it gives me an opportunity to try out some new recipes on my friends. This time I grabbed the Better Homes & Gardens magazine that was sitting in our office with a fabulous cherry cobbler on the front cover and made a couple of the cherry recipes from the July issue, just in time for the 4th!

July Issue … Cherries!

The Cherry Caprese Salad with Burrata on page 92 and it was a big hit and Barbs, my friend’s mother, is the best cook ever. She shared some good tips and helped a lot. I served it with marinated fresh shrimp courtesy of my neighbor from Osprey Seafood, where I can place an order and pick it up down the street, leaving my check in the box (he knows where I live) and served it with a mango jalapeño salsa. The next night I attempted the cobbler and it turned out amazing. The recipe asks to brown the butter and then freeze and grate it into the dough. I thought it was more work, but the brown butter makes the biscuit. Brown butter makes everything better!

Wishing you a Happy 4th of July spent with friends, family, and some wonderful food. (text or email me if you want the recipes)