• Christina Rice

Our Reward Was a Really Ugly Pie

Updated: Jul 5, 2018

The pie is cooling, and it's the center of attention in our house tonight. It should be. I didn't realize it until now, but I guess the pie is our reward for a beautiful day.

It all started at 6:20 a.m. when Zander woke me up to ask if he could play golf today instead of Friday. Good morning! What he didn't know was that I was up very late working, and I really didn't want to re-arrange my entire Monday that was already laid out...in writing. But, he did make an excellent point. Our summer heat wave is supposed to smack down in Southern California on Friday (we've been fortunate with a cool, stereotypical, June Gloom). Playing golf on the first squelching day of summer didn't sound very pleasant, especially for a guy who walks the course, so I said, "Ok."

Insert record-scratch sound effect here! Suddenly work was shot, and I have the boys all day to myself. I quickly played this out in my mind.

"If I stayed home with the boys for too long this morning, while attempting to cram in some work, the boys would interrupt me...a lot, they'll end up fighting...physically, and we'll phone in an afternoon trip to the park when we're all a little tired and little hungry"

This would be a recipe for disaster.

I knew at that moment that we should head out on a mini-adventure (mini-adventures are my specialty). But, one problem. I have no idea what to do. Let's start with animals. We all love them so why not try and incorporate animals into our day. We hadn't been to the Farm since Spring, so I decided we'd head out to the Underwood Family Farm in Moorpark, which we simply call The Farm.

Thousand Oaks Real Estate Agent

We got dressed, packed some sandwiches, apples, and a snack pack of olives for Van, and hit the road. (If anyone else has a pre-schooler out there who requests pimento-stuffed or Kalamata olives in his lunch, I'd love to hear about it!)

We entered, and I'm proud to say we earned two free admissions because I had filled two frequent-guest punch cards. We've been coming here since Brody was 4 months old. Each year I make a family photo album that I give to family at Christmas time, and on the pages each year you'll see my children growing up at The Farm.

On our short drive there, Moorpark is so close to Thousand Oaks, it hit me. I'm going to take video of the boys at The Farm today. After all, Zander's missing this adventure, and I'll undoubtedly text his video and pictures. I can probably sneak in a video for work. After all, the Underwood Family Farm is such a magical place for not only residents in the Conejo Valley and San Fernando Valley, but all over Southern California. I had to share it, and I'm surprised I have already done a video.

I know. I know. No work. Complete and total immersion in the Mini-Adventure. Yes. I know. I agree, but I believed I could do this. And, if I couldn't, it's an excuse to come back. I made a vow not to let it get in the way of adventure.

The only things we needed to do, were hit the petting zoo and pick the berries. We'd let the rest of our day play out in real time.

After lunch we made the rounds, feeding the goats, talking affectionately to the Scottish Highlander Cow, running and hiding in the giant tire-tunnels, and panning for gems. After we were completely satisfied, we hit the fields to pick berries.

We are a berry family. The boys used to fire them all of them down on the same day I bought them, but now, I ration them...if I can. Sometimes they ambush me when I'm washing them. We often discuss the plans we have for our land (when we find it). We plan to grow raspberries.

For our Fourth of July celebration I'll be making strawberry shortcake, so I needed fresh berries, and since Boysenberries and Olallieberries are ripe for picking, we couldn't pass up the chance to bring those home as well.

Berry picking quickly became the highlight of our day. Suddenly, it was like our inner-farmer kicked in. We carefully searched each narrow row for the darkest, most massive berry while including a little healthy competition to see who could locate the creme de la creme. We all won.

We found a tremendous iridescent Fig Beetle feasting on a berry-too-ripe. He was cute. We sang AC/DC's Back in Black while we filled our buckets to honor the ripe berry. This was the perfect time to tell them that when their Grandma Jackie was a young teenager, she consistently won the Top Picker award during her brief career as a strawberry picker. Mom told me about her Top Picker award when I was little. I don't really remember when, but it's one of those stories that stuck with me.

The boys tired of picking by the time we got to the strawberry fields and decided to get in a fallen-strawberry fight! I let it go a little longer than I should have because...well, I'm particular about my strawberries, and I took that opportunity to pick. Besides, we had the fields mainly to ourselves since this occurred late-afternoon on a Monday.

We left tired, dusty, and satisfied.

I washed the berries immediately after getting home. After an equally-satisfying day on the course, Zander picked up some vanilla ice cream, heavy whipping cream and pre-made pie crust for me. Yes. I know. I do prefer to make my own, but (here comes the excuse) I was tired, and the boys wanted me to bake the pie tonight.

During dinner, we filled in Zander on every detail of our mini-adventure. The boys missed their dad today, so I stayed in the kitchen to tackle this pie while they got caught up. I was tired, but I was still running on farm endorphins from our day. By the time I finished the pie filling, I didn't have much steam left to make it look pretty. I literally slapped a lazy attempt at a lattice top and threw that baby in the oven. The boys licked a spoon and the whisk, helped me open the oven, remove our foil and peek at the pie mid-way through baking. They loved watching the filling boil and breach over the lattice.

Unfortunately, the boys had to go to bed before the pie could adequately cool, so we promised we'd each have a piece for breakfast the next morning. What! If this wasn't a reward for our fulfilling day, it indeed was now. (As much as I wanted to enjoy this pie tonight, I kind of like the idea of keeping the lovely day in our thoughts for a little longer. Not to mention, we're practicing delayed gratification.)

Life is good in this Thousand Oaks household. We're grateful to have Underwood Family Farms. I'm thankful Zander decided to mix up our day. Sometimes you just have to scrap your plans and bake an ugly pie.

To see the video, I created without interrupting our family fun, click below.

THE NEXT DAY: The ugly pie was actually pretty delicious. The berries brought the perfect balance of tart and sweet. Next time, I will make my own crust. I also wouldn't use a lattice top. I would prefer a covered top so more buttery crust can accompany each bite. Also, we decided to add the Olallieberry to our land's "To Grow" list.

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