July Odds & Ends

I hope you are all having the BEST July. We have been spending a lot of time together as a family in one of our happy places, Lake Tahoe. It is a spot that I frequently find myself stopping to just take a moment and appreciate the feeling of pure bliss. If you find yourself in the North Lake Tahoe area this summer check out my posts about our favorite spots eat, shop and play. I’ll continue to update these posts as we explore new places. Wishing you a joyful month of August.

Gizdich Ranch

Picking olallieberries at Gizdich Ranch is at the top of my list of favorite childhood memories. Often berry picking would be followed by a jam making session back home with my parents. There is no jam I would rather slather in toast, roll up inside a crepe or pair with peanut butter on a sandwich than my mom’s olallieberry jam. I was thrilled when my children found the same delight in berry picking that I did. It is an activity we often add to our summer bucket list each year.

Picking berries at Gizdich Ranch in Watsonville, CA

Gizdich Ranch is located in Watsonville, California. It is about 20 minutes south of Santa Cruz and not far from the coast. Visit May through September for an opportunity to pick your own seasonal fruit or stop by the Pie Shop to enjoy a slice of one of their mouthwatering pies.

  • Strawberries – May 4th through August
  • Olallieberries – 6/15/19-6/30/19
  • Boysenberries – 6/22/19-7/14/19  
  • Blackberries – 7/4/19-7/14/19
  • Apples – Early to mid September

Note: Weather conditions can change the dates listed above.  Please call in advance for the most up to date information.

Prepare to get a little berry stained and dusty while out picking. Don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes, pack a hat and wear plenty of sunscreen. The best part of picking berries is popping a few in your mouth as you walk along the rows. It took us less than an hour to collect 6 full buckets of olallieberries. It was enough to make 20 large hard of jam and still have enough berries left over to enjoy with our ice cream that night and with yogurt and granola the next morning. Just over 7 pounds of berries cost about $25.00.

After picking berries, we went back to my parents house to prepare jam. We always refer to the recipe on the back of the box of pectin. Since olallieberry jam is not very common, we follow the recipe for blackberry jam.

Jam isn’t difficult to make, but it does take some time to wash, smash, boil, and jar. The only ingredients and supplies you need are berries, sugar, pectin, a large pot and glass jars with metal bands and lids. A funnel and jar lifter are helpful, but not necessary. Here is a starter kit that you can purchase if making jam for the first time.

It’s a little late in the season, but if you live near the central coast of California I would highly recommend adding berry picking to next year’s summer to-do list. However, apple picking season is right around the corner and visiting Gizdich Ranch would be a great way to kick off fall.

Tip For including Your Teen/Tween in the 2020 Election

The 2020 election is a big topic of discussion everywhere you turn. Now that my kids are middle school and high school age I want to include them in the conversation and get them excited about our democratic process.

During the last election I was introduced to the website isidewith.com. It invites users to answer questions about important issues to determine which party and candidate their beliefs most closely align. iSideWith is not affiliated with any political party, candidate, or interest group. Our family decided to each take the quiz on isidewith.com to see which candidate we identified most with politically. The quiz provided a great opportunity to talk about the fact that there is no such thing as a right or wrong answer, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. It also allowed us to answer a lot of questions about topics my kids weren’t familiar with yet.

It was fun to share our results with each other. We each ended up aligning most strongly with different candidates. Often we would all be on the same side of an issue, but have different stances on the best way to move forward. We were able to exercise our sun soaked summer brains learning about and debating current hot topics. Most importantly, my kiddos feel more invested in the 2020 election moving forward.

Tip: Take this quiz as a family during an upcoming summer road trip. It will provide great topics for conversation and make the miles go by a little faster.

3 Summer Salads I Can't Stop Eating for Dinner

If you have been following me on Instagram this summer you will have seen these three yummy salads make an appearance on both my feed and in stories. I thought I would post links and any edits I make to the recipes here so that you can easily find them next time you need a little summer dinner inspiration. I like to include at least one salad in our weekly dinner rotation. These salads take advantage two of the best things summer has to offer: grilling outside and an abundance of fresh fruits and veggies at our Farmer’s Market. All of todays recipes are gluten free.

You can find each of these summer salad recipes on My Tested & Approved Pinterest Board. I’ll continue to add any recipes that receive a thumbs up from my entire family.

Peach Salad with Grilled Basil Chicken and White Balsamic Honey Vinaigrette

Peach Salad with Grilled Basil Chicken and White Balsamic Honey Vinaigrette

This Peach Salad with Grilled Basil Chicken and White Balsamic-Honey Vinaigrette by Cooking Classy is my personal favorite of the three salads! It is equally delicious with either peaches or nectarines. I prefer to substitute feta for the goat cheese that is called for in the original recipe.

Arugula Salad with Chicken & Apricots

Arugula Salad with Chicken & Apricots

This Arugula Salad with Chicken & Apricots by Cooking Light is the perfect antidote after indulging on a summer get-away. We like to use Trader Joe’s thinly sliced chicken breasts to save the time it would have taken to pound each breast. Plums are a great substitute if you aren’t a fan of apricots.

Steak Salad with Bacon, Crispy Potatoes and Blue Cheese Dressing

Steak Salad with Bacon, Crispy Potatoes and Blue Cheese Dressing

This hearty Steak Salad with Bacon, Crispy Potatoes and Blue Cheese Dressing I found on the pages of Real Simple magazine will please the meat and potato lovers in your life. We simplified the recipe by using store bought blue cheese dressing. Instead of using sirloin steak we grill up some flank steak with a little Grill Mates Montreal Seasoning. I like to add cherry tomatoes to boost our veggie intake.

What have been your favorite salads to make for dinner this summer?

2 Pack of Hue Perfect Fit Cotton Leggings (July)

Great deal on Hue leggings at Costco

Hue leggings have been one of my wardrobe staples for a couple year’s now. They are perfect during colder weather to wear with Uggs and a fleece pullover or with knee length leather boots and a tunic sweater. It may seem silly to purchase leggings in July, but the $14.99 price tag for two pairs of black leggings will make you happy come November that you were thinking ahead. Hue leggings typically sell for quadruple the price at department stores. Even on sale they are never priced as low as they currently are at Costco. My Hue leggings have proved to be durable and most importantly don’t fade after repeated washings. The 2 pack of Hue Perfect Fit Cotton Leggings is currently only available at the Costco warehouse for a limited time.

Let me know what you think about this month’s Odds & Ends post.


  1. Joan

    July 26, 2019 at 3:55 pm

    It is a recipe from an old Sunset Cookbook. I will get it to you.

  2. Joan

    July 25, 2019 at 1:34 pm

    Melissa do you ever make a pie with the Olallies? It is a favorite at our house. No other berry pie is as good.

    1. Parker

      July 26, 2019 at 11:14 am

      I have not made olallieberry pie myself, but I certainly love eating it! I would love your recipe!

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