The &#$^! magic of berries

On Saturday we got it into our heads that it would be a great idea to go pick our own strawberries at a local farm. Because that would be a great way to spend a morning! And we all love strawberries! Right? Sure!

Okay, so, the first problem was that MY CHILDREN ARE TRYING TO KILL ME. And after begging to go berry picking they then refused to get ready to go and then took out everything they own and left it on the floor upstairs. At least, that’s what it looked like. So I had one of those really charming teachable moments where, instead, I had a GIANT HAIRY HISSY FIT (that’ll learn ’em!) and declared that we were going nowhere. In fact, we’d never have strawberries again, if that was how they were going to be! WE’LL JUST NEVER DO ANYTHING FUN!

Sometimes I wonder if during my hysterectomy they forgot to remove the PMS. The alternative is that I just happen to be a melodramatic shrew, and that can’t be possible. Ahem.

Anyway, there was some crack diplomatic maneuvering from Otto on both sides of the issue, and after a while we were all headed out to pick the damn berries with joy in our hearts, or at least tears dried. And a two-inch coating of sunscreen.

So we drove and drove and drove and drove until we got out to the farm, and then we headed out into the rows of plants with our buckets, and that’s when the day of fun really got underway—we spent hours lovingly selecting just the perfect berries for our consumption.

Ahahahahahahaha! Oh, sorry. Did you think I was serious? Guess how long it takes to pick two gallons of strawberries. Go on, guess! That’s right. About six minutes. Three of which are spent with one child whining “I can’t find any!” while the other child chucks half-rotted berries into the bucket because “You can just cut that little bad part off for me, it’s okay.”


You can work up a powerful hunger picking berries for all those hundreds of seconds, you know, so we decided to go out to lunch. Continuing in our recent tradition of bad restaurant karma, our waitress forgot we existed and the one member of our party least able to wait patiently for his food (really, Otto, GROW UP) was treated to the last plate out, and it turned out to be the wrong order. See, when I order a “number 4” for my scrawny 8-year-old who’s small enough to be an average 6-year-old, I kind of figure that the waitress will realize I mean a number 4 from the CHILDREN’S MENU. But apparently Monkey looked like he was ready to pound back an entire Mexican platter twice the size of his head. Oooookay. The wrong food was removed and he was told his food would be RIGHT OUT.

We three offered him bits of our food, but he sat slumped in his chair, whining that life was terribly unfair. And then a waitress came flying out with a plate of food for him!

Which was still not what we’d ordered.

And Monkey began to cry.

It all got straightened out and he ate himself into a stupor, eventually, but I think I’ve decided not to dine out with the children anymore until they’re both eighteen or I’ve had a lobotomy.

We then stopped at the grocery store for a few things and headed home to make ice cream. I am now seriously considering buying an old-fashioned hand-crank ice cream maker, because as much as I love my electric one—and I do love it, deeply—it does nothing to assuage the litany of “Can I help? I want to help!” cries that go up around each ice cream making session. Because no, you cannot help whip the eggs, because I would like the eggs in the ice cream rather than all over the counter, and no, you cannot pour the mixture into the TEENY TINY HOLE on the ice cream maker’s cover, because I can barely manage that without spilling, and no, I can not hold you up for forty five minutes so that you can stare into the lid and ask me every two minutes if it’s done yet. SHEESH.

In other news, the Ben & Jerry’s cookbook remains one of my most treasured possessions, and although my last year’s favorite was the Lemon Daiquiri Ice, now I can vouch for the strawberry banana ice cream, too. (P.S. Even better with mini chocolate chips!) Besides, making your own ice cream and sorbet is a tremendous pain in the ass but totally neutralizes all of the calories, I’m sure.

Once the ice cream was finished (and set aside for dessert after dinner), that had taken care of about a cup of the strawberries. Which left just… ummm… hang on, I can do the math in my head, sort of… carry the four… ummmm… right, it left FIFTY THOUSAND CUPS OF STRAWBERRIES I had to deal with.

Being the prompt and attentive person that I am, I left the buckets on the counter and went about the rest of my day. Why, it was about 10:30 at night when I figured out I still needed to, you know, DO SOMETHING with them. Which is how I ended up standing at the sink, slicing and packaging berries when I should’ve been sleeping.

On Sunday I baked strawberry bread—an innocuous-looking concoction wherein a single loaf of bread ends up weighing twelve pounds, somehow—and we ate that and yogurt with strawberries and more ice cream, and this morning Otto put strawberries on his cereal and I packed strawberries in the kids’ lunches. I predict the complaints will start up by tomorrow.

MAGIC, I tell you.


  1. Liza

    I totally almost took Noah strawberry picking on Saturday morning. So thank you for the warning!!!

  2. annie

    Mir, YOU are magic! It is so re-affirming to read your stories, which are so much like mine. Except that my offspring likes to make me believe our family isn’t “real” because I don’t have a husband. Pfft.

  3. TNMom

    Just wait….blackberry season is coming up :o)

  4. Dani

    Oh, poor Monkey. I can empathize. I had the dining experience from Hell last night, myself. Twenty five minute wait to be seated, fifteen minutes for the appetizer, then FORTY MORE minutes before the actual food arrived. THEN my food, as usual, contained the very thing I told them I am allergic to. I asked a bazillion times while ordering, “Are you SURE it doesn’t contain any onions? Are you SURE the mushrooms aren’t sauteed in anything that contains onion powder? Please remind the chef not to dress the plate with onions.” Topped with, “I get extremely ill if I consume anything that has come in contact with onions.”

    As soon as the plate hit the table I could smell the onion and I nearly started to cry. I was starving. Don’t mess with people when they’re hungry. It’s just cruel.

    Monkey – You can come out to eat with me ANY TIME. I got your back, babe. Maybe we should just start with dessert. Even if they foul that up it should still be yummy. :)

    Oh, and now I want strawberries. Thanks, Mir. ;)

  5. All Adither

    I recently saw a strawberry-broccoli salad recipe online that looked pretty good. Not that I could point you to it or anything, but there’s always Google. I’m so helpful, I know.

    The food allergy thing pretty much allows us a get-out-of-dining-away-from-home free pass. We never have to do it. Which is both sad and wonderful.

  6. Amy-Go

    More evidence that you are a better person than me.

  7. StephLove

    Blueberries for Sal is one of my toddler’s favorite books and right now one of her favorite activities is to pick the inedible wild strawberries that grow in our yard and make little piles of them “for the bears.” I think we will have to take her berry-picking this summer, but I guess we’ll wait for blueberry season, which here starts in mid to late July and usually goes into early August.

    I’m so jealous you have local strawberries ripe already. I’m impatiently waiting for them to show up at the farmers’ market so I can make strawberry shortcake (which, in case you wanted to know, is THE thing to make with really good strawberries). Though strawberry ice cream sounds really good, too. I need an ice cream maker.

  8. Tammy

    I have a lovely recipe for Strawberry Spinach Salad but it’s best with fresh strawberries. If you’d like to try it, send me an email. :)

  9. SoMo

    What are you talking about? You mean that kind of stuff doesn’t get easier? They are still whiny, complaining piles of fun. I think I will lock my kids in their room until they are ready to be kicked, ur, let out into the world.

  10. Mama Bear

    Ben and Jerry’s is my favorite summer cook book as well. We really love the Kahlua Amaretto. Well, not the kids, but those over 21 of course. The kids have different favorites depending on the phase of the moon or the barometric pressure. Also it seems to depend on what a sibling chooses, because you could NEVER choose the same thing.

  11. Dawn @ Coming to a Nursery Near You

    Wow – that could have been us. Except for the hysterectomy. Oh, and you have to have an extra kid in there. and um.. yeah – family time BITES, doesn’t it? LOL

  12. Randi

    Oooh – Ice cream maker – I don’t have one of those (got there by going through your ben and jerry’s book on Amazon…Amazon has made me waste hours of my life…). And surprise surprise, I live in VT and didn’t even KNOW that Ben and Jerry’s had a cook book out!! How did THAT happen?!

  13. Jess

    We’re gearing up for our own strawberry-picking, and this year I’m going to make JAM.

    (Last year I made… um, strawberry ice cream topping. It just didn’t work.)

  14. suburbancorrespondent

    Don’t worry – by tomorrow the strawberries will have rotted…

    Only 2 gallons? Rookies! That’s 8 quarts. Now, picture 40. Yup. My husband and kids brought home 40 quarts of strawberries last year. That doesn’t even count the amount they ate as they picked (which solves the restaurant problem you mention above, too). I’m just glad they don’t weigh the kids going in and leaving. We couldn’t afford that.

  15. Jen

    Maybe someone else mentioned this, I was too tired (its monday!) to look through all the comments, but they have this pretty cool looking thing called a Play and Freeze Ice cream ball that you can buy on Amazon:

    I’ve been thinking of getting one because I have the same problem with my girls. Whenever I don’t want their help (while cooking for example) they are all up ons. But when I need their help (think cleaning) they disappear.

    Well… the only thing worse than picking strawberries? Picking raspberries… never did get those damn stains out of their clothes….

  16. AmyM

    I can’t tell you how glad I am to hear about this! I am not the only mom in the world who thinks that family togetherness (sometimes) can make even the sanest person become suicidal. I feel guilty that I can’t always enjoy those ‘special’ moments with my children because OMG… they are preshus and won’t be this little forever and when they are grown up, I will regret not cherishing every second!!

    I’m so glad to know I’m normal. Ish.

  17. Lessa

    Blueberries for Sal was my oldest’s favorite book too when he was little. We were at the library once for reading time when they were asking the kids (He was just 2 years old, as I recall) what their favorite berries were. He piped up loud and clear “My favorite berry is the LI-BERRY!” which endeared him forever to the librarian.

    At 16 years old now and learning to drive, he’s no longer half that cute. Heh.

    I mean, it gets better, yeah, really. Pay no attention to the pale, stuttering, terrified Mama in the passenger seat of the jeep….

  18. themuttprincess

    It couldn’t of been that bad… It probably was worse….


  19. The Other Leanne

    I’m still trying to get past “headed home to make ice cream.”
    That’s way more ambition than I’ll ever have!

  20. tori

    Easiest recipe ever, and also the quickest disappearing I have ever had:

    Cream together 1 stick butter, 1 cup sugar. Add 2 eggs. Add 1 cup flour, 1 tsp baking powder. Spread into spring form or pie pan coated in butter or cooking spray. Top with sliced strawberries…tons of them. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes.

    I think you could make this recipe with any fruit though. I intend to make it with all the apples we will get apple picking in the fall. Same story as yours (even the hysterectomy part!), but apples instead of strawberies.

  21. jennielynn

    Maybe freezer jam?

  22. Lori

    Mir, if you can make strawberry ice cream, you can make strawberry jam. It is easy peasy, just follow the directions on the box of pectin. You will be so proud and the jam will be so yummy when the strawberry ordeal is long forgotten.

  23. Sue

    I love FFF (Forced Family Fun). I usually throw another F in there. But I do love berries. Sometimes it’s worth the whining. *impatiently waiting for blueberry season*

  24. Sarah H

    Have you ever tried “The Perfect Scoop” ice cream cookbook? It is MY favorite icecream cookbook.

  25. Megan

    Family time yesterday consisted of me finally hollering, “right! I DON’T CARE who is right or wrong, I don’t care who did what to whom, I want everyone in this house to CLOSE THEIR MOUTHS!” Followed by two minutes of:
    Child 3: “but sibling…”
    Me: “MEH!”
    Child 3: “but sibling…”
    Me: “MEH!”
    etc… etc… then they all left for seven hours and it was blissful.

  26. Corina

    Wow. You have guts. Strawberry picking, a lunch out, and the grocery store in the same trip? After a meltdown? I think that you are my new hero……

  27. Holly

    Sounds fantastic, truely magical ;-) Sounds like something I’ll be dealing with in a couple of years! But, hey, at least you have lots of yummy strawberry food!

  28. Sara

    I second the freezer jam suggestion. Terribly easy and yummy come fall and winter when the notion of fresh berries hits ya.
    Also. Adding chocolate chips to the banana-strawberry ice cream? Utter genius, my friend.

  29. BOSSY

    Bossy thinks you put the Aw in Strawberry.

  30. Em

    Oh, get a handcrank! My dad used to make handcranked icecream with my brother and I when we were kids – *so* much fun! Wacking blocks of ice with hammers; tipping salt on it and quite hard work with the whole cranking thing. But, nothing better than standing in the garden in a massively oversized waterproof jacket and licking the remnants off the turning shaft (why do all these icecream terms sound rude?!)
    Not for the impatient though!

  31. E

    OH, I know your pain. We just finished the last of our 20 bajillion cups of strawberries, and I never want to go to another strawberry farm again. NEVER!

  32. Carolyn

    You know they sell those things at Publix…

    I wanted to be all Southern and say Piggly-Wiggly or Winn Dixie but alas Publix has taken over my corner of the South.

  33. Susan Getgood

    LOL. And brings back memories. When I was in my early 20s, my mom and I went strawberry picking, with similar effect. I lived in a small apartment and the only place I could put them all was the bathtub.

    We made a lot of strawberry jam that weekend.

  34. merlotmom

    Too funny. Thanks for keeping me company. Also, you could try strawberry cobbler. Make a huge thing of it and maybe freeze some for when strawberries don’t make you want to puke.

  35. Amy

    You’re a better mom than me mainly because you make your own ice cream. If I had an ice cream maker, it would probably be sitting next to my breadmaker and juicer. In the garage. Or the basement. I’m not entirely sure where exactly they are, but I do know that they are both in their original boxes from when I got them. In 1999. So thanks much for the laugh. Glad to know I’m not alone in my trying to have family togetherness, only to be so aggravated when it actuall happens.

  36. Mary Beth

    If the kids want to help, buy one of those ice cream balls and they can mix up all the ingredients by throwning the ball around. I got one for my brother’s family and they say they’ve enjoyed it.

    Also google “strawberry pretzel salad.” Strawberries, pretzels, cream cheese, other good stuff. Yum.

  37. Tranny Head

    Just put some cheese and pasta on the strawberries and call it “strawberrizini” or something.

  38. RubiaLala

    This is the most hilarious post. You are so funny! At least you can take that away from your “magical” experience. I’m still laughing out loud at my desk.

  39. Queenie

    Dining out with children is highly over-rated. Family “togetherness” is definitely better left for a time behind closed doors! My family asked me if they could take me out to a restaurant for Mother’s Day and I politely declined (thinking why would they want to do that to me on my special day?).

  40. Chuck

    Hmmm…there’s always the magic of FedEx, if you want to ship your berries to unsuspecting relatives. Or you could just make a bunch of preserves.

  41. Carrie

    My Aunt lives in Loganville (off 78) near a Strawberry farm. We were visiting her a few weeks ago and went to pick some. It was so much fun (for about 10 minutes) and fairly cheap too. My daughter keeps asking to go back. She doesn’t understand that I am not driving 6 hours, from Florida, just to pick Strawberries.

  42. Insane Mama

    OMG! My kids are trying to kill me too!
    I have Blackberries growing in my garden and I just saw my first blossom this morning!

  43. Bakerina

    You have fifty thousand cups of strawberries. I have a metric ton of rhubarb. I smell ROADTRIP!

    Oh, right. You have a spouse and children and a life and stuff, and I’m supposed to be packing. Well, nutbunnies.

  44. AKD

    Wait a second… did you change your header photo today or did my eyes finally focus on it and see that it’s a leaf? I swear, if it’s the same photo, all these months I’ve been looking at it and seeing meat. Like flattened teriyaki meat sizzling on a griddle. Am I going insane?

  45. Andrea

    I have been itching to go strawberry picking here in Delaware! I have a AWESOME favorite that I like to make with them: No-Cook Strawberry Jam. Ooohhh…so good! Food processor, sugar and the no-cook pectin in the purple package. Stir and pour into containers. AMAZING. No one else eats jam in my house so it’s all for me! I’m drooling already.

  46. Tootsie Farklepants

    You are good! I probably would have stood at the sink and ate them all.

  47. Krisco

    You crack me up. Good story. (And so ingenious with the berries! Ice cream, bread, lunches….I would have let them sit on the sink until THEY HAD TO BE THROWN OUT.)

  48. sb

    Oh, Mir, how your crappy day pleases me. (Sorry.) I love my family, too, but sometimes we have lousy outings and horrible meals out. On another blog, there would have been a photo of Chickadee and Monkey holding up their buckets in the sunshine, maybe with strawberry stained mouths, another photo of the strawberry ice cream but no mention of the clothes on the bedroom floor or the hissy fit. Thank you.

  49. Dani

    AKD is scaring me. I want my mommy.

  50. Hecticmom

    OMG – I think you just wrote my life’s story. (Actually, you exactly described our annual pumpkin picking fiasco – which we do over and over again – insanity at it’s finest.)

  51. MDB

    I’m new to your blog (and no, I did not hear of it on tv, or from dooce. I can’t remember now, but it was just before the tv appearance, and it was linked somewhere else) and I am enjoying it so much.

    This whole berry debacle? I have lived it. With blueberries. Complete with the kids all into going, and then not getting ready and taking out all of their stuff. Your description is so accurate, this could have been my family (except that my husband wouldn’t be caught dead picking things, so it was me and my kids and a friend and hers) in the hot, hot sun, searching for blueberries.

    Thanks for this story—-it was pure gold.

  52. Danielle-Lee

    I love berries! However, I must say that my hubby would probably be the equivalent of your kiddo: ‘Here-take the little one with the worm in it; i’ll eat it’ or ‘I’ll be in the car while you guys pick’. Family togetherness is not all it’s cracked up to be, is it??

  53. Daisy

    Ah, the berries. ANd the ice cream, too. I bought my husband an ice cream maker for his birthday. We hadn’t used it yet when my 16-yr-old began having major stomach problems and the doc took him totally off anything dairy. So now, while we await the test results for celiac, we can’t even consider making ice cream.

  54. mommytherobot

    wow. so now im on the fence as to whether to go picking strawberries this weekend or not….. the last time we tried to do something as picturesque as this, my daughter and i were bitten by fire ants. the pain lasted for days. what to do… what to do….?

  55. Christina

    So, what you’re saying is you won’t be taking them apple picking?

    I love strawberries, but even I would get tired of them fast with the need to use up that many strawberries. But strawberry banana ice cream? Sounds delish.

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