I had always wanted to go to California, ever since Carole and Jerry had moved there 28 years ago. And finally the dream came true. Carole is my Gramma’s sister. You would definitely notice their similarity if they were to stand next to each other. They have a very definite resemblance and their voices are so very similar. My trip was very short and sweet, but that is how it sometimes goes. My husband was trying his best to work from home and take care of the seven lovelies here on the homefront. And I think he did a great job and the kids really put effort in being cooperative. And when our Hugo was asked about what he thought about Mom being gone for over a week, he said that she will bring tuliaisia. Which is a very Finnish word to explain the gifts that one brings when returning home or in other circumstances the gift for the host. When asked what tuliaiset means, he explained, “that they (tuliaiset) make children happy!” And his big blue eyes that match the Pacific shone bright with excitement.
Carole walks at a brisk pace and Jerry has a more gentle saunter. But he keeps up as his legs are much more longer. My sister flew into California as well, and so the four of us had the perfect excursions and the most perfect weather. But what else could you expect in California?
They live overlooking a valley on the side of a mountain, or perhaps they call them foothills. And from their back patio, you can see the three highest peaks in Southern California. In the mornings I would watch to see if the haze would evaporate and slowly the shapes of the mountains would appear. At night as the sun sets, the horizon is full of color and the lights slowly lit up into a twinkle in the city below.
As Carole says, Jerry is the King of tour guides. And it really was lovely, everytime we drove somewhere, we drove a different route back and had the opportunity to see a bit more of California’s diverse landscape. Afterall, we were only there for almost three days. So we were not spoiled with time, but certainly were spoiled by our hosts’ as we had just the right amount of relaxation and excitment.
We drove through the San Jacinto mountains to visit Palm Springs. The Santa Rosa mountains could be seen far off as well as a little glimpse of the Salton Sea. It was a beautiful drive, showcasing the colors of California. Blues, and sandy hues of brown with a little pop of green in the perfectly groomed gardens and the bright purples of the Jacaranda trees.
In Palm Springs was Shield’s Date Gardens and their famous date shake. Shield’s was established in 1924 and is a destination place. I had not realized what a demanding crop and labor intensive dates are. They require a lot of water, but rain is not beneficial as the dates should not get wet, so a hot and dry desert location with the opportunity to water is best. They have been hand pollinated for thousands of years. Dates are not native to the United States and shoots were imported in the 20th century. They are native to the Middle East and Northern Africa. We were able to sample many of the varieties. After visiting Shield’s, I watched some of the videos on their site and it was interesting to learn that in order to continue the same variety, the new tree must be planted from the shoot and not from seed. A plant growing from a seed is always a new variety. I bought a box of Deglet noor and box of date walnut roles that have only two ingredients in them: dates and walnuts. I promised the kids date shakes once I arrived back home, and a few days after I arrived that is what we made. Promises must be kept.
Homemade California Date Shakes
2-3 handfuls of pitted dates ( I used organic deglet noor variety that I purchased at Shield’s)
1/2 dl/ 1/4 c whole milk
500 ml / 16 oz good quality vanilla ice cream slightly softened
1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla sugar
Blend until a smooth milkshake consistency. Take into account that ice cream may have a bit of a different texture in your corner of the world, and you may have to play a bit with the proportions to get just the perfect shake.
The original Shield’s date shake uses their original date crystals, but since they are not easily available I used the whole date in my recipe.