Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Graber Olive House

Jill's Journal: These are clearly our little Vanna Whites, with the grand exception being that they’re holding olives/olive oil as opposed to the keys to a new car. Looking at this picture, is it any wonder a “talent scout” approached us this week about having Madelyn audition for a career on the big or little screen? She’s a ham.

The girls and I went on a lovely little factory tour of Graber Olive House in Ontario. The tour was very interesting and we certainly learned more about olives than we knew before, but I think the thing we’ll remember most is our sweet, tiny tour guide, Betty. She’d just turned 82 the day before we met her. When the girls told her we travel, she absolutely could not wrap her head around such a thing. She’d stop mid-sentence and say things like, “But what about school?” “But what about doctors?” “How do you cook?” And after we’d answer her, she’d say with genuine pity, “Oh, I feel so sorry for you.” Her couple-of-decades-younger co-workers would say things like, “Now Betty, people don’t camp anymore in those motorhomes. They’re very modern and have lots of space.” Betty would poo-poo them and fire off more questions. And then again, “Oh, I feel so sorry for you.” A moment’s pause and then she would start all over again. It was quite hilarious. But by the end, we’d heard some of her life story and all sorts of tales about her great-grandson, so she must have thought we were okay in spite of how strange she found us. Sweet, sarcastic, little Betty. She just lost her husband last month, has a handicapped daughter who lives with her, and misses her great-grandson terribly (he’s in Missouri), so if you ever stop by Graber Olive House, give her a hug. She might slap you, but she'll appreciate it nonetheless.

Betty kept calling this the “new barn,” although I believe she said it was built in the 1920s. Graber Olive House is the oldest existing business in Ontario and has been here since 1894. Spanish missionaries had planted the first olive trees in California in 1769 and the trees flourished. C.C. Graber bought this land in Ontario in the 1890s and quickly realized growing conditions could make olives a California delicacy. He was right: today, most of the olives consumed in the United States are grown in California. These days, Graber’s descendants and their employees still hand-pack each can of olives at Graber Olive House. This is a small family business and high school students come in after school during the late fall olive season to glue the labels on the cans. Betty estimates Graber Olive House turns out about 250,000 cans annually.

The original Graber of Graber Olive House invented this olive sorting machine and it’s still used today to sort olives by size. Graber was the first person to sort and sell olives by size.

These exact curing vats are “new” to the operation, having been installed in 1931.

Here’s where the cans get packed. Betty said they do it by hand to ensure quality. They’re quick; she said they can pack about 40 cans a minute.

This canning machine is another new addition; it came through the Panama Canal to get to Graber Olive House in the 1940s. Graber olives, by the way, are never pitted. They’re picked (hand-picked and gently placed into felt-lined buckets) only when they’re perfectly ripe, which makes them too tender to pit. (Olives can only be pitted when they’re green and hard).

Graber no longer grows the olives on site; they have a ranch in California’s central valley, where growing conditions are even more ideal, and truck their entire harvest to their headquarters here in Ontario to cure and pack. In this day and age, it’s so wonderful to find a family-owned business still thriving. We definitely enjoyed our short time at Graber Olive House, even if Betty does feel sorry for us.

Monday, February 27, 2012


Jill's Journal: I love having little girls who read…

…even when it’s in the most unconventional ways.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Disney California Adventure

Jill's Journal:
We’re camped out waiting for the “World of Color,” a fantastic light, water, and fire show. It was definitely the highlight of the day. (Another highlight: Madelyn couldn’t stop messing with loose tooth #7, which fell out on the way home.)

We had a fun day at this Disney park, but Rob and I didn’t love it like the original Disneyland and neither did the kids. We’re glad we got to experience it once, but it’s honestly not something we’d ever pay for again. Happily, we have one more day on our passes and we’ll finish with Disneyland instead of CA Adventure. We’ll wait a week to do that though – two theme parks in three days have wiped us out!

Friday, February 24, 2012


Jill's Journal:
(This is Jennifer Lopez, Marc Antony, and their twins. Antony has one of the kids on his shoulders and the other is on someone else’s shoulders. J-Lo is wearing big sunglasses with her hair in a bun; she’s behind a female with a baseball cap and is partially hidden in this photo. They had quite the entourage with them. And I thought they were getting divorced? Who knows.)

At the end of the day, we asked the girls what they thought of Disneyland. They all had an absolute ball, but their individual responses suited each one perfectly.

Madelyn: “Best day EVER!!!!!!!” (Said while repeatedly leaping into the air to emphasize her point.)
Victoria: “It was fun, but there was so much walking that my feet really hurt. I don’t like that. And I didn’t like the parade because it was way too loud!”
Erika: “I loved it, really loved it, but I still love horseback riding better.” (Said with a sly smile.)

We have three-day passes, so we’ll be back. :)