The Little Mermaids

Our little fish have evolved into mermaids.  Hailey is positive she is part mermaid.  She can hold her breath for over a minute and swims so gracefully she could be one.  Lately she has even been beating Max when they race.
 The girls love playing mermaids and transformed their tights into "tails."  Problem was that the tights soon tore.  There was only one thing to do.  Make tails!
 We went to Jo Ann's and they each picked out their swim fabric.  I traced them with their swim flippers on and cut out the tail.  After sewing them together I attempted to make tops to match.  Lets just say its a good things we didn't have any company over.  Hailey tried valiantly to keep it on, but it just kept slipping so she soon had to switch to a real bathing suit top.  Karlie was oblivious and just kept swimming.  LOL I worked on the tails all week and they were SO excited to play with them that they slept in braids the night before so they could have "mermaid hair."
 A rare glimpse of the elusive mermaids out of water.  I was sure Peter Pan would fly down at any moment!
A fun project that they have used every time we swim!

Just Keep Swimming, Swimming...

Finding Nemo is a family favorite with many classic quotes peppered in our lives.  Dory's quote keeps playing in my head.  :)


Dory:  Hey there, Mr. Grumpy Gills. When life gets you down do you wanna know what you've gotta do? 

Marlin:  No I don't wanna know. 

Dory:  [singing] Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. What do we do? We swim, swim.



My little fish have sure learned to swim.  This is one of the greatest parts of moving here.  I can't believe my 3 year old swims!!!

Kaitlin Swims!



Hank Swims!


Just keep swimming, swimming...  You know you are going to be singing it all day long. :)

Blue Baking

I am officially homesick.  The excitement of our adventure has worn off.  The feeling that we are on some sort of extended vacation is gone.  It's back to work, back to school and the weekly grind of homework and activities.  I miss the daily distraction the kids provided before they went to school.  It is much easier to be an ant at work than have time to think and miss home.

The heat is oppressive.  This week alone we broke one record and tied two more.  The paper reported that this is the hottest August ever recorded.  I am longing for the crisp evenings that come in late August in Colorado.  The smell of fall and the glorious turning of the leaves that is soon to follow.  Not here.  It is so hot the kids have to sit in the "cool room" for recess.  We have had a week long "extreme heat warning."  If you ask me, I think the whole summer would fit in that category.  When we walk home from the bus stop it feels as though flames are licking your skin.  People are not meant to live in the desert.  It is very hostile.

Scorpions don't like the heat either.  Once it gets too much above 105, they seek shelter.  Unfortunately, they are seeking it in my home.  We have tried pest control, attempting to seal all possible entrances and Max goes hunting at night for them.  However, they remain.  In the last three weeks they have single handedly made it so I am ready to pack up and move.  There were two giant ones under the dog dish, two in my towels, one fell off my shirt hanging in the closet.  Not to mention the numerous others just hanging out in the bathrooms.  I praise God that no one has been stung.  The experts say seeing 7 in a season is really bad.  We have been having one or two daily.  The scorpion lady feels they are living in our walls.  Sweet dreams.

Since idle hands are the work of the devil, I have been baking to attempt to console myself.  I love to bake.  I love to make beautiful things that my family likes to eat.  I get extra satisfaction out of baking things that taste delicious that are egg free so that Hank can enjoy them with us!  The first was this Eggless Strawberry Cake.  It uses buttermilk in place of eggs and it is wonderful.  However, you can use an egg if you prefer.  Perfectly paired with coffee or ice cream. 

I bought a giant clam shell of blueberries at Costco that just begged to be baked with.  I made Three Berry Eggless Muffins.  It was a great way to use left over strawberries and raspberries.  They are divine the next day!

Three Berry Eggless Muffins

2 cups flour
1 and 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
2 tsp orange juice
1 cup fat free milk
1/3 cup oil
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup fresh strawberries sliced
1/2 cup fresh raspberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium bowl combine dry ingredients.

In a large bowl combine the wet ingredients.

Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture and mix until just combined.

Gently fold in the berries.

I like to use cupcake papers.  Fill either well greased muffin tins or papers 2/3 full.

Bake in the oven for 22 minutes.

Allow them to cool for 15-20 min on a wire rack.

They are best the next morning but the kids thought they were just fine fresh out of the oven. :)

My crown jewel was this Blueberry Chocolate Cake = sin!  I wanted to use my blueberries but really wanted some chocolate comfort food.

Blueberry Chocolate Cake
3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
6 Tbsp Hershey's Cocoa
2 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp vinegar
2/3 cup oil
1/2 cup blueberries
2 cups water
1 cup of blueberries for decorating

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl.

Put the blueberries and 2 cups of water in a blender or food processor and blend.  Use a strainer to remove the pulp.  Add your blueberry juice to a medium bowl and then add the remaining wet ingredients.  Mix well.

Combine the wet and dry ingredients until combined.

Pour batter into a greased 9 inch springform pan.

Bake for one hour or until toothpick comes out clean at the center of cake.  I pulled mine out a little too soon and the center collapsed a little.  But it made a perfect spot for a pile of blueberries. :)


Allow cake to cool for at least 2 hours and then transfer to serving platter.

Then pour this Chocolate Ganache (aka heaven) over the cake.  I used most of a bag of Ghiradelli Bittersweet Baking chips.  Start in the center and move outward allowing the ganache to roll off the edges.  I made an additional little mote around the base of the cake for the blueberries to swim in.  If some is good, more is better!

Allow the ganache to set up for about 10 minutes then add the blueberries around the side and in the center.

The chocolate ganache is really so good, you must try it.  Today!  You will thank me later. If you have some left over, you can dip strawberries in it and put them in the fridge.  Your kids will eat their fruits this way, I guarantee it!  Or you can just stick you fingers in it and  lick the bowl like I did.  I was happy.  Very happy.  Scorpions eat your heart out!

Apple Blueberry Peach Pie

This really should be named over rip fruit bowl pie, but that doesn't sound as appetizing.  My eyes are often are bigger than my family's ability to eat fresh fruit fast enough.  I just can't help it when I see fresh peaches and cheap blueberries.  But by the end of the week some of it just hasn't made it out of the fruit bowl or fridge.  I had some apples, berries and one peach about to go bad so I threw them in a pie and low and behold they got eaten right up!  I adapted this recipe to fit what I needed to use and with my own crust.  Turned out so well that it might become a part of the regular rotation!  Got to get those 5 a day in somehow. :)


Apple Blueberry Peach Pie

Crust

1      cup flour

6      tablespoons of butter

1/2   tsp salt

1/4   cup of ice water

1/2    teaspoon lemon juice

In a mixing bowl combine flour and salt.  Add pats of butter and mix with electric mixer until mixture resembles coarse sand.  Slowly add ice cold water until dough balls up.  Add lemon juice.  Remove dough from mixer and hand kneed until uniform.  Wrap dough in plastic wrap and keep in refrigerator until ready to roll out for pie.


Filling

4
cups sliced peeled apples (4 medium)  I used red apples.
2
cups fresh blueberries
1        peach peeled and sliced
3/4
cup granulated sugar
1/4
cup  flour
1/2
teaspoon ground cinnamon
1
tablespoon lemon juice
6       dollops of cream cheese
In a large bowl add fruit, sugar, flour, cinnamon and lemon juice.  Gently toss to combine.
Topping
1
cup all-purpose flour
1/2
cup packed brown sugar
1/4
teaspoon nutmeg
1/3
cup butter softened

In a small bowl mix topping ingredients with a fork until crumbly and set aside.

Place a sheet of foil under middle of oven rack to catch drippings.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  
Roll pie crust out on a floured surface to fit a 9-inch pie pan.
Place crust in pie pan with edges overhanging the rim.
Pour fruit filling into crust lined pie pan. 
Place dollops of cream cheese evenly on top of filling.
Spoon crumb topping evenly over filling.
Place pie on middle rack and bake for 60 minutes or until pie begins to bubble.
After 20 minutes of baking cover pie loosely with foil to prevent the top from burning.
Cool and enjoy! 

Hank's 1st Day of School

Today Hank started preschool!  He will go on Monday and Wednesdays from 9 - 2 at a church preschool nearby.


It was my first morning of doing everything times 4!


4 Lunches?  Check.
4 Water bottles?  Check.
4 Backpacks?  Check.

4 sun screened kids?


Check.
Max met me at Hank's school.  He knew I would need a hug after letting Hank go.
Hank kept asking, "Can I go now?"  As soon as he got in his class, his teacher showed him his cubbie and he started playing with all the toys.  He was thrilled.  He didn't even hug us goodbye.  He just waved and went back to playing.
In the car the tears I had been fighting were finally allowed to flow.  Tears of joy and sadness.  I am so happy for Hank.  So happy he is healthy, happy and ready for school (so much better adjusted than his mother).  I should be happy that he was not clingy or crying and wanting to stay with me.  He is ready to fly.  I am just not entirely ready.

You see, for the last decade I have been raising babies and kids.  Someone has always needed me.  Needed me for nearly every waking hour and in many cases even in the sleeping hour!  For the first time in a very long time I am alone.  I have ten hours a week now with just me, without anyone needing me.  I know many moms would shout for joy.  Sure I will be happy to run errands alone and can start making great meals.  I will have time to do all those little projects I have been putting off and start volunteering.  Heck, I might even be able to finish a few books.  But I am done with yet another chapter in my life.  I am now a mom to school-age kids.  No longer am I a mom to babies or toddlers.  The chapters are ending faster than I would like.  While many wonderful chapters still await to be written, by far some of my best have been read.

20 Years!

 20 Years ago today Max asked me to be his girl.  We were standing by the pool in my parent's backyard.  He would soon ask me to our Freshman Homecoming, then Sophomore, then Junior, then Senior and both Proms.  Here we are 20 years ago! (Yes, those are Z. Cavariccis and yes, that is a bleach blonde mullet!)

Tonight we were standing by our pool in our backyard as parents (and probably 20 pounds heavier).  What an amazing journey we have had together.  I thought I was the luckiest girl in the world back then and still do today.  
I love you babe.  Here is to 20 more happy and loving years together!

Back To School 2011

I can't believe it is already time for the kids to go back to school.  I can add too early back to school in the don't like column of Arizona along with scorpions, spiders, haboobs and heat.  We would still have two more weeks of summer if we were in Colorado.
Kaitlin started Kindergarten this year! :(  She has blossomed so much over the last year and has become a little social butterfly.  Kaitlin is such an affectionate girl, I really hoped and prayed for a soft spoken and lovable Kindergarten teacher.  From the first day it seems her teacher is going to be a wonderful fit!


Karlie is a big 2nd grader and was really excited to make some new friends.  Her teacher is about as warm and nice as they come.  Karlie made two new friends and was already invited for play date!
Hailey is the queen of the school this year as a 5th grader.  They have a homeroom and rotate through their core classes, which is an exciting change for her.  The moment she walked through the door a girl came up to her and asked her if she was friends with Grace.  Apparently a girl from church (Grace) had told her friend about Hailey and to find her and make friends with her.  Hailey was really happy to have someone to play with at recess and eat lunch with.
These girls are going to miss this.  They played a lot all summer.  Not having their own friends around allowed them to share a special bond this summer.  I think we have all grown a little closer since the move.
Kaitlin at her table.  After we hung up her backpack I took her out to the playground to say goodbye.  She saw the swings and wanted me to push her.  I told her I knew she could pump and swing herself.  It was time for me to go.  To let her go swing on her own.  Once again the tears overfilled my eyes as I kissed her head and sent her running to the swings.  The outdoor duty volunteer rubbed my arm and said, "it's harder on us than them."  Her eyes began to water and I decided I had better get to the school's Boo-Hoo breakfast before I really lost it.  My little flower is off to swing high.  The time goes so fast.  I wish I had just a little more time to push her and hear her giggle.
Karlie made fast friends with the girl next to her.  It is just the two girls at a table with 6 boys!  Karlie said the teacher told her and her girlfriend that she put them there special to show the boys the way to behave. :)  Surprisingly Karlie was the most clingy and reluctant to let me go.  Luckily her teacher hugged her and gave her a special picture to color when I left.

I didn't want to mortify Hailey, so I just gave her a hug and spared her the picture at her desk.  Sniff, Sniff.  Soon I won't even be able to hug her goodbye.

We decided at the last minute to go to the Arizona Diamondbacks game to celebrate the first day of school!  Clearly four kids has relaxed us.  Out late at a baseball game on the first night of school!  Pass their bedtime and full of popcorn and candy?!  If the morning of letting them go taught me anything, it taught me to seize the day!
Unfortunately our team stinks and by the 3rd inning they were losing 7-0!!  The fans were booing their own guys.  But the stadium was air conditioned and the kids could dance and yell as much as they wanted because we had no one around us.  It was Hank and Kaitlin's first time to the ballpark!
My mom is here to see the kid's school, meet their teachers and for their first big day! Secretly I think she knew I would need a little support on that first day.  Its been a rough summer of change and I am never ready for the kids to go back.  It was especially hard this year.  Thanks for holding my hand mom.

Happy 14th Birthday Daisy!!

Today Daisy turned 14!!!  During the dog days of summer you have to find an excuse to celebrate, so we went all out for our girl.

Normally, we would let sleeping dogs lie, but every dog has it's day!
You could say my cakes have gone to the dogs.  :)  This time the girls decorated the cake. They did all the bones and little balls.  We made a chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting covered with fondant.  While we made the cake, Max and Hank worked to replace the garage door opener.  They worked liked dogs and were practically panting when they came in.
We had hot dogs in Daisy's honor.
We have tired to take her swimming, but you can't teach an old dog new tricks.  Daisy has never been fond of water, and doggone it, I don't think even 115 degrees can change her mind.

But we swam all day until we were dog tired.

We sang Happy Birthday  Daisy!
Daisy got her own special cupcake of turkey, cheese, and frosting with a chicken bone rawhide treat on top.
She thought for sure she would be in the dog house if she ate off the table, but Hailey gave her a little taste of cream cheese and soon she realized she was top dog for the day!
It's a dog's life...
A house is not a home without a dog.  While this might be our firstborn's last birthday, today we celebrate all she has taught us, all she has endured (being kicked down the totem pole 4 times!), and all the joy she has given us over our 14 years and her 98 years!  We love you old dog.
That's 14 dogs if you weren't counting! :)

A Painting We Will Go

 We have lots of fun weekends of painting ahead of us.  Max painted the family room right away.  The color they had for the family room and our bedroom was a yellow, brown that had the feel of Santa Fe gone wrong.


It was a really warm color but I think we are good on the warm here.
 Had to get a giant ladder since the ceilings are 14 feet.
He might not send flowers but he is romantic in his own way.  :)

                                

We still have lots of decorating to do but at least we have walls that calm us rather than give us hot flashes.


Next on the chopping block was Karlie and Kaitlin's room...  RED ROOM had to die.  This was how they had the room.  The girls immediately took sharpie (under dad's supervision) and wrote GIRLS ROCK and put a D in front of the RULE.  They also added K Buddies RULE.  Their first (hopefully last) graffiti.

We let them pick their paint.  Each got two walls.  Karlie really wanted a shamrock green but we warned her it would be really dark.  So she opted to highlight her letters of her name with the dark green instead and go with a soft green.  Kaitlin was also fond of hot pink and did the same.
Baby dolls, books and Barbies.

The bathroom is also blood red, so it will get a face lift as well.  But Hailey's room is next!
I am sure Max is going to want to work weekends with all the painting he has ahead of him.