Thursday, October 30, 2014

Pick a Peck of Pumpkins

I love our tradition of getting pumpkins and carving them. It makes me happy in some weird squashy way. We still go to our old stomping ground to get pumpkins. I used to lament that we didn't go to some pumpkin patch and search all over for the 'right' one, but I have since decided that Pumpkinland is the 'right' fit for us. You still get to search...just in a smaller perimeter. Pearl was zipping about right away. Look at her hair fly.

I had double duty finding pumpkins for me and my sister. (Who was coming to visit and is here right now.) I think I found just the right one.

Robyn looks very serious making her decision.

They always have the mammoth pumpkins in one section so you can take pictures. Daisy looks like a little old lady sitting on these giant pumpkins.

Group photo. Everyone make a silly face.

Ivory is still deciding if this is the right one. Sometimes if you walk around holding a pumpkin, you know if it wants to go home with you.

Don't forget about this handsome fellow. Everything is always sweeter when Dad is around.

June was doing some stunts balancing on a wobbly pumpkin.

It must have exhausted her, so she took a little siesta.

Looks like Dad found his pumpkin.

So, we are all ready to go.

June wanted to do one last pose. She was imitating the scarecrow, but Ivory saw there was something missing. Nice touch, Ives!

Now to carve all these bad boys.

*I did attend Pumpkinland earlier this month with Daisy, but I'll put those pictures in another post.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Culinary Competition

Sometimes I put off a blog post because I know it will be an epic long post with tons of pictures. But I can't avoid it forever. (And neither can you.) To give you some background, June had a birthday a little while ago. This was NOT a friend party year, so we were planning a family activity. But I got to thinking about her class and how this is their last year together in school before they are split up in Jr. High. They have all been together for four years. It seemed like June needed to have a party. I caved and did a Halloween party last year, but this year I told her that if she wanted a friend party, she would need to pay for it herself. And she did.

She payed for everything from the party favors to the ingredients for treats, and it wasn't exactly cheap to buy the treats since we hosted a Culinary Competition. (You may have guessed as much from the title.) I'm not sure where I got the idea, but it seemed like it could be really fun*. We would divide the girls up and let each team make a dessert. Then instead of cake, we could sample all the dishes at the end.

June got busy making invitations (everyone please wear an apron), and I sifted through recipes looking for desserts that would take approximately the same amount of time to make. I compiled a list and then June chose three. (I love that she chose three fruity desserts and nothing had chocolate. Random, because trust me, that girl likes her chocolate. She just likes fruit a lot too.)

But let's start at the beginning of the party. We played the classic game where you tape the name of someone to a player's back and they have to ask other party guests YES/NO questions to discover the identity of the card on their back. I tried to make it easier by making every card an animated character from a movie or TV show. The kids did a great job asking questions and figuring out their people.

June had helped me write the cards, so I secretly wrote one more to put on her back. I thought it was quite clever because I don't let the kids watch this show, but she definitely knows this character.

It took her a LONG time to guess it and it was great when she did. Her face lit up and she said, "OH, I'm Sponge Bob!"

When we finished that game it was time to dive right into cooking. We divided the girls randomly and gave each team a recipe and ingredients. Ready, Set, GO!

TEAM 1: Caramel Crunch Apple Pie
I made the crust ahead of time, but the girls went right to work cutting apples and mixing topping.

They worked well together.

I think their favorite part was that they sliced too many apples. They didn't all fit in the crust. So they were forced to eat the extras. Chefs have tough jobs.

Looks like it is ready to bake. (The recipe does call for peeled apples, but we weren't too picky this time around.)

TEAM 2: Danish Dessert Cheesecake
This team went right to work making their graham cracker crust.

They got to take a small break while their fruit topping cooled in the fridge. (The 4-square court was a convenient hangout for break takers.) But they were back right on time to layer up some deliciousness.

TEAM 3: Strawberry Lemonade Cookies
First up, mix up those batters.

(Take a short break while they firm in the fridge.) Now roll the flavors together.

Make sure you keep it lighthearted and throw some dough around.

Then get a glazed look on your face. Oh, I mean glaze those cookies. ( did we end up with all the blondes on one team? Kidding, all these girls are smart cookies. Pun totally intended.)

We had plenty of helping hands. There was this really hot guy who wandered around helping all the teams. Look at him baking cookies. (Mmmmm. Tasty.)

Daisy was happy to help with the dishes. It's always nice to have volunteers.

The desserts were about done and the pie was taking a heat bath, so we played games in the interim. First we did a quiz about June. Twenty questions about the birthday girl. Everyone was thinking hard.

Then papers were switched and June read off the answers.

I think everyone learned something new about June. (She is full of surprises.)

Amazingly there was a three way tie. But Hannah broke it easily by spouting off June's middle name without a second thought. (I guess it is fitting for June's best friend to win.)

Then we played some Three Deep. (Do you remember it from Fete Day?) As usual, there was a lot of noise. There was a lot of scrambling.

And there were a lot of people sitting on each other in odd heaps. I think they had a great time.

The pie was finished and cooling. The cheesecake was nice and chilled. The cookies were glazed and ready. So it was obviously time to open gifts. June got many nice things for her birthday including two cute aprons, which was nice since she borrowed mine for the party. She also got this great earring holder.

Side story here - On the second day of having pierced ears, June exited the shower with only one earring. She was quite distraught. I knew that if it came out in the shower, it was most assuredly gone. I thought she might be able to borrow one of my original earring studs. However, I learned very quickly that they are thicker than earrings now, and her ear was NOT accepting other applicants. Shortly after a painful failure, she found her earring in her room. It seems that it came out while she was sleeping and not in the shower. Her ear had had enough time to close that it wasn't worth trying to push it back through. We waited a good 24 hours and then went in and re-pierced it. So, in these pictures one earring was only a few hours old.

Back to the party. While June opened gifts, the girls watched and did hair. I think this is a fairly normal pastime for girls.

These girls are all such good friends. June has 14 girls in her class besides herself. Some had to come late to the party, but by the end of the evening, 13 had showed up. Impressive. We took this group photo before a few had arrived.

They are quite the characters.

But wait. It is time to eat. Look at these divine delicacies.

They are ready for their close-ups.

I dished up some of each dessert for the girls. And then the best part...taste testing. There was no clear winner. There were multiple votes for each dish.

And then I threw them outside and they played night games for a half hour or so. I would call the evening a roaring success. Who knew cooking could be so fun?

*A word to the wise. This activity worked out very well, but I would not recommend it for children of a younger age. There were only two adults on scene and we helped out plenty, but the girls were able to follow a recipe fairly well by themselves. This sort of activity could be much more frustrating with younger kids.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

To Each His Own

I take one child on a date each month. I made this goal one year, and I have kept up on it pretty well. Sometimes dates are right at the end of the month, or maybe they aren't so elaborate, but I can't remember the last month I missed.

Ivory was my date in September. She chose bowling and ice cream. I haven't been bowling in a while, so it was really fun. Ivory's favorite part was watching the ball roll back up into the rack.

She didn't need any help bowling, but she did use the bumpers. (Too bad the bumpers didn't stay up for me.)

We had such a good time. Ivory did a great job.

She almost broke 100. (I told her many adults don't even make 100.) I did a little better than Ivory, but probably only because I got a turkey. Look closely. Three Xs in a row.

Then ice cream of course. Don't ask why I look so freaky in this picture.

Ivory is great company. I love going out on the town with her.

Ivory decided about two months ago that she needed to go out with the other parent as well. Tyler likes to do dates with the girls, but he doesn't have a schedule like I do. Ivory wanted to go shooting, but she got sick. And then Tyler got sick. And then stuff came up. It wasn't until two months later that they actually made it out the door, guns in hand. (Well, not in hand. It is not safe to drive while holding a gun, no matter what they show on TV.)

I can't give you all the details, because I wasn't there, but I hear that Ivory was a pretty good shot.

And now, I'm giving the keyboard to my awesome husband...Oh, Tyler!

A few weeks ago, Ivory asked me, "Dad, can we go shooting some time." Just imagine my joy. So, heart brimming with pride, I said, "Of course we can." I took out my phone and looked over my calendar. We ultimately decided on a day the next week. She was excited.

Unfortunately, the day came, and there was illness in the Cazier home...and not just in the home: it was Ivory. So, we couldn't go shooting on the day appointed. We agreed to wait until she was well, then we'd go shooting.

Unfortunately, the next date came and there was illness in the Cazier home...and not just in the home: it was me! So, we couldn't go shooting. We agreed to wait until I was well, then we'd go shooting for sure.

Unfortunately, the next date arrived, and there was a scheduling conflict. We re-scheduled. Scheduling conflict. We re-scheduled. Forgot. Forgot to re-schedule. Excitement was...waning.

All throughout this process, Ivory would remind me when I was going around giving bedtime kisses, that we needed to go shooting. "Dad," she'd say, "we haven't gone shooting yet."

So, on Friday night when she reminded me for the umpteenth time that we hadn't gone shooting, I told myself that my child should not have to ask over and over to get some one on one time with her Dad. "Ivory," I said, "we're going shooting tomorrow. Get ready."

The next day, she was ready. It happened to be a Saturday, and the weather was great, though I was going no matter what the clouds were doing. We talked ballistics with the other girls that morning. We talked about the difference between shot and projectile, why longer guns produce faster bullets, and why faster bullets do more damage at the target. We discussed why I could shoot a bad guy with the 9mm and I'd have to shoot him a couple of times before he couldn't hurt my little ones. Then we talked about why just racking the shotgun was usually sufficient to help bad guys remember how to pray. Afterward, I carefully selected my shooting-day arsenal.

I didn't want anything too big, because I didn't want Ivory's first big shooting experience to go poorly. I wanted something that could be accurate enough for a child to shoot accurately, but produce the necessary result of, "Ya, shooting's awesome." So I selected my 9mm Beretta and 20-gauge Mossberg 500 ("The Persuader") and nestled them into my trunk...and off we flew to the nearest BLM land.

After some basics, Ivory and I descended on the range. I demoed the 9mm handgun damage on an empty soda can. We talked about safety, ear protection, entry and exit holes, ammunition, magazines, sighting a target, racking the pistol, and cocking the hammer, trigger finger safety, flagging, proper shooting posture, solid elbows and wrist, soft trigger finger, etc. It turned out well. She took some pot shots at a Gatorade bottle--figuring out her aim. Then I brought out the clay pigeons and deposited a few throughout the range. From then on, she didn't miss. Oh, the pride's just welling up here.

Notice how the gun's on safety, pointed in a safe direction, and her finger's off the trigger? She just does that naturally. Pride, overflowing. Notice the pigeon as well: that hawk-shaped hole was her first shot at the pigeon and it was the first hit she claimed as her very own (no help from Dad).

Here's the same shot with a little more of the range behind her. Notice the orange pigeon fragments just littering the area. More pride.

We ended on the 20-gauge shot gun, "The Persuader." I retrieved the empty soda with which we learned about entry and exit wounds at the beginning of our shooting expedition. Then, with all the showmanship I could muster, I yelled, "Ivory remember the 9mm holes in the soda can? Watch this!" I let fly with 1 round out of "The Persuader." The can disappeared in a cloud of dusty demolition.

We were able to recover the top of the can, and Ivory asked in amazement, "Whoa, Dad. Where'd the the bottom of the can go?" Difference between shotgun and pistol taught.

Then we lined up 3 pigeons about 4 inches apart, then backed off a few yards. I handed "The Persuader" to Ivory, and helped her position the weapon so it wouldn't hurt her when she shot. One shot, and "The Persuader" helped the pigeons into the clay afterlife. "From dust to dust," they say.

She only put two rounds through "The Persuader." That was enough to feel of its awesome destructive power.

On a side note, I showed her what the pigeons are really used for--throwing them high in to the air and "Persuading" them to explode into thousands of pieces. Turns out "The Persuader" likes to eat skeet. It's never pointed at a clay pigeon and failed to send it explosively into the great pigeon beyond. I like to think that has something to do with my amazing aim, though. Like daughter like dad.

The thing I love about this picture is how big the gun is in reference to the Ivory holding it. 

So we finally got our shooting day. That night when I tucked her into bed, I asked her if she had a good time. "Yes," she said, "we need to go shooting again." So, I guess we'll have to find another day for the range.