Monday, July 21, 2014


A few weeks ago, we had a bunch of red beets from our farm share.  I asked M if she'd like to make borscht and she agreed.  Only when we finished did she tell me "I come all the way to America to learn to make Ukrainian Borscht."  Ha!

Borscht is basically a beef-vegetable soup.  The really unique part is the addition of shredded red beets which adds a bright purple-red color and a sweetness similar to roasted carrot.  If you aren't accustomed to using shredded cabbage in a vegetable soup, you'll probably love this addition, too.  Cut it very thin and it simmers in.  It adds a mild flavor but provides an almost noodle-like texture to the otherwise fairly soft soup.

Here's the basics: (video link)

We skipped a few steps by starting with a watered down beef broth rather than making that from scratch; and we added peppers to the vegetable mix:

1 qt beef broth + 4 cups water
1 pound roast beef cubes (uncooked)
3 potatoes, peeled and diced
2 bay leaves

1 onion - diced
1 carrot - shredded
1 small red pepper - diced
1 small tomato, chopped
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1-2 Tbsp oil

2 medium or 3 small red beets -- boiled and peeled then shredded*
1/2 a head of cabbage, shredded
1 tsp sugar
2 cloves garlic - crushed
3 tbsp parsley, chopped
salt and pepper

sour cream for serving

1. Add to a large soup pot: broth and water, beef, potatoes, bay leaves.   Bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or so.
2. Meanwhile, saute carrots, pepper, and onions in oil until browned.  Add tomato and tomato paste and simmer until thick.  Add beets.
3. Stir the vegetable mixture into the soup.  Add cabbage and stir.  Simmer 10 minutes (until cabbage is wilted).
4. Add sugar, crushed garlic, and salt-and-pepper to taste.  Serve with sour cream.  We actually added about 1.5 cups of sour cream directly to the soup and served it that way.

* To prepare beets: cut the greens off about 1 inch above the beet.  Gently scrub off loose dirt.  Put beets in saucepan and cover with water.  Boil for 15-20 minutes or more depending on the size of the beet.  "M" insisted that you had to pour off the water 1/2 way through and finish with fresh water.  If you plan to do that, consider having a tea kettle or second pot of water boiling before you drain to save 15 minutes.  Our beets were about baseball sized and took 35 minutes.  Then drain and cool (can drop into an ice water bath).  Once cool enough to handle, the skins should slide off.  They will dye your hands red, so wear gloves if you prefer non-red hands.  Shred.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

More photos

After three days of rain and busy-busy house stuff, we took Thursday and Friday for family fun.

Thursday: horse-back riding at a farm about 45 minutes south of us.  They also had egg-laying hens, piglets, puppies, kittens, and sheep so there was much animal cuddling.

Friday: Niagara Falls.  We'd gone during the winter hosting but it was unbearably cold standing in the freezing heavy mist.  And the snow and ice had built us so heavily that orange cones had barricaded us away from the falls about 300 yards before the usual railings.  We promised we'd go back for a summer visit, which was (as expected) way way better.  We arrived early afternoon and had a picnic near where we'd been fenced at Christmas.  We walked from Goat Island to Luna Island to the mainland and then went went out to the Maid of the Mist and accompanying observation deck.  By then it was nearly 6 so we headed to the restaurant over the falls for dinner.  Unfortunately I had something with wheat and was sick for about an hour after that, but we eventually rallied and walked along the river to the upstream edge of Goat Island and then across to the Three Sisters islands.  By the time we got back to the falls, the night illumination was about to start.  We headed back to the Bridal Veil falls edge of Goat Island and admired the glow, watched the fireworks, and then headed back to see the Horseshoe Falls in their glow.  All told, it was about 9 hours at the park, plus a 2.5 hour drive each way, meaning a long energetic day.  Today has been a lot of sleeping in and lolling about.



Losh-cloff -- Wash cloth.
"what" = merger of that and which.

Usage: I used the loshcloff to wash my car what was dirty.  I used the stick to get the dirt off what was on the roof.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


We got the final approval from her country and are able to proceed.  In less than one month we will be in-country doing legal paperwork.  Anxiety, fear, excitement, and straight-up panic are all mixed together here.  I was up at 4AM unable to sleep.  At 5AM I gave up and went downstairs to work.  I checked in on the girls on my way down, and as soon as I walked in, M looked at me, fully alert herself.

Reminder: Whatever fears, anxieties, and panic we may feel, hers can only be more extreme.  Hurt kids and kids from hard places: the only thing harder than parenting them is being them (h/t Christine Moers).  It's not about me, or us.  It's about family and healing and forever.  Deeeeeep breaths.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Watkins Glen, NY

We spent the afternoon at Watkins Glen.  Crazy fairy-tale-beautiful.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

A month into forever-esque

M has been with us for a month.  We've been busy doing RegularLifePlus, which is exhausting.


At the end of June, we had a 1-month-belated Sweet Sixteen:

Cheesecake is a favorite favorite favorite, so naturally her birthday lunch was appetizers and dessert at the Cheesecake Factory.  20+ types of cheesecake were a tough choice!  I had tipped the hostess off to the birthday party, so they showed up with M's cake on a decorated plate with a candle and some singing (fairly quiet and non-obnoxious at TCF unlike most places).  

An then nothing says Sweet Sixteen like driving, even if it's "only" a go-kart.

The next week, in early July, we did a family camping trip to the northern Adirondacks. Katie and Jorge did their 3-day-2-night sleep-away camp and the rest of us stayed at a cabin 15 minutes away to avoid making the 4 hour drive back and forth.

The kids camped with us the first night.  They have a 10AM drop-off and it's a 4 hour drive, so it makes more sense for us to drive up the day before, camp nearby, drop them off, camp 2 nights, and pick them up.  While they were away we did a lot of relaxing, a failed hike (downpour mid-hike, completely soaked by the time we got back to the cabin) and a semi-failed kayak adventure (way over-did it and had to kayak back a long distance against a strong wind and 2-3 foot waves).  But we had some great bonding and connections between the kids developing during our concentrated family time.

On the way home Saturday, we stopped at a rocky waterfall and river area for some exploring and hiking.  

 And now we've been home for 2 days.  Still on the agenda (Things Promised that we need to do lest we be proven Flaky-No-Good-Liars-Who-Can't-Be-Trusted): A few days in DC, a day-trip to Niagara Falls including seeing the night-glow, and a trip to the local waterpark amusement park.  And church youth group to make friends, a tour of the local high schools, a trip to the dentist, weekly HipHop classes, the three littles to VBS for a week,   Horseback riding at a local park, Katie's much belated birthday party, and general day-to-day errands.    WOOOOOSH goes the summer.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Beach Day

Tuesday morning Rob headed to the hospital to help with some family concerns.  He would be home "later" which could mean 10AM or 3PM or 7PM.  We've had weeks of this "waiting around to see what the day would bring", which just adds frustration and boredom to the constant worry and stress.  I can't get anything meaningful done for work with 4 kids milling around and everyone ends up irritated.

So at 9:30 I checked the weather and saw it would be 85 but cloudy, meaning the beaches would be fairly empty but warm enough to enjoy.  By 11 (yes, it takes 90 minutes to move this circus) we headed the 10 miles or so north to a nice beach with a trunk full of beach mats, beach towels, bathing suits, water shoes, water bottles, a cooler full of tortillas and lunch meats, books, cameras, sunblock, beach balls, floaties, and sand toys.  This is how we roll.

At its most crowded time, there were about 15 people, not including the 6 life guards, so we had our run of the sand and water.  Rob joined us around 3pm and brought a Frisbee which got us moving around a bit more.  He also provided an additional grown-up so that we could rent a kayak.  He and M toured around the bay for about 20 minutes, then switched out so that M and I could do a loop.  By then, M was ready for a break from paddling and Rob took the younger kids in shifts.  We also rented a little hand-operated paddle boat for the kids to take turns using.

By 4:45 we were all feeling the sunburns developing and were tiring out.  Once home we did showers and laundry and a storm blew in (continuing all night and into today).  I had promised M a trip to one of the libraries that has a collection of fiction novels in Russian, so we headed there and found 3 books; and then headed to a Ukrainian/Russian cafe that has a limited but delicious menu; and then walked next door to the European Grocery that has frozen pelmeni and perogie and every pickled everything you can think of and fishy odds and ends (so many gross fishy things in my fridge right now, people.  Squick).  And then home where we met up on Skype with a former classmate now living in the US for a 2 hour giggle-filled fast-paced conversation.  We finally wrapped up at 11:30 and crashed our sunburnt exhausted selves into bed.

Today (Wednesday): rainy and stuck indoors.  We'll think of some errand or task to break this up eventually.  Right now there's origami and scrapbooking going on.