A few pictures from our Independence Day Celebration

We had a wonderful and sort-of-quiet 4th of July celebration this year. Stan’s cousin Leona and her husband Rob came over to hang out with us in the afternoon and evening, and kids just loved spending time with them! Edward started out with reciting some history facts that he remembered about the Revolutionary War, the first Independence Day, the signing of the Declaration of Independence and some other stuff, that we’ve covered in our theme unit just a week prior. After that a game of Sorry was played and then everyone moved outside for some fun in the sun and for grilling of the dinner.

Rob and Leona took turns throwing the ball to Edward in this makeshift baseball game. He was all too happy to count his Grand Slams and Home Runs ;)

We had a very yummy dinner to celebrate the Independence Day, even though you can’t see it in this picture.

Rob and Leona needed to head out before 8 pm, so we decided to do some sparklers and fireworks, even though it wasn’t dark yet.

Connor’s first sparkler (last year he was too little for those).

Dropping the flames ;)

Boys were mesmerized by this fountain firework Rob and Leona brought with them.

Stan and Connor

Festive mailbox

Some red daylilies have opened up adding to the festivities of the day

Blue hydrangeas

Edward posing by the hydrangeas

Connor petting our kitty-cat

Did you all have a fun-filled 4th of July?

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Summer Gardening Series: The First Harvest

We’ve been getting the herbs from our garden for a couple of weeks now (rosemary, basil, parsley, and mint (yum – fresh mint tea!)), but today we finally collected our first harvest which weighed in at just about 4 lbs! This picture is quite deceptive – it’s a big platter here, not a luncheon-size plate :)

The pickling cucumbers hardly made it to this picture – everyone wanted to eat them so fast! Needless to say, they never did make it to dinner time :) Rather, they were consumed right away :) Summer squash and zucchini smelled so fresh, I decided to make my yummy and summery pasta primavera. I usually stick in whatever summer veggies I have on hand there, plus vidalia onion, fresh garlic and basil (from the garden, of course!), and sometimes black olives. This time I also had a little grilled chicken leftover from the 4th, so in it went with the veggies. I also added some kale for extra greens.

I wish you could all smell it! As it was cooking it smelled delicious, and after I shut the veggies off and added fresh garlic and basil, it was heavenly :) Boys just came running from the basement asking what smelled so nice ;)

Topped with fresh asiago cheese and fresh garden basil, this was a hit!

Our hydrangeas are in full bloom right now in the garden, so we’ve been enjoying freshly-cut blooms in the kitchen (this vase) and in the bedroom. They look and smell so nice, it just feels very summery!

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Happy Birthday Connor!

This past Sunday 2 years ago, my sweet little blue-eyed wonder entered this world to make me a mommy for the second time. This year we celebrated his precious second birthday. I cannot believe how fast this time flew by, my precious little boy, and how much you have grown. You are out of the baby stage now and are prodly referring to yourself as a “big boy”, and you are all ready to become a big brother soon!

Mommy loves you and is so proud of you my sweet little one. Keep on smiling and staying as happy as you are, my love! Happy Birthday, Connor-boy!

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Happy Sunday!

Beautiful Rose after the abundant rain…

Enjoy the beauty of God’s creation today.

I just wanted to share a couple of beautiful summer flowers with all of you. These are all from our garden/yard.

Beautiful Azaleas

Cheerful gerbera daisies

Bright orange daylilies

Delicate hydrangea

What is blooming in your garden today?

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The True Russian Borsch Recipe

A friend of mine recently asked me to give her my Russian borsch recipe as she had too many beets she was trying to figure out what to do with. Since I had to get it from my head down onto paper (well, the computer screen) anyway, I figured I would post it here as well. Guess what we had for dinner today? ;)

Russian Borsch

by the way, there’s no “T” at the end of that word :)

Ingredients

homemade or low-sodium chicken or beef Stock – 3 quarts
boneless, skinless chicken or beef, cut into small cubes – 1 lb
onion (shredded very small) – 3/4 lb
carrots (cut into small narrow strips) – 1/2 lb
beets (cut into small narrow strips) – 1/2 lb
bell pepper (cut into short narrow strips) – 1/2 lb
tomato sauce – 1 14 oz can
potatoes (peeled and cubed ) – 3 lbs
cabbage (shredded thinly) – 1 1/2 lbs
vegetable oil – 3 tbsp
salt, pepper, garlic, parsley and dill (shredded very small) to taste, 2 bay leaves

Directions

In a large sauteing pan pre-heat the oil, then saute the carrots until they are just starting to turn golden brown, add beats and cook until they are tender. Add onions and bell pepper, and saute everything together for about 3-4 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and a little water (if necessary to be able to stir easily). Cover with a lid and let saute for about 3-5 minutes (on medium heat). Turn off and set aside.

In a large stock pot bring chicken or beef stock to a rapid boil. Add cut-up pieces of meat, and let it boil for about 20 minutes. Add potatoes and bring to boil again. Add the vegetable mix from the pan, bring everything to boil. Let it boil for a few minutes, then add shredded cabbage. Add salt and pepper to taste and cook until the potatoes, cabbage, and meat are ready. Add 2 bay leaves and let sit for a few minutes. Remove the bay leaves before serving. Serve with sour cream, garlic slices, parsley and dill on the side, and fresh bread.

Serves 12.

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Summer Gardening Series: The Progress by the End of June

Despite numerous challenges that I wrote about yesterday, our garden keeps growing. Partly abundant rains and hot weather might be to blame for that, partly Stan’s vigilance about keeping the critters out of the garden so that they would not inflict any further damage on the poor little plants. Having two little helpers who like to help with weeding (well, at least so far) helps too :)

I promised to share some pictures of the current state of the garden. Here’s where we are about 1 month after planting, even though most all of the plants got damaged during this month in one way or the other. They are bouncing back, I think :)

Boys’ planter – check out those enormous pumpkin leaves on the left  – Edward planted those from seeds and this is how huge they’ve gotten in the 1.5 months since.

Tomatoes are all caged up and supported finally.

Eggplants, herbs, squash and cantaloupes

More tomatoes and pepper plants. Even though pepper plants hardly got attacked by the woodchucks they are not growing as fast as they should – they are still pretty small…

Tiny tomatoes still have little raindrops on them

Garden overview

Happy summer squash plant has little squashes on it already :) It makes me smile :)

Edward by his huge pumpkin plant

Herbs – rosemary, mint, parsley, and basil

Zucchini plant with baby zucchinis on it

Edward weeding in his planter

Connor weeding in the main garden bed. He did an excellent job!

Happy helper

And this is where we are at this stage. As the garden grows and progresses more (God willing!) I’ll be sharing more pictures with all of you. Come back tomorrow to see some photos of my favorite summer flowers here on Simple Motherhood Blog.

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Summer Gardening Series: The Early Challenges

In my post yesterday, I wrote about how excited we were about starting on the road to raised garden bed gardening and the whole adventure of it. However, we did already have to deal with quite a few challenges. I do not have any pictures for this post, but let me just say there were times, when we were so upset about the gravity of the situation we wondered why we even started it all in the first place.

Challenge #1: The Woodchucks.

These were the worst (still are, actually). Even though we put up the fence around the garden right on the day when we planted everything, they would still get in multiple times a day. Stan then went around the garden and put a second (chicken wire) fence around it too. Then we bought overpriced repellent pellets at Home Depot that were supposed to keep woodchucks and the likes of them away from the tiny plants. Imagine our disappointment when we discovered that those mindless creatures actually liked the powder! We were appalled, but every day (and sometimes multiple times a day) we would look in the garden, and something new would be missing (as in entire plant would be eaten down practically to the ground). One day we got back and found every single one of our tomato plants missing a top and some of them missing a large chunk of a plant. That was literally the straw that broke the camels’ back, and Stan since then dealt with the creatures much more severely than just sprinkling repellent powder. We’ve had at least a dozen of them, and now we are down to just a few (maybe 4 or so), but even those don’t come out as often as before, as they’ve gotten to be more skittish. They have ruined almost all the plants we had, and some of those plants never recovered, although some are slowly coming back to life.

Challenge #2: Moles, chipmunks, rabbits, and other little critters.

Realistically, woodchucks should have just gone into this category as well, but since they’ve been the biggest pain, I had to single them out as the biggest challenge. :) Here again, we’ve sprinkled repellent powder that’s designed specifically against those species, but I’m not sure how much it helped. Just a few days ago, we saw a rabbit right inside the garden happily nibbling on baby cauliflower. I was so mad, I wanted to go back to Home Depot and return the rest of those repellent powders right then and tell them that those do absolutely no good, and how can they charge $20 a bottle for it… But alas, those bottles were more than half empty, and I’m sure Home Depot people would have looked at me funny trying to return something that has been opened and used :)

Challenge #3: Some kind of bugs.

Some kind of bugs are attacking out tomatoes, eggplants, and pepper plants, as well as some of the cantaloupe plants. I’m not sure what they are, but everyday I see new holes in the leaves of those poor plants and start wondering what we need to do to keep those alive. We didn’t want to spray those plants with any harsh chemicals, as we are trying to keep the food (if anything ever grows that is) as close to natural as possible, but we might need to look for some sort of solution to prevent those bugs from spreading.

There are lots of other challenges  that I won’t cover in detail, but regardless I am still glad we put in the garden. The kids get so much enjoyment out of it, and it’s a joy for us as parents as well to show them where the real food comes from, and to watch them take care of those plants and help them grow.

Tomorrow I will share some pictures of the current state of our garden, that is still growing despite all the obstacles. If you want to see all the progress we’ve had so far, be sure to come back and check it out.

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