Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Has it really been 9 years?

Yes. Hard to believe, but Jace and I went on our very first date 9 years ago today. My last first date.
In honor of the 9th anniversary of our first date, I'd like to give you 9 random things that I love about my wonderful husband:

He does the dishes without complaining (and without having to be asked!!)

He remembers all the funny stories that I always seem to forget (he even remembers the ones I wish he might forget!)

He will get up in the middle of the night to straighten the sheets when they come untucked from the bottom of the bed, because he knows it bothers me.

He will turn around and add an hour onto a 5 hour trip just to go back to the house to get my wedding ring when I forgot it home (because he knows I have a fear of someone breaking into my house when I'm gone and only taking my engagement ring…and I LOVE my engagement ring! It's the most beautiful ring I've ever seen!)

He sends me Outlook Calendar Meeting Notices for date nights (we are both nerds I guess…but it works!)

He always says "yes" when I ask "are you about to get up and get something to drink?" whether he needs a drink or not…because he knows I want one.

He starts my car for me on cold mornings so that it's toasty warm when I leave for work.

He's always on my side, whether I'm fighting a battle with friends, family or coworkers, he always takes my side.

He reminds me every day that God is in control, and I need to stop trying to plan or worry about things.

I still can't believe it's been 9 years. I'm sure that the 10th year will be even better than any of the 9 before it. It seems to only get better with time.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

What do you know about Russian cooking?

About a week or so ago, I got a call from our Adoption agency to go over some of the questions adoptive parents are asked in court. Very interesting. I had no idea they would ask so many things. Some of the questions were like “Why do you want to change his name?” and “How will you teach him English?” These seemed easy enough to answer. When she asked “What do you know about Russian Cooking?” I was stumped. I know nothing about Russian cuisine. When we were in Russia we asked our translator/coordinator to take us to a Russian restaurant, and she said that Russian food was bad and she’d rather not go to a Russian restaurant. I know...your thinking “what? Aren’t you Russian?” Instead we ate at the Italian and German restaurants. They were tasty! But not Russian.

So when I told the lady with our agency that I know nothing about Russian cooking, she forwarded me a few recipes to try. Jace and I also did some internet research to find other Russian foods and we decided to make an evening of it. A night to eat like the Russians.

After we put our menu together, we decided that this was entirely too much food for just the two of us, so we called Jace’s parents to come help us eat the food. They decided that they were indeed brave enough to come down to LaPlace to test out our Russian cooking.


Raney Russian Food Experience

Salad: Onion Salad

Soup: Borscht

Main Dish: Beef Stroganoff

Side Dish: Potatoes Romanoff

Dessert: Twig Cookies (Khvorost)

Drink: Sbiten


We started off with an Onion Salad. If you know me, then you know about my love for all things onion. It is my favorite food. Well that was until tonight. This is definitely the starter to the meal you give your daughter before her first date. Not a chance of a good night kiss after this!

Onion Salad

9oz. Green onions
3 hard boiled eggs
3 tbsp sour cream
2 tbsp mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste

Wash green onions and chop. Hard boil the eggs. Chop eggs and combine with green onions. Mix together mayo, sour cream, salt and pepper and pour into onion and egg mixture. Serve cold.


Moving right along to the Borscht. This is a traditional Russian soup with beets. I wasn’t real sure I was going to like this one at all. I had never really had beets before (and our grocery stores here didn’t even sell beets, we had to purchase canned beets instead). It was GREAT! I think you should try this with your family. It was sort of sweet. I loved it.


2 pounds uncooked beets, peeled
2 carrots, peeled
2 celery stalks
3 tablespoons butter/ or 2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 bay leave
1 large parsley sprig
4 whole peppercorns
5 cup beef or chicken stock
2/3 cup beet juice from pickled beets
salt and freshly grounded black pepper
Sour cream, garnished with snipped fresh chives or sprigs of dill, to serve.

Beets are the main ingredient in Borscht, and their flavor and color dominate this well-known soup. Cut the beets, carrots and celery into fairly thick strips. Melt the butter (or olive oil) in a large pan and cook the onions law heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the beets, carrots and celery and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and chopped tomatoes to the pan and cook, stirring, for 2 more minutes. Place the bay leaf, parsley, cloves and peppercorns in a piece of muslin and tie with string. Add the muslin bag to the pan with the stock. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 1 ¼ hours or until the vegetables are very tender. Discard the bag. Stir the beet juice and season. Bring to a boil. Ladle into bowls and serve with sour cream garnished with chives or dill.


The Potatoes Romanoff were tasty. I wish I had left them in the oven a little longer...the potatoes were not quite as soft as I like them. Overall this was a very tasty dish. I might make this one again, just need to remember to cook the potatoes a little longer next time.

Potatoes Romanoff

4 cups small New Potatoes, cleaned
6 ounces extra-old White Cheddar Cheese, grated
1 cup Sour Cream
1 Red Onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon Salt (or to taste)
1 teaspoon Black Pepper (or to taste)
1 teaspoon Paprika
2 cloves Garlic, minced.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine all ingredients and cook in a casserole dish for 25-30 minutes or until potatoes are tender.


My favorite food of the evening was the Beef Stroganoff. It was the most “American” of the bunch.

Beef Stroganoff

1 lb beef sirloin
1 tablespoon flour
½ teaspoon salt and pepper (to taste)
2 tablespoons butter
1 (3oz) can mushrooms, sliced, drained
½ cup onion, thinly sliced
½ teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 (10 ½ oz) can beef broth

1 cup sour cream

Coat meat with flour. Heat large skillet, add butter. Add meat and brown quickly on both sides. Add mushrooms, onion, and garlic to skillet. Cook 3-4 minutes until onion is crisp-tender. Remove mixture from pan. Add butter to pan drippings, blend in flour. Add beef broth. Cook and stir over medium-high heat, until thick and bubbly. Return meat mixture to pan. Stir in sour cream. Cook slowly until heated through. DO NOT BOIL. Sever over hot buttered noodles.


For Dessert, Jace fried us some Twig Cookies. We still aren’t real sure why they are called “Twig” cookies. Maybe they look like trees in Russia. These cookies were tasty enough, but I don’t know if they were worth all the work.

Twig Cookies (Khvorost)

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 pinch salt
2 eggs
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons brandy (may sub apple juice)
vegetable oil
1 cup powdered sugar (confectioner's)

Sift the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside.
Place the eggs and sugar into a medium mixing bowl and beat with electric mixer on medium speed until pale yellow, about 2 minutes.
Add the butter and half of the flour mixture and beat until just mixed, then add remaining flour mixture and beat until dough begins to come together.
Add the brandy and continue beating until dough forms completely.
Shape the dough into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Let the covered dough come almost to room temperature. Line 1 sheet pan with wax paper(or parchment) and another pan with paper towels; set both aside.


While we were enjoying our Twig Cookies, we fixed us some tasty Sbiten. This is a drink similar to Wassel and I think if you like Wassel, you would love this. I do not love Wassel, therefore I did not love this. The rest of the family seemed to really like this drink.


10 cups water
1 pound berry jam (16 ounces)
½ cup honey
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cloves
½ teaspooon cinnamon

Measure the water into a large pot and heat until the water boils.
Stir in jam, honey, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon.
Simmer, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. Ladle into mugs and serve hot.
Serves 10 to 12.


Of course, you can't have a fancy dinner at the Raney residence without a little food fight....

Overall I must say that I really liked most of the meal. It was a lot of fun to make and now when someone asks me about my knowledge of Russian cuisine, I can safely say that "I've cooked a Russian meal!"

Have you been playing with his toys?

Um. Yes. Yes I have. So what? I wanted to make sure they were safe and fun for him.

We’ve had lots of fun. I beat Jace in Hungry Hippo and Uno Moo…I wonder how the kid will do against me?

These little fridge magnets have been lots of fun too…every time I walk by the refrigerator, I put a different letter in and see what sound it makes.

I’ve written most of my thank you notes at his little table.

Poor Ella's been chased all over the house by this little toy.

I can't wait for the little guy to get here so we can play with all this fun stuff together.

Friday, January 1, 2010

How do you prepare for a child? (Part 3)

I know. It’s hard to believe that there would be a need for a “Part 3” of this blog, but because of all these wonderful people, there is enough stuff to talk about.

On December 19, the folks from LaPlace threw a shower for our little man.

A little over three years ago, Jace and I made the decision to move closer to his work. He was working lots of hours, and we thought we might be able to see each other more if we lived closer to where he worked. Prior to moving to LaPlace, Jace and I lived in Denham Springs, LA. I loved living in Denham Springs. Our house was really cute. Jace would drive from Denham Springs to Norco (about an hour and fifteen minutes) everyday to work, and then turn around and drive back in the evenings. It wasn’t really working for us.

When I walked through the front door of the house we ended up buying, I knew it was “the one.” I had no idea that I would be moving into the same neighborhood as some of the most wonderful people in LaPlace.

These LaPlace folks know how to throw a party. Check out that spread. It was all so tasty!!

Raney....That's us!!

I'm so glad that Miss Molly came to the party. She was a huge help opening all the presents and inspecting them to make sure they looked like fun. She looks a little unhappy in this picture...not really into the whole picture taking thing I guess.

The Hostesses....Heather, Missy, Marylou and Scarlett...such wonderful friends!!

Marylou made cake...it was unbelieveable!! That girl is so talented.

We REALLY enjoyed the cake...

These folks are like family to me...we have Sunday lunch together, we help keep each others kids (one day they will return the favors!!) and if I ever ran out of sugar or eggs...I can just run to one of them. I'm so blessed to have such a great group of people to help us raise our little man.