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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Арошины Реплики

Arosha laughing.Вчера немного озверевший за время нашего отпуска Шублик цапнул Арошу. Я, ругаясь на кота, пригрозила ему тушением в сметанке и лучке. Ароша неуверенно улыбался, не зная как меня понимать. Потом я обьяснила ему, что я, конечно же шучу. Ароша с одной стороны был рад, что Шублика ему есть не придётся, а с другой не очень доволен моей шутке.
– Мама! Ну я же всему верю, что вы говорите!

Во время ожидания в Канкунском аэропорте Ароша умудрился сначала разбить флакон духов в одном магазине (его простили), потом керамического попугая в другом (пришлось заплатить, причём мы сказали, что он должен отдать нужную сумму из накопленных им денег, а если не хватит, то доплачивать еще потом когда ему подарят деньги на какой-нибудь праздник). И вот, когда мы приземлились в Нью-Йоке, дедушка и папа стали над ним подшучивать:
– (д) Ароша, хорошо что мы уже приземлились, а то я боялся, что ты самолёт случайно разломаешь.
– (п) Да, я думал, крыло оторвёшь, например.

Я не помню, отреaгировал ли как-то на их реплики Ароша, но вечером следующего дня он мне говорит:
– Дедушка сказал, что боялся, что я разломаю самолёт. Это смешно? А папа говорил, что крыло оторву. Это они шутили?

Вобщем, он, видно, опять об этом вспомнил и решил проверить, правильно ли у него работает чувство юмора.

Arosha in action.А сегодня утром, когда я поднимала его в школу, он сказал:
– Мама, я ничего не понимаю, ночь сейчас или день. Только вроде говорили иди спать, а уже вставать пора!

Еще Ароша обожает спрашивать суммы чисел. Например, сколько будет 5+3, а потом, когда я скажу 8, он спросит, а 8+8, а потом спросит сколько будет 16+7, а потом 23+25, ну и так далее. Он уже некоторые простейшие вычисления запомнил (типа 5+5 или 3+4), что, в принципе, хорошо.

Ну а еще у Ароши уже лучше получается говорить по-английски. Конечно, до уровня русского еще очень далеко, но по сравнению с тем, что было в начале учебного года, прогресс налицо. Когда мы летели в самолёте, он пытался общаться с американским мальчиком на год его младше. Спрашивает:
– (A) Мама, а по-английски как будет ночь?
– (Я) Night.
– (A) It’s night already (выглядывая из окошка в темноту неба).
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Monday, April 13, 2015

Gifted and Talented

Our son.While we were on our great vacation in Mexico we got a great piece of news via email. Back in January Arosha has taken a test administered by the Board of Education of NYC for Gifted and Talented program. I worried for how he was going to do, but we were hoping that he would get over 90 to get admitted into this program. Alena ordered several books to work on logic and Arosha seemed to enjoy going through them quite a bit. He found solving puzzles fun.

Solving puzzles.We were very very happy to find out that he scored 97 out of 99 possible points, meaning that he did better than 97% of other kids. He got a perfect 99 on the logic part, but lost a couple of points on the verbal part. His attention sometimes wonders and the examinator is not allowed to repeat the question. Kids have to catch the question on the first try. He still did very well on it too. Needless to say we’re extremely proud of him. Now he has a choice of many schools in the city, but we’re probably going to pick our local school as our top choice.

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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Hearhstone Update

My latest Hearthstone stats.Tomorrow Blizzard is releasing a second adventure mode expansion for their free-to-play card game Hearthstone. The expansion is going to focus on defeating the multitude of bosses and their minions that reside inside the Blackrock Mountain. Blackrock Mountain is actually the place we used to raid during our World of Warcraft days, when it took 40 people to defeat anything.

Lucky pack.Meanwhile I wanted to post an update on our past and current adventures in Hearthstone. We never really stopped playing. Sometimes we play more, sometimes less, but all throughout these months we’ve been enjoying this great game where a typical match takes from 10-15 minutes.

Angry Chicken win.Sometimes I start to lose interest, but my favorite Hearthstone podcast — The Angry Chicken — starts the fire again. The podcast is named after one of the most worthless cards in the game, but it was really fun when I made it work and won a game with it. That one was for Garrett, Dills and Jocelyn.

Rank 6.Alёna mostly prefers Arena mode (although she plays ranked too), as do I. But sometimes I play on the ladder for a while. My best result ever was reaching rank 6. Maybe one day I’ll make it to legendary, but I probably don’t have the skill nor the time to do that.

Lucky pack.One of the big draws to the game is getting as many cards as possible, which in turns allows you to build good or fun decks. Fun decks often lose, but they are fun — like my favorite Priest Madness deck which keeps stealing everything opponent is trying to throw at you and using it against the opponent. Back to the packs — sometimes you get complete junk, or stuff that you already have. However sometimes you strike gold — when every card in the pack is great.

10 wins in a row in Arena.The maximum number of games that you can win in Arena is 12. However we never got that far. My best run was up to 10, but it only happened once. I had a lot of 7s and a couple of 8s. Sometimes on very rare occasions you lose with 0 wins. That never feels pleasant, but for some reason on several occasion now the game gave me a legendary card as a consolation prize in the pack after such lose.

Defeated Curse of Naxxramas on Heroic difficulty.And a while back, when Blizzard released their first expansion — the Curse of Naxxramas — I beat it on Heroic difficulty. It’s been a lot of fun to build decks specifically to play on each boss’s weakness. That’s why I’m looking forward to playing through the Blackrock Mountain, which brings 31 news cards with it.

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Monday, March 30, 2015

I am a Driver

Alёna's first fillup.Yesterday we went to Petco to get some food and litter for Shublik. And you know who was driving? Me!!! I finally got my driver’s licence!

The lack of driver’s licence was bothering me for years. For some reason I thought that it’ll be close to impossible for me to learn how to drive (kind of like when I was a child I though that I would never learn to light a matchstick or to tell time). My permit expired for the second time over 2 years ago, and I did not even bother to get a new one until this February since I thought there was no point anyhow.

This year, however, my mom decided that the time has come to do something about this situation. She already pushed my sister to get a licence a few years back (and helped to watch the kids during the process, which is considerably more time consuming in Belarus than here). My sister is very happy and loves being at the wheel now.

So my mom said to me:
– Why don’t you try to get a licence while I’m visiting you guys? Even if you won’t be able to get fully ready for the test before I leave, you should at least start taking classes and such.

Old old photograph of Alёna doing some learning.And I thought, why not. I’ll have to do it sooner or later, and obviously, sooner is better. Danya also really wanted me to get a licence for a long time now, so he was all for it.

This conversation took place on Thursday, and I got my permit the following Monday, which was February 9th.

I contacted some of my friends who took driving lessons in the last 5 or so years, and Ignat recommended driving instructor named Oleg. Ignat passed the test on the first try, and so did his friend who recommended Oleg to him, so the stats were in my favor.

I took 12 or 13 lessons with Oleg and practiced 3-4 times with Danya. I have to say that instructor for me was necessary because I had a fear of driving in our regular car with no additional break pedal. Plus, Oleg knew exactly what examiners are looking for on a test and he made sure I learned everything by the book.

Another old old photograph.Oleg recommended to schedule a test in Staten Island instead of Brooklyn. He said that the examiners over there are really fair, and the testing areas are less challenging than in Brooklyn. I followed his advice, but it took me two days of sitting by the computer to actually schedule the test. The places over there disappear quickly and there is very little choice over the date which is open for scheduling at any given time. It happened so that I scheduled the test on the day when my mom was flying back to Belarus. She did not mind.

I was taking the test in Oleg’s car, so he drove me to Staten Island in the morning and we had one last lesson to familiarize with the terrain. The test itself took about 10 minutes. The examiner, a lady in her late 40s, was really nice. She said that I am a bit slow and gave me some points for wide right turn and observation on intersection, but gave me a pass nonetheless. I was so happy, I almost cried!

Now I need to practice. I am a bit nervous when I am at the wheel, but I guess it is normal. Danya says that I seem to make right decisions, but need to work on execution. Hopefully, one day I’ll be able to enjoy driving!

By the way, classes cost $40 an hour, and the car for the test is another $120. Oleg often spent a little over an hour during out classes, which was nice of him.
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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Swarovski Starry Night Watch

Swarovski Piazza Starry Night lady's watch.The first time I saw this watch — at Swarovski shop in Munich — I thought that it would make a great New Year gift for Alёna. I figured when I get to New York I’ll just go to one of the many Swarovski boutiques in the area and buy one. I wanted to do this as close to New Year as possible so Alena wouldn’t spot it on a credit card statement, as we share everything, including our finances.

On Alёna's wrist.To my dismay I found out that it’s a special edition item and no stores in the area had any. My only option was to order it online and it was too close to New Year at this point to get it delivered in time. I got a backup gift thinking that there was no way I will get it. The backup gift was another Swarovski watch, but it was nowhere as beautiful as this one. To my surprise, however, it got to our house on December 31st. Perfectly in time to go under the New Year’s tree.

The back side.And then there is a special bracelet. Alёna has a very thin wrist and I was sure that it would be too big. But I worried the most about the fact that there was a possibility that it wouldn’t be adjustable. And indeed that was true. Bracelet was too big and no normal watch place could do anything. Our local Swarovski shop said that they don’t do it either, but they pointed us to another Swarovski store that does have a special tool. It took several months before that place would actually get around to doing it, but finally it’s all done.
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Saturday, March 28, 2015


Tafelspitz.One of the dishes from our Germany-Austria trip that Danya asked me multiple times to recreate is tafelspitz, or simply put boiled beef. I am not sure why it took me so long, but I’ve decided to give it a try today. It is really a simple and hearty dish, which our whole family enjoyed for lunch. Kids ate it without horseradish-apple souse.

I simmered beef with spices, salt and broth vegetables for about 3 hours. Then took the meat out, discarded broth vegetables, added roughly chopped side vegetables to the bullion and simmered them for another 20 minutes or so. Served with the horseradish-apple souse and beef bullion on the side.

For beef and broth:
  • 1.5 liters of water
  • 2 lbs beef
  • 1 big carrot
  • 1 onion
  • 2 celery stalks
  • Spices (pepper, caraway seed, coriander, cloves, bay leave, etc)
  • Salt to taste

For the side vegetables:
  • 4 Yukon gold potatoes
  • 1 medium turnip
  • 1 parsnip
  • 1 big carrot
  • 2 celery stalks

And for the horseradish-apple souse I just peeled, cored and finely grated one granny smith apple, added a few tablespoons of lemon juice, salt and sugar to taste and then added a few tablespoons of store bought horseradish souse.

Easy, healthy, yummy!
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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Rock

New York from the top.The past weekend was the last one for Alёna’s mom’s current stay with us. Because of the bad weather we didn’t really get out much this time around, so we decided to do something interesting for her on this last weekend. My mom agreed to take the kids for the day so we had it easy.

Alёna with her mom.We picked the observation deck at the top of Rockefeller Center as our destination. Alёna’s mom haven’t been to the top of any skyscrapers, so we figured this should be memorable. Rockefeller Center observation deck is my favorite location in the city as you can see a lot of famous landmarks around — Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, World Trade Center, Central Park and numerous bridges.

Central Park. Fisheye.We spent a while looking for parking, but there was no line to the top. As far as I can tell Alёna’s mom loved it. We couldn’t actually get her to leave for some time. She would go from side to side, trying to take in the views. I think it was a success. Once we got down we visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral that was right across the street.

Alёna and Daniel.After that we took her to our favorite Brazilian Steakhouse — Churrascaria Plataforma. Even though she is not a huge meat fan I thought she would like the experience. Open salad bar and then an endless stream of different varieties of beef, lamb, pork and chicken that waiters keep bringing to your table until you turn the green button given to you to red. Alёna and her mom didn’t eat quite as much as I did, but mom definitely liked it.

Self again.And that was a full day. I got some decent pictures, she got good memories. It’s really sad that she’s leaving tomorrow already.

New York through fisheye.

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Saturday, March 21, 2015


Fairy tale in Brooklyn.By Russian standards spring starts on March 1st. By American standard our spring has started on March 20th. As in yesterday. However yesterday we had yet another snowstorm. The snow was coming down all day long and well into the night.

Cold Manhattan Beach.What made yesterday different was how the tree branches got blanketed in snow. In all the snowstorms that we had this year it hasn’t happened. The streets were beautiful. I took a picture out of our window in the evening and was planning to go out again in the morning. Alas the wind blew the snow off and the fairy tale was gone.
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