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Sunday, January 20, 2019

Our Day in Milan

Milan Duomo.The biggest Milan attraction for us was the Milan Cathedral. I remembered what it looked like really well, and was hoping that the children will be impressed by the Duomo and by the fact that they could get on its roof.

Inside the cathedral.A week before the vacation I finished reading a book about Italian resistance during World War II “Beneath a Scarlet Sky” by Mark Sullivan. It is based on a real story of Pino Lella, who was a Milanese native, so a big part of the action took place in Milan. My reading about the city and its people made visiting the city more interesting and somehow nostalgic. Milan took heavy bombing during those years, but I’m glad that the Duomo is still standing.

Rose windows.After a substantial Hilton breakfast, we took a subway to the Milan Cathedral. On a side note, there are a lot of shady looking characters who volunteer to “help” with entrance ticket purchasing, but we just asked to be left alone, and luckily they did not persist, although a young guy was eyeing Daniel up and down for a few minutes, while I was eyeing him in return.

View from the roof of Milan Cathedral.There were a lot of people by the Duomo. A lot of pigeons too. There was a huge line to enter the cathedral and a separate huge line to buy entrance tickets. Luckily, we got preferential treatment in both lines on account of kids and skipped both of them. I think that saved us 1.5-2 hours of waiting. Hooray such an attentive and kind attitude to children!

On the roof.Interesting thing is that both Aaron and Anna remembered being told about the cathedral during art classes which they took in Brooklyn. Aaron told us that he recognizes the rose windows and some of the statues. When we were inside, I saw remains of cardinal Schuster, and it was such a strange experience, since I was just reading about him in the earlier mentioned book.

On the roof.After appreciating the beauty of the Milan Duomo from the inside, we proceeded to the rooftop of the cathedral. There was an elevator going to the top, but we picked an option of taking 250 stairs. We all think that a little effort only enhances the experience — you feel the sense of achievement (however small) and endorphin rush because of that. I knew that for adults and Aaron this should not be a difficult task, but we were a little worried about Anna and her ability to make it to the top without my carrying her.

Top of the roof.To our surprise, not only she made it to the rooftop without any complaints, but she was not even out of breath. In fact, she and Arosha practically ran all the way! Another thing that was on our minds is Arosha’s mild fear of heights, especially on top of man-made structures. To our relief, he was not afraid! He and Anna had quite a lot of fun, and I even had to stop them from running since it did not seem appropriate and very safe.

All of us.After Duomo we went to get lunch. Last time we were so impressed by buffalo mozzarella pizza in Charleston restaurant that was located nearby, that we decided to revisit it with Arosha and Anuta. The food was as good as we remembered. Our waiter, an older Italian man who could speak some English, liked our kids and called Anuta a “principessa”, which is princess in Italian. We took liking to it right away and were calling her our principessa a lot during the trip. We still call her that now and then.

Streets of Milan.After lunch we decided to see Sforza Castle which is located in the walking distance. Got our first Italian gelato on the way. I think it was the best gelato of the entire trip. I don’t remember much about Sforza Castle since we did not get inside any of the buildings. I do remember the surrounding walls and the fact that Moscow Kremlin was originally modeled after this castle. Maybe next time we’ll explore it in more detail.

We ate light dinner at the executive lounge again and went to bed early.
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Saturday, January 19, 2019

Новый Год 2019

Yearly tradition. New Year family portraits.Ну вот мы и встретили первый Новый Год в новом доме! Как пожелал всем Даня, пусть 2019 будет спокойным и стабильным! Ну и, конечно, здоровья, здоровья и ещё раз здоровья!!!

Начать хочу с Рождества, а вернее даже с выходных перед ним. У детей в субботу, 22 декабря, начались зимние каникулы, а мы наконец-то выбрались в Бруклин — навестить даниных родителей, пообщаться с Сашей и Сеней и их мамами и сёстрами, закупиться продуктами в русских магазинах.

Us with sister.Поездка получилась весьма удачной. Дети много общались — за 2 дня мы провели на площадке около 8 часов, плюс пару часов были в гостях у Эрики. Так же Даня с Арошей успели подстричься, а мама с Линой приготовили на ужин в воскресенье шикарные манты. Ещё мы успели сходить в Сахару — какие же там вкусные салаты!— и заказать обед в местных китайском и тайском ресторанах, по которым тоже соскучились.

Siblings.Ароша хорошо играл и с Сеней (в основном в футбол), и с Сашей (во все, что угодно, кроме игр с мячом), Анюта неплохо пообщалась с Лизо и Милой, хотя иногда и капризничала и жаловалась на скуку. Мне тоже было приятно поболтать с девочками. Общения мне в новом доме немного не хватает.

Спать, конечно, было не очень удобно, но вполне терпимо. Я надеюсь, что в следующий раз мы выберемся в Бруклине быстрее, чем через пол года.

Parents.А само Рождество прошло в принципе как обычный день. Готовить праздничный стол за неделю до Нового года было неохота, идти куда-то в общественные детские места тоже, потому что дети слегка кашляли и сопливили. Они, к сожалению, и до сих пор не полностью здоровы, а школа уже началась. Анюта снова жалуется на уши, но я надеюсь, что обойдёмся чесночными каплями и избежим антибиотиков.

Fairy tale.Данины родители и Лина встречали Новый год с нами. Правда, не обошлось без небольших отклонений от плана. Во-первых, за пару дней до поездки к нам заболела Лина. С температурой, кашлем, слабостью и прочими неприятными явлениями. К счастью, к воскресенью температура опустилась до терпимых 37 градусов, но в результате до последнего момента было неясно, смогут родители приехать или нет.

Grandma and grandkids.Во-вторых, совершенно замотанная уборкой, готовкой и переживаниями Данила мама забыла взять свежесваренный холодец и картофельную лапшу для фунчезы. Она была жутко расстроена и даже порывалась ехать в Бруклин. Вместо этого решили наведать местный супермаркет и поискать там рисовой лапши, которую я там когда-то видела, и ингредиентов для нового холодца.

Лапша обнаружилась — блюдо из неё получилось вкусное, но не совсем такое, как ожидалось, а скорее что-то среднее между фунчозой и лагманом. Дети этот «лагмафун» ели 4 дня подряд с большим удовольствием.

Blowing kisses.А вот с холодцом повезло меньше. Правильного мяса не было, поэтому мы купили копченые свиные рульки. Результат эксперимента до сих пор стоит на балконе и дожидается ночи перед днём вывоза мусора, чтобы отрправиться на покой в мусорный бак. Температура у нас скачет от -7 до +13, поэтому выкинуть его сразу мы не решились боясь, что он растает и перепачкает весь бак.

Но вообще-то все это мелочи. А праздник прошёл очень хорошо.

Generations.Все нарядились, накрыли традиционный стол. Долго фотографировались. Даня заплатил за неделю телевисионного сервиса, дающего доступ к российским каналам с правильной задержкой времени, поэтому по привычке смотрели российский Новогодний Огонёк. Скучновато, елси честно — российскую эстраду я знаю постольку-поскольку, но местная передача как минимум не лучше. А вот новогодние российские, а вернее советские, фильмы мы в этот раз не смотрели совсем. Ну просто воротит уже от всех этих “Ироний Судьбы”, “Карнавальных Ночей”, “Девчат” и иже с ними.

Дети очень ждали подарков, и кое-что мы разрешили им открыть уже днём. Остальные Анюта получила после ужина, а Ароша дождался полуночи и прихода Нового Года. Не могу сказать, что Ароше очень легко далось не спать до такого позднего времени, но он был очень решитально настроен встретить 2019 вместе с нами. Анюта же ушла спать где-то в 22:30, что для неё тоже на 2 часа позже обычного времени отхода ко сну.

Dad and Daughter.Подарков было как всегда много, и получать, и дарить было приятно. Анюта получила в основном разные вещи для рисования и поделок, Арошу одарили ребусами, рацией, светящимися панелями на стену и snow globe с красным кардиналом внутри. Даня получил такие же панели, только в большем количестве, а я стала обладательницей кухонного комбайна KitchenAid и разных новых кремов и масок для лица.

Даниной маме мы подарили безпроводные наушники и набор для тестирования ДНК, а папе акксесуары для его новых Apple Watch. Лина получила в подарок разную одежду. Кстати, одежду получили в принципе все. Еще мы заказали наши традиционные календари, составленные из фотографий инстаграммы. Я от них получаю массу удовольствия, ежедневно отрывая листочек и вспоминая какую-то приятную сценку из прошлых лет.

Mom and Daughter.А на православное Рождество нас пригласили в гости Лёша и Ира. Кроме нас были Илья с Ульяной и детьми и еще одна незнакомая нам раньше семейная пара с двумя детьми. Время мы провели просто отлично! Накормили нас очень вкусно и обильно — в меню было 12!!! блюд. Я на такой подвиг вряд ли бы решилась, хотя и люблю готовить. Но главная прелесть вечера (а провели мы в гостях больше 6 часов) заключалась в общении. И для взрослых, и для детей. Всё-таки не зря говорят, что общение положительно влияет на здоровье — как на физическое, так и на психическое.
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Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Foggy Morning Serenity

Our woods, our backyard.We had some light snow this morning1 and then heavy fog set in onto the area. All that made for a really quite and serene morning.

Street that our house is on.I couldn’t help it, but stop and snap a couple of pictures of this scene in our own neck of the woods.

  1. Which nevertheless caused the school day to be delayed by 2 hours. []
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Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Arosha’s Italy Notes

Arosha was writing down little things about his days all throughout our vacation to Italy. We decided to post them to the blog under the tag of this trip as well, with some small editorial notes — in brackets.

November 17


Airport lunch.Today I made it to the first stop. It is Milan. We flew out of JFK, which stands for John F. Kennedy. I was flying for 7 hours and then for 2 more. What I didn’t really like [on the plane] was food. Another thing I didn’t like is that they did not give us room for hours [when we arrived to Hilton Milan]. I have not slept on the plane, so when they gave us our room I have not slept for 25 hours.

November 18


Milan Cathedral.Today I did a lot of interesting things like eating combs [honeycombs at breakfast buffet]. Another thing is that I saw a big cathedral [Milan Cathedral] and I was on the roof. It took 600 years to build the cathedral. There were lines [to get inside the cathedral] for one hour, but we are kids, so we skipped them [got priority treatment].

After the cathedral we went to a restaurant. I had pizza and spaghetti.

Then we saw a castle. It had holes in its walls. Also we tasted gelato. I picked lemon and coconut [flavors].

November 19


Bullet train to Florence.Today I’m going to my second stop. It is going to be Florence.

First we woke up and ate breakfast. Then we walked to the train station and waited for bullet train. When we got in, we realized that we came in from the wrong side of the train car because we got [seats] number 3 and 4 and we came in where numbers 18 and 17 were. The bullet train was so fast that it went 300 km/hr [at some points].

I saw Florence Cathedral in the evening. Then we came to the pool [in the hotel]. We really liked it. It was a giant hot tub.

November 20


At the top of bell tower in Florence.We went on top of the bell tower [in Florence] today. It has 414 steps and me and my sister made it to the top. It was so high that I was scared.

Then we went to eat.

November 21


Leaning Tower of Pisa.Today I went to Pisa. There I saw a cathedral and the falling tower.

Then we ate at a restaurant where my sister liked my food less than hers. I got a souvenir [tower of Pisa].

November 22


Waiting for a water bus in Venice.Today I am excited because we are going to Venice. Today is also a Thanksgiving.

First we traveled on a train. When we made it to the water, I knew it was Venice.

Then we checked in [to our hotel, Hilton Molino Stucky] and went out to eat. Oh, and before that I traveled on a water bus. The first bus that we saw did not travel to the hotel.

After the restaurant we went to look for gelato, but we found none and an hour! At the restaurant I ate home made spaghetti.

Then we went to the hotel and went to sleep.

November 23


Gandola ride.Today is my mom’s and dad’s wedding anniversary.

Also, today we got a gondola ride. I really liked it, though it was expensive. It cost 100 euros.

Right after that we ate gelato and looked at Venice. Here are things that I noticed: not a lot of trees, lots of bridges, lots of glass stores.

After that we went to a fancy restaurant. Me and my sister had vegetables and spaghetti. It was very nice, and I also tried black spaghetti [which my mom was having].

A bit later we found a mask store, but I did not buy any [masks yet].

November 24 and 25


Venetian masks.Today we ate our breakfast and went on a ferry [from our hotel on Giudecca island]. Venice was a little flooded.

We went to into the [Venice] cathedral. It was pretty, and inside on the floor there was a mosaic.

After that we looked for masks. I was looking for sun and moon masks, and I bought one of them.

Then next we rode [by elevator] to the top of the Venice tower. It was a wonderful view.

It was raining all day, so we went to the hotel.
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Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Italy — Flight and Day 1

Us on a plane.The day before vacation it was snowing in our part of the woods. Children were dismissed from school early, and if we knew any better, Daniel would have left work in the early afternoon too. Long story short, it took him over 5 hours to get home, and he was stressed and tired. So was I to be honest.

On that same day we also realized that both of our medium sized suitcases were broken, so Daniel had to stop at a store on his way from work and get a new one. When Daniel was leaving the parking lot of the store he noticed that his wedding band was missing! Oh no! He ran back in and by some miracle found it inside one of the suitcases that he looked at earlier. Phew!

Anna and dad.Anna was on day 6 out of 10 of antibiotics treatment for ear infection. Having our vacation in mind, I asked the doctor to prescribe them in chewable form as apposed to the liquid that is usually prescribed and needs to be refrigerated. Anna had a terrible virus a week before that, with her temperature rising sky high and not going much down for 3 days. I have not slept a bunch of nights during that time because regular fever reducers helped very little, so I kept rubbing her with water and vinegar solution for hours at a time to bring the fever down.

That same day I finished my course of antibiotics too — I was treated for viral bronchitis, which I most probably got when Anna was sick.

Airport lunch.The night before Arosha’s nose started running, so I’ve decided to pack his nebulizer and use it during the vacation. We ended up completely ruining it by the way, because it slipped my mind that voltage in Europe is different from the one in the USA, and unlike all the Apple devises that are designed for dual voltage, the nebulizer needed an adapter. Luckily, Arosha got better pretty quickly and the nebulizer was not needed throughout the vacation.

Overall, everyone was healthy enough for the trip, but I was a little anxious that everyone stays this way.

Our flight.On the day of the flight, which coincided with my birthday, we got up around 7, ate, finished packing little things like snacks and books and went to Daniel’s parents. It seemed that the most sensible thing to do would be to leave the car near Daniel’s parents, and get a cab to the airport. It worked out even better than that, because we did not have to get the cab — Daniel’s dad drove us to the airport. He was not sure in advance if he’ll be able to do it because he recently had a minor surgery and was in recovery, but it all worked out. Daniel’s mom was at work that day, but she cooked us delicious lagman and even bought cheesecake for desert, so we had a nice lunch and got some rest after a ride from home to Brooklyn.

Yellow tram of Milan.The flight itself was pretty uneventful. We were lucky to get 4 seats together in the middle section of the plane, so me and Daniel took isle seats with the children seating in the middle. Arosha and Anuta both behaved wonderfully. Neither one of them liked plane food though, so they barely ate anything. Anuta managed to snooze for about 2 hours on our flight to Paris, where we had a stopover. Arosha slept for about an hour on the plane from Paris to Milan. That smaller plane did not have 4 seats together in a row, so Danya was separated from us by the isle. However, the flight was short, so it did not matter much.

In front of Milano Centrale railway station.When we arrived to Milan, everyone was pretty spent. We took a cab to our hotel. Funnily enough, the first people who tried to sell us their transportation services were nice up to the point when we said that the fixed price of 65 euros seems a little excessive and that we’ll try our luck with another company. They became somewhat rude, but it turned out that it cost us just 25 euros to get to the hotel by a metered cab. No wonder the price seemed high!

We stopped at the same Hilton as last time we visited Milan. It is very conveniently located by the train station, which made life a little simpler for us.

Window view from Hilton Milan.When we were booking the hotel room, we had to book the big family room on account of children. Sadly, there are much fewer such rooms in hotels, which makes sense I guess. As a consequence, Hilton was not able to check us in early as we had hoped. They were kind enough to let us use the executive lounge, which still served breakfast at the time of our arrival. Unfortunately, all of the rooms like ours were booked and we had to wait for the people to check out first, and then for the room to be cleaned, which apparently takes about 2 hours.

Sweet sleep.We ate breakfast at the executive lounge, then we walked to the train station and got tickets for the trips to Florence and Venice. We had to wait in line for over 30 minutes, but it was worth it, since the clerk was able to book us better seats at lower/deal prices, which were not available from the automated booth.

Sweet sleep.When we returned to the hotel, the room was still not ready, so we just stayed in the lobby falling in and out of sleep in turns. The adults that is. The children were not falling asleep, but in fact were pretty active and were playing different loud games. By the time we finally got into our room, we have not slept for 25 hours. I am still amazed at how well the children endured this whole hard day.

Window view.It was a little after 2 in the afternoon, so we went to bed and put an alarm clock to wake us at at 6 in the evening. It made sense to break the sleeping cycle for a few hours in the evening, lest we woke up in the middle of the night rested and unable to sleep. We went for dinner to the executive lounge. It had light snacks and drinks, and it was just enough. We went to bed shortly after that and slept until the next morning.
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Sunday, December 9, 2018

Grate Wall of Fire

Vertical fireplace grate by Grate Wall of Fire.Another small update on our fireplace. The days have gotten cold and we thought that our wood burning fireplace could be a great source of additional heat. However even with a fairly big fires we weren’t feeling much warmth coming into the house.

When we had our chimney cleaned the guys doing the work recommended looking into Grate Wall of Fire products — specifically a large metal plate that goes agains the back wall of a fireplace — reflective fireback.

Our setup. 1 inch think 31 inch fireback and M-7 vertical 31 inch fireplace grate.So we measured our fireplace and ordered 1 inch think 31 inch long fireback. The thing ended up weighting more than 100 pounds. Alena and I barely managed to put it inside.

Sadly one of the legs has gotten damaged during shipping. I called the company and they have fabricated a pair of custom legs to attach to our fireback that same very night and sent them out. And they gave us a 25% discount on the fireback because of the hassle. Amazing customer service.

After using our new fireback for a couple of days we decided to buy a new vertical 31 inch grate to replace our old horizontal one. We LOVE our new set up. First of all all the wood burns right agains the fireback. Adding new wood is also great — just throw it over the grate and it goes on top of you fire without other logs falling all over the place.

Pretty and functional.Yesterday we gave it a full test and our family room eventually has gotten quite hot — in fact it was too hot to sit on the fireplace end of sofa. Eventually the fire went out at around 10pm and we left glowing ash in the fireplace when we went to sleep. In the morning when we went to close the flute the fireback was still warm to the touch.

Again, highly highly recommend the products from Grate Wall of Fire.

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