New Mandolin Sahara Top of The Rock The Rock First Fill Up
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.
In: Gadgets & Gear   Tags: , , ,
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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!
In: Food & Dining   Tags: , , ,
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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.
In: Life In General   Tags: , , ,
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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Zenitar 16mm f/2.8 Fisheye Lens

Zenitar 16mm f/2.8 Fisheye lens.Recently I had a chance to acquire a lens that is made by an old Soviet factory (KMZ — Zenit) near Moscow from an old friend who was selling off his Nikon gear for a good price. I wanted to experiment with a fisheye lens for quite some time, but buying a new one made by Nikon or even Zenit didn’t make sense for such a specialty lens.

Autoportrait through a fisheye.The lens is a manual focus lens and even though it doesn’t feel as good as my f/1.2 Nikkor it is decent enough to achieve decent focus. In camera digital focus confirmation works most of the time. Also the lens achieves infinity focus at about 1.2 meters. It also is the first lens in my collection that make SLR self portraits possible. Not that it’s what I’m going to keep using it for.

Fisheye view from the window.The next thing that I want to try with it is taking landscape shots and seeing what kind of interesting or peculiar results I can achieve. I was told that it is decently sharp at f/8 which seems to be the case, but I haven’t tried shooting at a wider aperture myself yet. Overall it is proving to be a fun toy.

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Sunday, March 1, 2015

Ringling Brothers Circus

Arosha in big circus hat gifted to him by his seat neighbor.One of the gifts that Arosha has gotten from Santa this year was a set of three tickets to the circus. One for Arosha, one for Arosha’s mom and one for me. Santa has decided that Arosha’s little sister was a little to young for the circus yet. The tickets were for the 28th of February.

Ringling Brothers Circus.None of us has been to a circus in US yet and Arosha hasn’t been to any kind of a similar event at all. The Ringling Brothers Circus was visiting New York and they were giving shows in Barclays Center for three weeks. And three of us went yesterday.

In line to get in.There was a ton of people. Arosha was quite excited. For the first part of the show he was very interested in everything that was going on. He said he liked everything very much.

Cannon lady. Crazy flight.What amazed us all was them shooting a woman out of a huge cannon through the whole arena at 65 miles an hour. I’ve never seen anything like that and that was mightily impressive. We also liked the elephant program from the first part of the show.

Elephants. I missed all the trick shots.Then there was a 15 minute break and another hour. Arosha started to expire during the break. Then they started the second half off with tigers which we were looking for, but it was the most boring part of the show. Tigers (understandably) didn’t want to do much of anything. They could sit and lye down on command. They also were looking for a chance to take a bite out of their trainer.

Annoyed tigers.There were some interesting segments in the second part too, but having seen multiple Cirque du Soleil performances I have to say that pretty much everything really paled in comparison. It was interesting for us to go and experience American circus, but I don’t think we’ll want to repeat that any time soon.

Camels.After the show we took Arosha to a great Japanese restaurant that was two blocks away — Taro Sushi. It’s the one we found right after we came back from Japan. He has never been there. We sat down right at the sushi bar and ordered a good number of our favorite sushi pieces.

Dinner at Taro Sushi.Arosha ate more of them than we did. His favorite is salmon, but he also liked white tuna, yellowtail, red fatty tuna and eel. The only one that he declined to try was red snapper and rightfully so. I didn’t like it either. We also had three bowls of nice miso soup.

And that was a full day for us. We got home tired, but happy.

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