Friday, May 6, 2011

Cherry Blossom at BBG

Us at Brooklyn Botanical Garden during Cherry Blossom Festival.This past Sunday we made plans to go to Brooklyn Botanical garden. I thought — Ok, the weather is nice, the cherries are blooming, and so are the lilacs (which are probably my favorite flowers by the way) — why don’t we go to the local garden? There will be people, but probably not that many, right? Right? WRONG! The size of the crowd was mesmerizing. I though that we’d never find parking and even fell into that is-it-worth-it-should-we-head-back-home mode which occasionally irks Danya.

Cherry blossom.Anyhow, after a few circles around the park in dense traffic, Danya made a strategic decision to try our luck on smaller streets. And what do you know? We got lucky — somebody left right from under our noses. One good thing that came out from all the “round and round the park we go” activity is that we spotted a service entrance which had a very short line (as opposed to huge lines to all the regular entrances). When we got there, there was no line at all. The only catch was that we had to pay cash, but luckily we had some on hands (it was $45 for 3 adults, and no charge for the baby). Daniel’s mom went with us; his dad would have come too, but he went to Manhattan to attend a presentation by Garry Kasparov (he got his autograph at the end).

Arosha checking out a tulip.It so happened, that this exact weekend fell on the 30th Annual Sakura Matsuri Cherry Blossom Festival. I am not sure if there were supposed to be any performances, but we did not really see anything apart from some people in weird costumes here and there.

Arosha with mama and grandma.The cherries were beautiful, although I actually saw a lot of them in our neighborhood without realizing what those were. I am more used to white and smaller sour cherry flowers, which were blooming in abundance in my neighborhood back in Minsk when I was growing up. Danya took a few pictures of the blossoming beauties, but it was impossible to take any artistic shots due to the roaming crowds. To be honest, if we knew about the festival in advance, we would have re-scheduled our trip, but then again, we had fun, and that’s what counts!

Tulips.First, we saw a tulip garden. There were lots of tulips of different shapes and colors, and I can’t even say which ones I liked best. The ones that seemed the most unusual to me looked like a tulip-peony hybrid. Gorgeous!

We then proceeded to the cherry section of the park. Aroshka fell asleep (we switched him from the stroller to the ergo baby), so we walked around for some time while he was napping.

Sakura garden.When Aroshka woke up, we found a picnic spot and had a little picnic. We ate hummus with olives and some Uzbek bread — simple, but satisfying food.

Arosha's trying his first grass. o.OIt was probably Aroshka’s first contact with so much grass. He approached it with caution. He touched it lightly, withdrew his little hand fast, then probed it again as if unsure what to make of it. It seemed like he was very surprised that the grass was not firm and bounced back after he let it go. After some consideration, Aroshka decided that he prefers the safety and familiarity of the picnic blanket, although at some point he got brave enough and crawled a few steps in that sea of green towards his daddy. Ah, there are so many things for him to discover!

Alena and her new skirt.I tried breastfeeding Aroshka, but it was not very comfortable. First, I think he is too used to the nursing pillow, so my bare knees were less satisfying. Second, he is NOT used to the nursing cover, so he tried to move it out of the way. To be honest, I don’t really care if somebody will see some of my naked breast while I am feeding my child, but there is that nagging though in my head that some people find breastfeeding in public inappropriate. Even though I disagree, I keep thinking that some prude is looking at me in disgust and sending bad energy my way. Ugh. I wish I could just relax and do what I think is so natural and normal. And don’t forget — it was crowded out there!

First shot of Arosha's first teeth.So that’s all I really wanted to say. The only thing I can add is that we should do things like this more often. Ah, I envy you, people leaving close to nature!!! One day we will too!

Lily of the Valley.
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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother’s Day 2011

Arosha's sleeping on Alena.Today is Mother’s Day in the United States. Happy holiday, everybody!

I know it’s probably selfish of me, but this year I was awaiting it with extra joy. I am a Mother! This word is melting in my mouth like a bitter-sweet piece of chocolate. A Mother! This world rings in my ears like songs of little birds rejoicing the spring arrival. A Mother. This world makes my eyes tingle when I think of my Mom and of generations of Moms that came before her. A Mother. I can’t wait for my son to call me that.

Arosha fell asleep while we were doing grocery shopping.I have to be honest with you — I expected motherhood to be easier. I am not complaining, nor would I trade it for anything, but it’s tough. Emotionally. Physically. Sometimes I feel that I don’t deserve a break and that every spare minute of my time should be put to doing something useful for others (obviously it’s not the case). Sometimes I get angry for no apparent reason — I guess it’s sleep deprivation at work. Sometimes I worry that I am not good enough as a mother (especially after reading about babies sleeping through the night, babies who are potty trained by the age of one, babies eating solid food like champs, babies socializing with other babies or taking swimming lessons). BUT! No matter how tired or stressed I am, every time I look at Aroshka I feel so filled with love, that if I get just a drop more, it will spill out and flood the streets of Brooklyn. I want to hug him, and kiss him, and hold him close. Our baby. Our son. Our little piece of happiness.

Totally out.Happy mother’s day to all the mothers, and fathers, and sons, and daughters!
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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Arosha — 9 Months

Arosha in the air. Check out the teeth.Today Arosha has turned 9 months. He is growing so fast!

It’s been a fun month, although I am starting to loose track of what happened exactly at which point. I think he started to crawl, to sit unassisted and to pull himself up. He also cut 4 teeth — two middle bottom and two middle top ones. They are not fully out yet, but are definitely visible when he smiles, laughs, cries, or opens his mouth widely for any other reason.

Arosha trying out the swing.He still wakes up a lot at night. I try to be patient. He also started to take only two naps a day — a short one in the morning, and a longer one in the afternoon (although if his afternoon nap is on a shorter side, he’ll nap in the evening as well).

He is getting more and more aware of his surroundings — one of his favorite activities is to crawl to the window and to observe what is happening outside. When we meet people who he is not familiar with, Arosha studies them in quiet and serious manner; he is not very generous with smiles to strangers. He is always happy to see his daddy or grandparents though. I love it when Arosha’s grandma comes to visit every night, and he gets so excited to see her, that I have a hard time holding him in my arms. They also make each other laugh often. And when Arosha sees his daddy, his face invariably lights up with a smile. It’s precious.

In the park.I put a stop to early potty training for now. He does not like it, and I see no reason to push him (plus I don’t think it’s possible anyhow). As a matter of fact, he hates changing diapers in general. I think he might be bored on his back, so almost every time I change him, there is some crying involved. Oh, and I am a master of wiping the poop of the crawling baby (he does not lie still once the diaper is off). I also got a good grip on washing his little tushie all by myself now. Not the night-time bath though — he jumps around a bathtub like crazy, so it takes two adults to hold and to bathe him.

Arosha is still not eating solid food well. Not sure if he is not ready yet, or if I just can’t find the right food, but at best he eats about 2 oz of puréed fruits or veggies and about the same amount of whole grain cereal a day. On bad days I manage to feed him a teaspoon or two of whatever food I have for him.

Passport photo. A very serious traveler.We had a little accident about a week ago. Arosha and I were sitting on the living room couch, when he suddenly turned, lost his balance and fell face down on the sharp edge of the coffee table. I beat myself up for not reacting in time and for not putting a soft padding all around the stupid table. He split the skin a little below his lower lip. There was a lot of blood and crying involved, and I got really scared. Good thing that Daniel’s dad was around, so he came and checked the cut out. He said that it’s not too bad and advised us just to clean the wound and treat it with iodine. No stitches were necessary. Needless to say, we baby-proofed the table that same day. Arosha’s cut is still healing. I understand that things like this are quite common, and try to take it easy as everybody suggested. Still, it’s very hard to see your baby getting hurt.

I am sure there are other things that I am forgetting to mention, but it’s time to go to Daniel’s parents and enjoy manti on occasion of the Mother’s Day! Happy holiday to all of us! And happy 9 months birthday to Aroshka!

P.S. Two days ago Arosha got his passport in the mail!

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

New Bedroom Curtains

New window curtains in the bedroom.When my mom came to visit, she brought us some gifts from Belarus — national crafts, some jewelery, clothing. What she really wanted to get us though is the curtains for our bedroom. I kept saying that we’re fine as is and that our whole bedroom needs redesigning and we’re not willing to spend the money at the moment, so she gave up on the idea. However, before she left, she measured the wall and the windows and said that she will get us new curtains after all.

The thing is that it’s impossible to find good European-design curtains for a reasonable price in New York. At least we were not able to. There are a few curtain stores in Brooklyn, held by USSR expats, which have a good selection of modern curtains, but the prices are over the roof. We paid something close to 1K for our living room curtains, and were not willing to spend this much money again. My mom was very surprised by the prices and the lack of choice in American stores, since in Belarus you can choose from literally hundreds of designs. She laughed — at least there is one area where Belarusian stores are ahead (she was very impressed with US stores otherwise).

Closeup of the curtains.By the way, when she was looking for the stuff for our bedroom, she actually found the ones that we have in our living room — they were selling for the equivalent of $16 per meter (so it would have cost us a bit over $100 for material + around $50-100 for work if we would have bought them over there).

So my sister and my mom went to two stores, took lots of pictures of the samples that they thought would be a good fit and emailed them to me. We liked quite a few, and chose curtains which were made in Germany. After consulting with a designer which works in curtain department of the store, they’ve decided that having only one type of curtains will be boring, and got a brightly colored solid curtains to hang in front of the walls. The total they paid for the whole deal was around $200.

OK, I think I just made too big of a post about curtains. But I wanted to say that I appreciate the gift very much. I know they spend a lot of time trying to buy something nice for us (and my mom’s monthly pension is around $200 — at least it used to be before the Belarusian ruble got devaluated a few weeks back) and wanted them too look good. I like how it all came out.
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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Lunch Time

Lunch.While Aroshka was sleeping, I quickly fixed myself some lunch — boiled buckwheat, roasted a few chicken thighs and sweet potatoes in the oven and made this awesome green bean salad. I can’t get enough of it in the last few days!

Arosha eating green beans.It looks like Aroshka approves too. By the way, the green bean he is eating is taken directly from the salad, so it has a bit of hot pepper, garlic, olive oil and other good stuff on it. He ate a bit of buckwheat kasha as well.

Eating banana.And we finished it off with an excellent desert — a banana! Granted, Aroshka ate a miniscule amount of each food, but he had fun, and it all that counts for now.
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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Beautiful Zucchini Carbonara

Beautiful Zucchini Carbonara.I cooked this pasta a few days ago. Uncomplicated and delicious enough for a week day meal — I love that about Jamie Oliver’s recipes. I’m not going to repost the recipe itself — it’s available on Food Network.
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Saturday, May 14, 2011

RS-Sport Camera Strap

RS-Sport camera strap.I walk around with my camera a lot and even though the stock strap that comes with a camera was never a huge issue for me I decide to find something a bit more comfortable and functional. I never used to wear a stock strap over my neck and most of the time wore the camera as a messenger bag. Here is my mini-report with pictures1 on what I ended up getting.

The strap doesn't move when shooting.My main issues with the stock strap:
  • Too short.
    It’s long enough when I’m wearing the camera over a t-shirt, but during colder months I just can’t fit into the stock strap forcing me to put it over my neck. Nikon D700 with Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 lens will make the neck hurt in no time.
  • Awkward angle.
    With a big lens attached the camera hangs in such a way that lens sticks out away from the body. When there are a lot of people around you start bumping into them with a lens. Or in small places you start bumping into objects with a lens. Not good.
  • Not comfortable.
    During long hikes the shoulder starts to get soar. Also by lifting the camera to take a shot and putting it back down the strap gets moved along with the camera. This causes the strap to start cutting into my neck with it’s sharp edge.
  • All over the place.
    There is nothing holding the camera in place. When doing something it swing around in random directions and when leaning forward it flies down forward as well.
  • Camera name.
    Now this is a minor quip, but I don’t always feel comfortable advertising, not so much the make, but the model of the camera — D700 in big, bold, yellow letters.

Camera hanging at the hip.These are the main problems that I had with it, although there are several more minor ones that are not worth listing.

After a bit of research I decided to go with one of the straps offered by Black Rapid. They offer a rather large selection of these straps which are the variations of the same basic theme. Here is the quick rundown:
  • RS-4 — basic straight strap.
  • RS-5 — bulky strap with a lot of storage space.
  • RS-7 — curved strap.
  • RS-Sport — curved strap with under-arm strap.

ConnectR-2 and FastenR-3 connected to tripod socket of the camera.Since I wanted to get something that was as comfortable as possible and do not need any storage room on my strap it left me with two most ergonomic choices — RS-7 and RS-Sport. RS-Sport was slightly more curved and from reports it was more comfortable. It comes with an additional under-arm strap2 (BRAD MOD) which holds the whole thing in place and just does not let it move. The under-arm strap can be bought as an accessory for RS-7 as well, but it comes out more expensive this way. Continue Reading

  1. All the photos for this post were taken with good old Nikon D70. []
  2. The under-arm strap can be completely removed if the owner so desires. []

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 AI-S Lens

Nikon Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 AI-S manual focus lens.I can’t help but share my excitement over my newest photographic acquisition — Nikon Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 AI-S manual focus lens. I’ve been reading and looking at pictures of this lens for months now, drooling all over my keyboard.

Box from 50mm f/1.2 lens.On Friday, while looking at it yet again on B&H site, I impulse-bought it. It just couldn’t be helped any longer. It was delivered by UPS today to my office. And I’m holding it in my hands and still drooling. It is so nice.

Shot of a keyboard taken at f/1.2. RAW to JPEG conversion done in Photoshop. Straight out of the camera shot otherwise with no post-processing of any kind.Nikon has been making this lens in this exact form since 1981. It can still be bought brand new today. I’ll most probably end up making a more detailed post about it all in the coming days. Today I’m just posting 3 photographs. The last one is made with this lens at f/1.2. Look at that DOF.
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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Floyd Bennett Field Photowalk

Trail. Taken at f/2.It’s been raining for 5 days straight now. They are predicting it will keep raining for at least 3 more. But since I got my 50mm f/1.2 lens in the mail yesterday I’ve been itching to get out and shoot.

Brassicaceae. Taken at f/1.2.Today during the lunch break the sun peaked out from under the clouds. Alena, Arosha, my dad and I jumped into the car and drove to the nearby Floyd Bennett Field (5 minute drive) for a 40 minute walk. I took a good number of shots and pretty much all of them came out great. I’m very very happy with the purchase at this point.

Pebbles. Taken at f/1.2.As soon as we got home it started raining again. Our timing was perfect. Here are some of those shots. All of these were taken at either f/1.2 or f/2.

Footprints on the sand. Taken at f/1.2.
Shell in hay. Taken at f/1.2.
Hay. Taken at f/1.2.
Papa. Taken at f/1.2.
Wooden beach. Taken at f/2.
Beach grass. Taken at f/2.
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Friday, May 20, 2011

First Shoes

First shoes.Today Arosha has gotten his first pair of shoes. All this time to this point he was doing fine with his super warm winter socks, but as the time went one he turned from somebody whose only skill was laying still, eating and pooping into a small human who wants to explore everything.

Arosha in a local park.These are nothing special. Just a pair of summer shoes that we could pick out at a local Payless. With the rate he’s growing he’ll grow out of them in a short amount of time — 3-4 months maybe? It still is a memorable event. Maybe it will be fun for him to go back in time and see his first pair of shoes.

One shoe is already gone. Luckily we saw this maneuver this time.Next trick is to teach him that shoes are good. He seems to be pretty good at kicking them off along with his socks.

Testing out a local bench.I’m so glad I took a picture of his foot against my hand when he was only one week old. It’s much bigger now.
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