Monday, December 3, 2012

О Праче

Arosha and leaves. Taken at the end of October.На прогулке. Ароша поднял веточку и молотит ей по забору, приговаривая:
– Уходи прочь, уходи, уходи! Ты нам не нужен! Мама, я прогоняю прачА!
– Кого, врача??
– Нет, прачА!
– Не поняла, грача что ли?
– Не. ПрачА! Уходи, Прочь!

Комментарии по поводу машины родителей:
– У дедушки была Хундаи. Она поломалась. Он купит новую машину по имени Тойота.
– Нет, Арошка, они Ниссан вроде планируют купить.
– А я думаю Тойоту!

– У Шублика была Хундаи, и он её утопил.

Arosha and leaves. Taken at the end of October.– Мама, это что за машина?
– Это Лексус.
– А эта?
– Это Хонда.
– А эта?
– Это Мерседес.
– А где Хундаи?
– А вот и Хундаи.
– Ну наконец-то!

Зашли в аптеку за зубной пастой. Арошка захотел новую щётку. Сам сделал выбор из двух предложенных мной вариантов. Когда мы заплатили за щётку и я её вручила Арошке, он блаженно улыбнулся и произнёс:
– Мамочка! Спасибо большое за подарочек! Мне она так драаавится!
Когда мы пришли домой, он поспешил сообщить Дане о своей новой покупке:
– Папа, мы в аптеке щёточку купили. Розовая мне не подравилась. А почему?
– Не знаю, Арошка. Ты мне скажи. Может, эта была красивее?
– Она плакала в магазине. Чтобы её купили! Больше не плачет.
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Thursday, December 6, 2012

10 Years!

Alena and Arosha.Today is a very very big day for me. Exactly 10 years ago I was sitting at home being very nervous in the anticipation of an upcoming date in the evening with a girl that I really liked. As everyone can guess — the date went well. Really well. The girl that was a complete stranger to me on that day is now my closest friend, a wife who I deeply love and a mother of my son.

So many things had to happen and be just right for us to meet and actually to try to get to know each other on that day. I’m oh so thankful to fate for how it all came together. Chudo, I love you so very much! I hope for another 50 years to be as great as the past 10 have been!
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Friday, December 7, 2012

Italian Vacation — Start

Colosseum.Our Italian vacation was expedtedly grand. It seems like almost everyone we know have been there, and the consensus is that one must visit. I mean, what’s not to like about Italy? The churches are mysterious and old, the art is beautiful and famous, the food is delicious and flavorful, the people are warm and emotional, the cities have so much character, the wine is abundant and cheap. Need I go on? It was a really, really good vacation.

I have to say though that somehow our last year’s trip to Japan was a bit more exciting. Maybe, Japan is just more exotic; or maybe we planned and prepared for it more. I am not sure. There really is not reason to compare, but I felt compelled to mention this. I loved Japan. I really liked Italy.

I also have to say that as far as logistics of the trip go, Danya did most of the work. I know it made the whole thing more stressful for him, but for some reason I could not put my mind to it.

Look at Florence from the top.We stayed in four cities during this vacation — Rome, Florence, Milan and Venice. Originally we were not sure if it makes more sense to rent a car and to drive from place to place or to travel by means of public transportation (Eurostar Italia). Traveling by car seemed attractive at first because it would allow us to see more cities on our way, but at the end we’ve decided that trains will be faster, cheaper and simply more convenient. I am happy with the way things went, and if I had to decide again, Eurostar would undoubtedly win. We also decided not to buy a train pass, since unlike Japan, you can’t board any train with it, and must do reservations (which cost extra) for specific trains. Considering we only traveled by train three times, pass would have been more expensive without providing any extra convenience.

Italian bullet train.Our plane to Rome departed at 9:50 p.m. on Thursday evening. One thing that happened the day before was that Danya’s dad got a pretty severe allergic reaction (horrible rush, fever, headache), and we were not 100% sure if it was an allergy indeed, although the doctor said that it should not be anything else. Danya’s dad never had anything like that in his life, so understandably everyone was really worried. A multitude of of bad case scenarios galloped through my brain, but luckily he got well within a few days and we did not have to change any of our plans.

Aroshka let us go easily. We’ve been telling him about our upcoming trip for some time, so he knew that we would leave and then come back in a week. He promised us not to cry and to listen to his grandparents, and that’s pretty much what he did. Aroshka and Danya’s mom waived us good-bye, and then Maruk gave us a ride to JFK airport.

I was not looking forward to the flight itself, since I am never able to sleep on planes and the flight was during the night. Also, I don’t know who decides how many people could be stuffed into one plane, but rows of seats are just too close to each other to be comfortable for a 6 feet tall long legged girl (especially when people in previous row recline all the way back). But whatever. After flying with a toddler ones, I appreciate having to worry only about your own comfort.

We arrived to Rome on Friday afternoon. It was my birthday, and even though we were really tired, I was looking forward to celebrating it in such an interesting city!

Rome street.We took a cab from the airport to our hotel. Danya has arranged everything in advance with hotel’s staff help. It cost us 55 euros, and we left 5 euros as a tip. Our driver looked really surprised that we left him extra money, but since we were not sure if it’s customary to tip in Italy, we’ve decided to be nice just in case. Since then we left tips on a few occasions only (first time we ate at a restaurant and when we were particularly happy with the service). The thing is that when we traveled by train from Rome to Florence, we spent our time chatting with a very nice Italian guy named Lorenzo. He was traveling home to some small town in the province of Venice after attending a rock band concert in Rome. Among other things, he told us that people rarely leave tips in Italy. There is a cover charge, or coperto, in each restaurant, and from what we understood it serves as a substitute for tips. The lowest coperto we’ve seen was 1 euro per person (during our first dinner in Rome), and the highest was 4 euros (during one of our dinners in Venice).

Lorenzo. Our companion on the train to Florence.By the way, Lorenzo’s English, to his anguish, was not fluent, but he could understand pretty much everything that we were saying and could communicate his thoughts well enough to have a 1.5 hour conversation with us. Many Italians that we’ve encountered (granted, a lot of them were in the service industry) had decent English, which made it easy for us to travel. Lorenzo is a pastry chef by the way, so his line of work does not require knowledge of English. Since we spent most of the time in tourist areas, almost all restaurants had English menus (and some places in Venice even had menus in Russian).

Alena and a tiny car.But back to our ride from the airport to our Rome hotel. The driver took us through the city via some scenic route. You can tell that Rome is an old city, and we were particularly excited when he drove through the area around Coliseum. I’ve noticed that there are a lot of bikers on the streets, but unlike American bikers, Italians somehow looked more casual, like they were riding bikes for convenience and not just to have fun. Cars in Europe are also different from what I’m used to. They are much smaller on average, and there are a lot of European cars in use (and very, very few American). One of the obvious reasons for the abundance of bikes and small cars is the price of gas, which is considerably more expensive in Italy than in the United States. I also have a feeling that majority of cars have a manual transmission. At least when we were renting a car, we got one with the stick shift (and it went without saying) — good thing that Danya had a lot of practice with it before.

It was pretty funny when our driver got emotional on two occasions — first he cursed some girl who inconvenienced him by crossing the street, and then he had an exchange with a fellow driver after our taxi blocked an intersection on a red light. It seemed to us that Italians drive somewhat more carelessly when Americans, but later on I actually started to appreciate how nice they are to pedestrians. On multiple occasions when we had to cross the street without a traffic light or a crosswalk, some driver would eventually stop and let us go.

Hilton Garden Inn Rome Claridge. Our hotel.Our hotel, Hilton Garden Inn Rome Claridge, was located close enough to the main tourist attractions, but not too close to be overly expensive. When we took a walk in the neighborhood, we actually saw a lot of embassies around. The hotel itself was not big, but very nice. The elevator was really tiny, but the room itself had plenty of space, and I especially liked red sparkling marble in the bathroom.

After checking in, we walked around for a bit and almost visited some museum in the local park, but then decided that we’re too tired and it’s time to get something to eat. By the way, one of the things that I loved about Italian architecture is that all the windows have outside blinds, which to me makes the buildings look old and romantic.

In a park near Borghese Gallery.There were a few restaurants close to our hotel, and we randomly picked one. It was almost empty. I ordered a seafood risotto (my fist, but not last) and Danya got steak with potatoes. The food was Ok, but I would not return to that place again. We also got some red wine to go with dinner. Wine was so abundant and relatively inexpensive in Italy, that we ended up drinking a glass or two every single day.

At the end of the dinner both of us could barely keep our eyes open (and it was not even 4 p.m. yet), so we went to the hotel right away and happily jumped into our big and cozy bed. Danya was saying that we’ll end up waking up in the middle of the night because we went to sleep so early, but apparently he was wrong. Apart from a brief period of non-sleeping at 10-11 p.m. we slept until the alarm went off at 7 a.m. After a quick breakfast and shower we went to explore some of the things that Rome has to offer.

Our room in Rome. Time to sleep!
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Sunday, December 9, 2012

Balsamic Orange Ginger Sablefish

Balsamic Orange Ginger Glazed Sablefish.I got this recipe from the back of Trader Joe’s sablefish label. I am very glad that I tried it, because it tasted really good and was so easy to make. I had too much glaze left over, so I added more ginger and soy souse to it and used it for a stir-fry broccoli. Will definitely cook again!
  • 1 sablefish fillet (8-12 oz)
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp orange juice
  • 1 tbsp orange zest
  • 1 inch of ginger, peeled and minced
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • salt, pepper

Preheat the broiler and wrap a broiler pan with foil. Season sable to taste with salt and pepper on all sides. Combine honey, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, orange juice, orange zest, ginger, and oil. Mix well and coat fish with the mixture. The fish should be only lightly coated, as too much of the glaze can burn under the broiler.

Broil sablefish 4 inches away from the flame just until browned, 3-5 minutes. Finish off in a 450F oven until done. Sablefish is done when it flakes easily with a fork. Total cooking time is approximately 10 minutes per inch of thickness of fish.
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Sunday, December 9, 2012

Grand Italian Vacation

One of magical canals in Venice.It’s already been seven days since we returned from our “Grand Italian Vacation” and I’m faced with my usual post-vacation conundrum — how do I do a good job conveying and preserving all the great feelings and experiences that we had, through words and pictures.

I think I will start by saying a couple of general things and will go into more details as I go on. Our Italian vacation — as most of our vacations tend to be — was great. We really liked Italy and all the cultural and historical experiences that it has to offer along with an abundance of famous places to visit.

Having said that I probably should mention that while we enjoyed our trip greatly we weren’t completely swept off our feet the same way we were in Japan. I’m not exactly sure why, but it probably has something to do with the fact that we really wanted to visit Japan for many years and year after year some obstacle would prevent us from going. So when we finally managed to do it — the achievement itself made if feel more special. And then there is the fact that it still is much more exotic of an experience. After all — United States itself, even though quite a bit different — did originate from Europe, while Japan existed and developed on a very different trajectory for thousands of years.

Florence. Climbing the tower.But not to get way too off course — back to Italy. The trip was great and everyone who has a chance should visit Italy. The country has so much history to offer in various forms that 10 days is barely enough to touch upon it — ancient structures, famous locations, familiar to everyone paintings and sculptures, unique cities and a great selection of local cuisines. We spent 10 amazing days in Italy that we will probably remember for the rest of our lives.

So a short summary of our trip would be that we got lucky with the weather, loved our Hilton hotels, used trains with great success to get around and even rented a car for one day. We tried a good number of Italian specialties and had a rather good luck with randomly picking places to dine at. All the cities look and feel quite differently from familiar to us U.S. cities and we loved exploring each and every one of them. But my favorite stop of all would have to be Venice — there is just nothing like it in the world and you feel how special it is when you’re there.

Milan. Main square.One of the things that we were worried a bit about was the time of the year that we were going at and all the floods that happened in Italy a week before our departure. However it turned out that weather was warmer and more pleasant than it was in New York at the time even though the most southern city (Rome) in our itinerary was still closer to the north pole than New York is. There were no signs of recent flooding when we were there, but even more surreal was the fact that the flooding has started again right after we left.

However a bigger advantage of the time of the year that we picked was the fact there were no enormous crowds. There were still tons of tourists everywhere, but we didn’t encounter a single line — no line to Saint Peter Basilica, no line to Vatican Museums, no line to Uffizi Gallery and tons of empty restaurants which were very happy to serve us.

Venice. View from Accademia Bridge over Grand Canal. Basilica of Saint Mary in the background.Speaking of which — the service everywhere was great. I couldn’t tell a difference between the typical great service that you would get at restaurant in U.S. from what we were getting in Italy — fast, courteous and very polite hosts and waiters everywhere. A lot of places put a sitting charge on your bill — ranging from 1 to 4 euros per person, but from what we learned from other Italians that we talked to — this pretty much frees you up from having to leave a tip. Even though we still left tips at certain places we felt very much OK with leaving a small tip or not leaving a tip at all.

But of course the best part of the timing of our trip was the fact that we ended up celebrating our 6th wedding anniversary in possibly the most romantic place on earth — Venice.

And now having all of the above laid out I can jump right into our trip and start from the beginning and get deeper into details.

P.S. Selecting photographs for the introductory post was really hard. I didn’t want to use up photos from the stories about each city, yet this post came out looking really photo-scarce. We’ll probably readjust this when we are done with all the posts.
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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Aroshka — 28 months

Smiling at my request for a photo.Наш Арошка не только болтуша, но и страшный фантазёр.

Очень часто, когда на площадке нет детей, с которыми ему бы хотелось играть и которые бы хотели играть вместе с ним, он придумывает себе воображаемых друзей — Винни Пуха, Виталика, Эвелину, Пятачка и т.д. Он может, например, сообщить мне, что Виталик катается с ним рядом на качельках. Потом он спросит воображаемого Виталика, не хочет ли тот сходить в японский ресторан, и сам же за Виталика согласится на такое предложение. Потом Арошка побежит в “ресторан” (на горку) и попросит меня дать ему картошку (например, веточку) и кетчуп (например, засохший листочек). Ну или на самом деле предметы ему вообще могут не быть нужны — он просто может сжать кулачок и полакомиться воображаемой картошкой.

Дома он может надеть себе на голову ведро, сообщить мне, что ведро — это поварский колпак, а сам Арошка — это повар, и что сейчас он мне будет готовить еду. Еще Арошка может придумать, что нам в дверь позвонили, ни много ни мало, а школьные автобусы. Мы с ним идём открывать входную дверь, Арошка приглашает автобусы к нам домой, и… укладывает их спать на свою кровать.

Еще он сочиняет сказки про Винни Пуха. Обычно они на одну и ту же тематику: как ему позвонил Арошка, как они ходили за мороженым, как гуляли где-нибудь. Конечно, сказка варьируется в зависимости от того, что происходит в Арошиной жизни — поездка ли к врачу, или поход на в его любимый парк, или поход в магазин. Не так давно выдался очень тёплый день, и возле площадки сразу же, как стая голодных волков, стали кружить машины с мороженым. Конечно же, Арошка возжелал его купить. К большому расстройству моего сына, я на покупку мороженого была не согласна, что закончилось небольшим скандалом. В тот вечер Арошка мне рассказывал вот такую грустную историю:

– Жил-был Ни Пух. И он очень любил мороженое. Как-то раз они с Арошей гуляли и тут приехала машина с мороженым. Ни Пух сказал: “Давай купим мороженое!”, а Ароша сказал: “Нет! Нельзя! Каждый день вредно мороженое!”. И Ни Пух заплакал.
– Ароша, он поплакал, и сразу успокоился?
– Нет, не успокоился. Он заплакал… И плакал… И плакал…

А еще Арошка последние пару недель очень интересовался марками машин, и на сегодняшний день знает почти все лого. Особенно забавно, когда мы с ним шагаем на дальнюю площадку и он обьясняет своему игрушечному жирафу:

– Смотри, жираф, это Мерседес. А это Хумдабл-ю. А это Лэксус. А это гидрант. Жираф, когда пожар, оттуда идёт вода!

Arosha in autumn leaves. End of October.А как-то по дороге на площадку, он остановился возле дерева, подобрал прутик и насадил на него пустую пачку от сигарет, валявшуюся рядом. На мой вопрос, что же он выудил, Арошка гордо сообщил, что это рыбка, и что её надо отнести домой и там сьесть. Он очень долго шел с ней по улице, и никак не поддавался на мои уговоры отпустить рыбку в море. Потом, когда “рыбка” в очередной раз сорвалась с удочки, Арошка сказал, что мы её сьели, и в бодром расположении духа пошел дальше.

Еще он как-то позвал меня в бассейн, привёл в нашу спальню и указал на матрас — вот он, мол. Потом сказал:

– На нас одеты специальные костюмчики! Давай плавать!

А в другой раз он сообщил, что “делает огонь” и будет жарить на нём шашлыки. Потом в своей комнате разложил на полу игрушку, позвал меня и гордо показал свое кулинарное творение. Потом он угостил меня “шашлыком” кошкой, а сам взял “шашлык” собачку и принялся его лизать.

Еще Арошка иногда мне говорит:

– Ты – это я. И ты у меня в животике. Ты мааааленькая.
– И что потом будет, Ароша?
– А потом ты вылезешь!

Arosha painting.Вобщем, фантазий у него очень много, всего не перечислить.

А еще я не помню, писала ли я, но Арошка очень хорошо освоил справление нужды в горшок. Уже давно у нас не было такого, чтобы он написал или накакал в штаны. Спит он, правда, до сих пор в подгузниках. Когда он не пьёт перед сном, то они сухие, а когда пьёт, то нет. А пить Арошка любит.

А еще после нашей поездки в Италию, Арошка почему-то стал боятся засыпать в одиночестве. Если раньше можно было рассказать ему сказку и выйти из комнаты, то теперь надо сидеть там до победного конца. На наши вопросы чего же он боится, он мнётся, а потом говорит: “Не могу обьяснить”. И вообще он хочет, чтобы я по возможности всегда была рядом с ним. Не уверена если это просто такой возраст или если наше недельное отсутствие повлияло на него таким образом. Надеюсь, скоро всё пройдёт.
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Saturday, December 15, 2012

2013 Nissan Altima SV

2013 Nissan Altima SV.Last Saturday we did an important thing — my parents bought and picked up a new car — 2013 Nissan Altima SV — to replace their beloved Sonata that drowned in the flood caused by Hurricane Sandy.

It was a hard loss for them to deal with. My mom did her share of crying and my dad spent weeks worrying and wondering why he had parked the car where he did. He understood that nobody expected such major floods to happen, but he kept replaying the scenario — what if he only parked it 2 blocks in other directions.

Nissan Altima.Either way, we can now happily put it all behind and hopefully they can enjoy their new car. Geico came through for them and did what they were supposed to. In fact it was a pleasure dealing with a company that handled everything professionally and didn’t give us any hard time about anything.

As far as the new car goes, my cousin, Arsen did all the hard work. He did a lot of research on a good replacement, spoke with multiple Nissan dealers when my parents decided that Altima was the best option, and found a great price for them. He also arranged all the financing and made sure that there are no extra hidden fees that dealers love to throw in. If it wouldn’t be for his help I would have to go through all that myself and even though I can do that it always gives me tons of stress. So I’m grateful to him for his help as much as my parents are.

2013 Nissan Altima SV.The new car is more expensive than the “old” Sonata was, but it it’s a higher class car. It has a new body for 2013 and this time my parents decided to get a navigation system, which I think is a great decision. I never understood how useful a built in system can be until I actually ended up with one in my own car. We also corrected a mistake we made with the last purchase — no more low profile tires and sports suspension. My parents prefer the car to feel softer and don’t really care much about it’s cornering abilities.

Anyhow, the new Altima is great. I hope they enjoy it for many more years to come. By the way, they also picked a non-silver color this time. I think it looks much better and richer than boring silver that every other car seems to be painted in.
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