Monday, January 9, 2017

New Year 2017

Us.Here is our short note for our latest New Year celebration. This year we met the new 2017 year with close family. And as always, traditionally at my parents. There was Alёna and I, mom and dad, Lina and Lenny and of course Anna and Arosha.

With grandparents.Arosha has agreed to take a day nap on the last day of the year — typically he doesn’t take naps — so he could finally stay up to actually meet the new year. Last year he fell asleep minutes before and we couldn’t wake him up. This year he stayed up way past the midnight. Anna went to sleep at her regular time, but woke up right after midnight — probably from all our cheering.

Laughter.It ended up being quite fortunate as they could open all their presents together. My dad always performs the role of Santa giving out the presents from under the tree. For Alёna and I we got a new 4th generation Apple TV — our 3rd one has bit the dust and that’s how we watch all of our TV and a manual juicer press. And we also got ourselves yet another Instagram calendar for this year that has also became a tradition.

Lina and Lenny.Kids — I don’t know where to begin. They got a ton of stuff. They got a huge set of play-doe, 2 different kinds of clay, some kinetic sand and paper edger scissor set for their crafts. They got a whole bunch of board-games and toys. Santa Clause even knew that Arosha really wanted a green lightsaber. Yup, he even got the color right. Not sure how he knew.

Kids.They also go a whole bunch of new clothing. Arosha couldn’t care less — I used to be same exact way — clothing was the least exciting present ever. Anna, however, is totally different. She starts awing and oowing all over her new stuff and starts trying it all out on herself. No wonder she learned how to put on shoes way before she turned 2. Women.

С мамой.We also got a new 128GB 9.7″ iPad Pro — the newest version — for my parents. Their iPad 2 is really antique by now and they tend to use it fairly consistently. And then there was a miscellany of different clothing for everyone.

I kind of started from the end though. Every New Year we start with family portraiture. I bring up my equipment, set up lights and we do numerous pictures of us in different configurations. This year I got lazy and used only one flash through an umbrella and it shows. The shadows on one side of some faces turned out to be really harsh. Note to self — do not be lazy.

Generations.We also forgot to take any pictures of our dinner table. We have a set of traditional New Year dishes that we do every year. We had french meet — meat with cheese melted on top — with potatoes, holodets — a kind of a frozen soup, shuba — translates as fur-coat, but is really a layered salad with layer of herring on the bottom, eggplant tomatoes — like some tapa which consists of a slice of fried eggplant with a slice of tomato on top with mayo and garlic, funcheza — my mom’s signature dish that is everyone’s favorite and multitude of other things. And of course no Russian New Year goes without Olivie salad.

And that’s pretty much it. It is 2017. Hard to believe how far into the 21st century we have gotten already.
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Friday, December 30, 2016

Christmas 2016

Christmas dinner.По традиции в сочельник я готовила ужин, и мы пригласили в гости Даниных родителей, его сестру с мужем и случайно Мишу. Честно говоря, я подумывала пригласить Мишу заранее, но так как он переехал на Staten Island, мы решили, что ему будет неохота тащиться к нам в гости. А тут он как раз ехал в Бруклин и позвонил нам. Вобщем, как раз удачно вышло.

Готовить говядину в вине мне совсем не хотелось, и я приготовила куриные грудки с винно-томатно-каперсным соусом. Получилось очень неплохо, все хвалили. Еще мы с детьми приготовили салат Цезарь (они помогали делать и сухарики, и заправку), салат из свеклы с йортом, чесноком и орехами (Арошка потёр всю свеклу) и огурцово-помидорный салат с подсолнечным маслом. Еще Арошка с Анюткой с удовольствием помогали мне делать яблочно-вишнёвую шарлотку и клюквенный компот (который получился слишком кислым).

Christmas dinner.Пол дня дождило, но после обеда небо прояснилось и Даня с Арошей отправились за алкоголем. В пивном магазине Даня выбрал упаковку с 4 сортами бельгийского пива — взыграла ностальгия по недавно прошедшему отпуску. Кстати, несмотря на наличие и белого, и красного вина, все гости, да и хозяева, предпочли пить пиво.

Ёлку мы поставили уже давно, в начале декабря. Ароша пополнил коллекцию самодельных игрушек раскрашенным снежинками стеклянным шаром, фиолетовым бумажным фонариком и еще некоторыми бумажными поделками типа полосатых конфет-палок. А еще мы с ним и Даней сделали замечательную гирлянду из бумажных флажков. Даня протянул её под потолком наискосок через весь зал, и каждый раз, когда я на неё смотрю, то почему-то радуюсь.

Our bedroom decorated by kids.У Арошки сейчас каникулы. Как же хорошо, когда почти не надо делать домашнее задание! Мы стараемся по возможности побольше гулять, особенно когда погода выделывает непонятные кренделя типа +14 градусов по Цельсию.

Мы как всегда на каникулах довольно много читаем. В основном, конечно, по-русски. Английский до сих пор не в том состоянии, в каком можно читать книги, которые его интересуют. Правда, мы прочли на днях и книгу по-английски — нам её подарила бабушка Мэди, а ей её порекомендовала средняя дочь, преподававшая когда-то в начальных классах. Книгда называется “26 Fairmount Avenue” by Tomie DePaola. Книга неплохая, но и не суперзахватывающая тоже. Я, признаюсь честно, много ему переводила на всякий случай. Еще мы не так давно прочли очередную книгу by Roald Dahl — я когда-то купила целую коллекцию его книг. Они тоже неплохие, хоть и не все нам еще по зубам (например, “Матильда” оказалась слишком сложной в языковом плане).

Parents.Конечно, очень хочется, чтобы его английский догнал его русский, но я не уверена как к этому лучше подойти и не потерять при этом русский язык. Я в принципе понимаю, что всё придёт, но в тоже время осознаю, что в школе ему из-за языка немного сложнее, чем детям, у которых главным языком является англиский. Во всяком случае пока.

Сам Ароша тоже читает каждый день, и по сравнению с годом назад прогресс очевиден. Но мне так хочется, чтобы у него появилась беглость и лёгкость, чтобы он понял, как же это здорово уметь читать самому!

Decorating the tree.Последние два дня Ароша и Анюта дают мне подольше поспать. Сегодня утром пока я спала они полили цветы, переоделись (Ароша помогал Анюте) и нарисовали по паре рисунков. Один из Арошиных рисунков оказался письмом Алексу, которого он давно не видел всвязи с долгой болезнью последнего. А вчера, вернее позавчера, они тоже рисовали, переодевались и сделали тесто для оладушек (мне оставалось только добавить соду с разрыхлителем и поджарить их).

А еще за неделю до Рождества мы ходили в театр на Брайтоне на показ сказки “По щучьему велению”. Компания была большая — мы с Арошей и Анютой, Эрика с двумя старшими детьми и Илона со своими детьми. Постановка была сделана каким-то московским театром, и должна сказать, что было очень недурно. Сначала выступали Дед Мороз, Снегурочка и иже с ними — мне было скучновато, но детям, наверное, ничего.

Us.Правда, когда первая песня прозвучала под фонограмму, я пришла в ужас. Я испугалась, что всё шоу будет исполняться под фонограмму, но, к счастью, дело ограничилось только песнями. А вообще было довольно весело и смешно. Правда, Анюта под конец устала и раскапризничалась, но всё же мне удалось уговорить её дотерпеть до конца — немного помогли ссылки на тот факт, что после представления всем детям полагались в подарок конфеты. А после театра мы с детьми и Даней сходили на ужин в Outback Steakhouse. Как ни странно, за почти месяц, прошедший с отпуска, это был наш с Даней единственный поход в ресторан.
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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Madrid

Streets of Madrid.Madrid was our shortest stop of our vacation and luckily so, because it was also our least favorite stop. Train ride was not memorable as nothing really happened except for the fact that it fell on November 23rd — our 9th wedding anniversary. Just as heads up — the first part of this article is going to be somewhat harsh, but things do pick up on the second day.

Our AC hotel.We arrived fairly early and had an almost full day to spend on sightseeing. Madrid also happened to be the only city where we ended up staying in non-Hilton owned hotel. The reason for that was the fact that the only Hilton was by the airport which puts it quite far away from everything we wanted to see. So we opted in to stay at AC Hotel which belongs to Marriott.

Our room.When checking in I mentioned to them that I’m a Diamond member at Hilton and that we’re thinking of maybe becoming the same with Marriott. They also knew it was our anniversary, but that was completely ignored. Overall the hotel was just fine, but nothing at all like the treatment we get at Hilton. Obviously the Diamond status affects that, but seeing that somebody has such a high status with a competing chain I would think you would want try to give those people a reason to consider yours in the future.

Madrid Atocha train station.Basically the only good thing that we got out of staying at this particular place was the fact that it was not far from the train station — which we had to be at while getting into and out of the city and it was in a walkable distance from all the places that we wanted to visit. Actually Madrid was the only place where we didn’t have to use any public transportation.

Puerto del Sol.So on the day of our arrival and checking in into the hotel we picked the shortest route to the very center of the city — Puerto del Sol and Plaza Mayor after that. And now even considering that New York can be quite dirty in places we were seriously shocked by what a garbage pile of city Madrid is. Really really unpleasant. And closer you get to the center the worse it gets.

Street name signs.Puerto del Sol gets billed as the Times Square of Madrid. Whoever thinks that has never been to Times Square. It really is a dirty little square with, well, nothing to see. They also have what seems to be a popular attraction that leaves yet more unpleasant feelings — a desk with 3 heads on it that and idiot under the table sticks out and starts screaming on the top of his lungs at unsuspecting passers-by. One day somebody wrong is going to get scared and the idiot under the table is going to get punched really hard into the face. Rightfully so too.

Plaza Mayor.After Puerto del Sol we followed to Plaza Mayor which was under some major construction as well. While many cities have cozy little neighborhoods with tiny old streets Madrid was ruined by all the dirt. We did like the city labels though. Each building on each corner had colorful signs with a different drawing attached to them with the names of intersecting streets.

Almudena Cathedral.We walked over to the main cathedral (Catedral de la Almudena) which is quite new and boring and walked by the palace which we were too tired to visit after all the bleak impressions. On our way back we ended up taking some other route than our original one and apparently went through some shady neighborhoods. We were glad to be back at our hotel at the end of this day.

Our dinner place.After getting to our hotel we went for what we hoped would be a nice dinner to celebrate our Anniversary. We found a place with high ratings on Trip Advisor, but were recommended a different place (El Rincón Asturiano II) by hotel staff which also had high ratings. So we went there. Everything started with the fact that there was no menu in English and the English expert that we were provided spoke no English. Our whole picking and ordering was quite comical, but I don’t want to go into too many details.

Our anniversary dinner.We both ended up ordering a leg of lamb, since it was the only thing that we were able to decipher out after a long conversation with our expert. The leg turned out to be dry, the potatoes boring and the lack of any vegetables or souse disappointing. Pretty much like most of our other dinners in Spain.

Prado Museum.Luckily day two moved the needle on the meter of our feelings on Madrid in the positive direction. Instead of going towards the center we went in the opposite direction. We decided to start our day by paying a visit to a famous Prado art museum. We spent several hours at the museum looking at paintings of artists that we’ve heard or read about. That was pleasant.

Iberian Acorn Ham.After the museum we stumbled upon a little cafe (Cafe El Botanico) that we decided to lunch at. We had a nice hearty soup and decided to try Iberian acorn fed pork ham (jamon). They serve it on bread with a tomato-garlic spread. It turned out to be very tasty. As I wrote before — the meal actually has pretty much nothing in common with what is called ham in America. This was one of our better food experiences of the trip.

Palacio de Cristal.And after lunch we spent several hours walking through a big adjacent park colored by fall. It was very serene, quite and clean. Like we were in a different city. We walked by a Chrystal Palace — a steel and glass building that is used for different expositions, listened to numerous street musicians and just simply sat on a bench enjoying the pond and the whole atmosphere of place. A good relaxing day.

Beautiful pond.For dinner we had another adventure. We figured that we should go to the place that we originally wanted to go, so we did. Only to find out that only the bar portion was open and for dinner we had to come 3 hours later. So we went back to our hotel, got online and consulted Trip Advisor again. Found a nice restaurant in the opposite direction, only to find out that it is closed on this particular day of the week after walking there for 20 minutes.

Plaza de Santa Ana.So we went back to our hotel. Got online yet again. Found another place (Bodegas Rosell) again. Went there. It was open. I ordered some pork which was bland. Alёna ordered something the opposite of bland — some fish soup-stew deal which turned out to be filled with some parts of fish which were inducing a vomiting reflex for both of us when we tried to eat them. So that was that.

Streets of Madrid.We went to some bakery afterwards because Alёna was hungry. But at the bakery we also were not able to explain what we wanted, so we had to settle for things that we could point a finger at.

Streets of Madrid.And that was Madrid. Even though we had mixed feelings and experiences in Madrid I’m glad we got to visit it and it add yet another pin to our growing map.

Royal Palace of Madrid.

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Sunday, January 3, 2016

New Year 2016

Our kids and us.Good-bye, 2015! Hello, 2016! Be Happy! Be healthy! Be the best year yet!

We celebrated at Danya’s parents. Lina and Lёnya were at his parents’ this year, so it was just us and Alla — Danya’s mom’s friend, who lives in our building.

With dad.The kids got sick the day before. Anюta was more or less O.K., just mild fever, but Arosha had a moderate fever and did not feel very well. It kind of sucks, since he was just sick last week, but what you gonna do? At least he is fine now, not counting minor cough and runny nose.

With mom.I only cooked one salad — the herring under beets. It just so happened that it became my New Year specialty, so I make it each time. Danya’s mom cooked a lot as always. I am so grateful that we can celebrate with them each year (on many levels, including the fact that it’s much easier to be a guest than a host). Alla also brought a few salads, so there was plenty of food, and I could not even try everything. It goes without saying that everything was delicious.

Arosha.We drank Bellini to say good-bye to 2015 and Veuve Clicquo Champagne to meet 2016. I am not a big fan of sparkling wines, but those two I really enjoy.

Dinner table. Small portion.The children went to bed close to 9 after getting their presents a few hours earlier. We really ought to cut the number of presents we get them, because I think that due to sheer quantity of gifts, they appreciate each one less. We’ll see if we’ll be able to control ourselves more next year.

Illy coffee machine.I got a good number of gifts myself — winter hat, shampoo, t-shirt, jewelry box and a coffee machine. The latter one is a present from Danya. I like coffee, but I especially enjoy cappuccino. This machine makes a wonderful espresso and steams milk into a perfect foam. I’ve made myself a few cups since getting it, and they are delicious!

Tear-off calendar from our Instagram stream.Danya’s parents tried the coffee today too, and both of them liked it. The funny thing is that Arosha likes the cappuccino I make for him as well. I use very little espresso and add lots of milk, some sugar and sprinkle it with cinnamon. Yum!

Hermes Apple Watch strap.Danya got a new wrist band for his Apple Watch (he seems to like it) and UGG slippers, which are a bit small, so we’re exchanging them, and a nice pair of winter pants and a wooden bow tie (he picked it out himself, but it is partially sponsored by his sister). And of course Danya ordered a traditional page-a-day calendar with pictures from our Instagram stream. He got one for his parents as well.

Fraction of gifts for kids.I also got a chance to Face Time with my parents this year. We gave my mom our old iPad when she left, and now we talk almost every day. It is so nice! It was cool to not just wish them Happy New Year, but see their holiday tree and holiday table and holiday looks.

Arosha's globe.And on the January 1st Lina, Lёnya and Lёnya’s parents came over to Daniel’s parents. Us and Alla joined too. We had a nice dinner and played a few of Arosha’s new games. It was fun, although I know it was tiresome for Danya’s parents to host a party for two days in a row.

Huge wall map of the World.All in all, it was a nice, relatively quiet holiday. I hope that we all will enjoy 2016!

Us.
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Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas 2015

Family.Today is Christmas! It’s not even remotely white this year — the weather is around 60°F today and was in the low 70s yesterday. How crazy is that?! Despite the warm temperature, it’s not very nice outside — it’s rainy and foggy and muggy. I think this year set new record highs, which obviously is concerning in regards to the whole global warming thing.

Grandma with grandchildren.But back to Christmas. I cooked dinner as always. We invited Danya’s parents, Lina and Lёnya. We also invited Misha, but he had other arrangements.

Thirst?This year I was not sure if we’ll be inviting anyone at all, since kids were sick (Arosha since Sunday, Anюta since Tuesday), but they got better by Christmas Eve, so everyone came over.

Braised beef and potatoes.I cooked my regular repertoire — beef braised in red wine, potatoes with garlic and dill, tomato and cucumber salad with feta, radish and scallions salad with Greek yogurt. By Danya’s request I tried to make Sangria on the base of white wine, but it was nothing spectacular. Just an OK drink, no better than plain wine. Oh well.

Tired?Unfortunately, our evening got a bit spoiled by neighbors downstairs. We’ve had issues with them since the very fist day we moved into this apartment, but the things kind of escalated lately, so we even had to call the police after the neighbor got so angry that he almost hit Danya’s dad with his fist. We are in compliance with all the requirements of our co-op and really tried to be nice to these people as much as we could. But when you’re dealing with completely inadequately behaving, constantly rude and abusive people who seem to have lost all the perspective one can only take so much.

Us.This year, maybe because of the weather, I did not want to get a live Christmas tree. Danya was on the fence — in fact I think that he would have liked a real tree more — but he did not care THAT much, so we got an artificial Christmas tree like I wanted. I hope we’ll be able to fit it in one of our closets after the holidays are over.

Reading.Oh, one more thing that I think is cute and worth mentioning. When I was peeling the potatoes and cutting vegetables for salads in the kitchen, I wanted Arosha to read to me, so I told him that I am bored and asked him if he could help me out and read to me. Arosha happily agreed and read four books from Tug the Pup series. I was so happy and proud of him. He can’t read well yet and its hard work for him, so I am glad that he does not resist it like he could have. I remember very clearly that when I was learning how to read, it was so hard and I hated it. I hope that he will read a lot, just like I did after the initial learning curve.
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Friday, January 16, 2015

New Year 2015

Our not so little family unit.The new year is here. We’re living in the future. 2015! Hard to believe. Last year just flew by. Year after year. Kids are growing, we’re getting older. Yet New Year is our favorite holiday — the family gets together, remembers all the good things from the year past and hoping for the next one to be good.

Little Santa.Usually we have a full table filled with some of our favorite dishes. The traditional things are salad Olivie, funchёza, french meat (beef with melted cheese), shuba (salad with beats and herring), holodets (frozen solid soup) and many others.

Grandpa and grandson.For many years now we have a tradition — I bring over all my camera gear, set up light and we take family portraits. It’s nice to see all our previous ones. The changes on the kids are the most noticeable.

Grandma and granddaughter.This year there was nine of us — dad and mom, Lina and Lёnya, aunt Lilya, Anюta, Arosha, Alёna and I. It’s always great to be surrounded by your closest family. The only better year that I remember is when Alёna’s mom was visiting us and met new year with us.

Kids.Anna went to sleep two hours past her usual time. Arosha tried hard to stay up, but got too tired about half an hour before New Year. Last year he used to go to bed at 10pm or so, so he met New Year with us, but now he typically goes to bed at 8pm. First of all he has to wake up for school at 7am and he stopped sleeping during the day. That is, by the way, one of the biggest things that happened last year — he started school.

With my son.After 12 o’clock and all the champagne drinking we put dad into Santa business. We load all our presents under the tree and my dad reads the names and gives the gifts out. The whole list is too long. Short summary — Harry’s shaving kits for dad and Lenny, CODE mechanical keyboard for my dad, modern electronic scale for mom, beautiful Swarovski watch for Alёna, Swarovski figurine for mom, Swarovski necklace for Lina, Blizzard gift certificate for Hearthstone cards and Nikon 50mm F/1.8G lens for me and many many other things.

With my beautiful wife.Also we got ourselves yet another calendar made from our 2014 Instagram photos from Prinstagram. Arosha and Anюta got a good number of toys, games and candy. Anюta doesn’t really get New Year yet, and Arosha couldn’t come up with something that he really wanted. So in addition to all the toys we got him a ticket to circus — Arosha, Alёna and I will go.

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Germany Vacation — Berlin

Looking into Tiergarten.Как всегда перед полётом в отпуск без детей, я волновалась. Волновалась о том, как им будет без нас, волновалась о том, как справятся с нагрузкой бабушка с дедушкой. Волновалась, хватит ли Анюте 3-х литров сцеженного молока, волновалась о том, будет ли она давать спать бабушке. Волновалась о том, чтобы с нами не случилось ничего плохого (по этому поводу мы написали завещание и оформили на меня страхование жизни). Волновалась о том, чтобы не волновался Даня. Волновалась о погоде. Но несмотря на все волнения, я надеялась, что всё пройдёт очень хорошо.

Empty streets of a weekend Berlin.Так всё и оказалось. Я как-то отдохнула, даже не столько физически, сколько морально, набралась сил и терпения. Даня тоже стал меньше переживать из-за разных вещей, которые наводили на него стресс. Отпуск — это так хорошо!

Walking around. Our reflection.Улетали мы в пятницу вечером. В четверг накануне я должна была закончить собирать чемоданы, но мне было очень плохо — жуткая мигрень, которой не помогают таблетки, слабость, тошнота (вырвало меня только раз, но подташнивало весь день). Я только и могла лежать на полу и ждать, когда же скорее наступит ночь. Хорошо, что Данин папа посидел у нас пару часов, а вернувшись с работы, помогла и Данина мама. Честно говоря, если бы такое случилось в день отлёта, то пришлось бы переносить рейс. Я думаю, что виноваты во всём новые очки, которые я начала носить в среду. Кстати, когда мы вернулись из отпуска и я снова попробовала носить очки, у меня был повтор ужасного дня. Так что теперь придётся идти в оптику и требовать, чтобы заменили стёкла (читаю пару недель спустя — таки да, в одном из стёкол есть небольшое отклонение, и его сейчас меняют).

Government building.Таким образом, в день отлёта у нас были практически несобранные чемоданы. Я чувствовала себя не ахти, но всё же намного лучше, чем накануне. После отпусков с детьми, паковать чемоданы на двоих — плёвое дело. У меня всё равно ушло на это много времени (тем более, что Ароша не пошёл в школу из-за того, что его утром вырвало от кашля), но к вечеру всё было готово. Дети со своими чемоданами, коляской и Анюткиной кроватью переехали на 10 дней к бабушке с дедушкой, а д. Боря отвёз нас в аэропорт. Самолёт вылетал в районе 22 часов из JFK, и летели мы Люфтганзой. Перелёт был с пересадкой во Франкфурте.

Сам перелёт прошел неплохо. Мы посмотрели пару фильмов — в частности Guardians of the Galaxy — перекусили, и прилетели во Франкфурт минут на 40 раньше срока. Поспать особо не удалось, хоть и хотелось. Хорошо людям, которые могут спать в самолётах. К сожалению, мы к таким не относимся.

Busy Berlin construction. Look at the number of cranes.Ждать пересадки было утомительно, но на самом деле по прибытию в Берлин мы были менее уставшими, чем, например, после перелёта в Рим или Токио. Не знаю почему, но это факт.

До гостиницы мы доехали на такси. В один момент таксист сказал нам — вот, посмотрите на этот дом, типичная нацистская архитектура. Нравится? Я немного растерялась и не знала, что ответить. Наверное, он говорил это с сарказмом (водитель не был немцем), но я так и не поняла, к чему это.

Alёna by the window in our suite.Когда мы подьехали к гостинице, Даня стал расплачиваться с таксистом, а я, чтобы чем-то занять руки, вытащила чемоданы из багажника. Я знаю, что, в принципе, этим обычно занимается таксист, но мне хотелось поскорее попасть в номер, и вообще — после постоянного таскания на руках 10-киллограмовой Анюты, руки как-то сами, почти независимо от меня, ринулись в дело. Таксист был удивлён, и Даня до сих пор со смехом вспоминает его восклицание: “Ого! Сильная женщина!”. После этого, чемоданы в такси я больше не трогала.

Living room of our Hilton suite.Берлинский Хилтон располагался очень близко к местам, которые мы хотели посетить. Нам дали не комнату, а настоящую квартиру, с огромным угловым окном, выходящим на Немецкий и Французский соборы и Жандарменмаркт. Честно говоря, я до сих пор под впечатлением от этого номера. Так же, я так полагаю в честь нашей с Даней годовщины, Хилтон подготовил для нас бутылку охлаждённого шампанского, клубнику в шоколаде, фрукты и вино. К сожалению, они забыли нам об этом сообщить, и мы заметили всё это только на следующий день (бутылка шампанского плавала в ведёрке с водой). Мы немного угостились фруктами, а алкоголь решили не трогать.

View from our hotel window.Оставив вещи в гостинице, мы отправились на прогулку по окрестностям. Местный рынок, к сожалению был закрыт — там всё активно наряжали к Рождеству — но всё равно было где походить и поискать местечко для еды.

View from another window.На ужин зашли мы в ресторан Августинер. Там было шумно и многолюдно, и царила празничная атмосфера. Сперва у нас, правда, поизошёл небольшой конфуз. Когда мы попросили столик на двоих, официант сообщил нам “да, но только на 3 часа”. Так как в тот момент было около 4-х часов дня, мы подумали, что следующий столик будет только к 7 вечера и собрались уже уходить. Хорошо, что Даня решил уточнить, правильно ли мы его поняли.
– О нет! Столик есть уже сейчас, но через 3 часа вы должны его освободить, потому что на 7 часов вечера он зарезервирован. Вы можете есть, пить сколько хотите, но только в течении 3-х часов.

Хорошенько посмеявшись, мы сказали ему, что нам такой столик подходит, потому что в среднем на ужин в ресторане у нас уходит 1-1.5 часа.

Manhole cover in Berlin.Официанты и официантки в ресторане были одеты в национальные костюмы, что, кстати, нередкое явление в Германии (во всяком случае в тех местах, которые мы посетили). Мы заказали Augustiner Weissbier — пшеничное нефильтрованное пиво, которое мы с Даней очень любим — и два вида немецких колбасок с капустой и картошкой. Всё было очень вкусно! Вообще я поняла, что немецкая кухня нам по душе. Думаю, что особенно хорошо она идёт в холодное время года. Мне все эти капусты-сосиски-клёцки-отбивные-гуляши очень напомнили польско-белорусско-русскую кухню, на которой я выросла.

После ужина мы отправились в отель, немного поиграли в Hearthstone и отправились спать.

Наверное, если бы мы ехали с группой, наше расписание было бы более насыщенным, мы бы увидели больше исторических мест и услышали бы намного больше информации о Германии в целом и о Берлине в частности. Мы же, как обычно, выбрали довольно небольшой ассортимент местных достопримечательностей для посещения во время этой поездки.

By Checkpoint Charlie.На следующее утро, хорошенько позавтракав и напившись капучино и чаю, мы пошли к бывшему американскому контрольно-пропускному пункту между западным и восточным Берлином под названием Checkpoint Charlie. Теперь там находится музей. Даня не был уверен, стоит ли заходить в здание музея, но нам его очень уж рекомендовала одна знакомая, которая бывала в Берлине неоднократно. Честно говоря, музей не произвёл на меня большого впечатления. В основном он посвящён людям, которые пытались перебраться из восточной части города в западную, и разным хитростям, к которым они для этого прибегали. Наверное, можно посочувствовать бедным ГДР-овцам, но у меня особых эмоций их проблемы не вызвали. Думаю, что слишком много я слышала, читала и смотрела о Второй Мировой войне, чтобы жалеть немцев, таким образом немного наказанных за те ужасы, которые они творили. А вот при виде актёров в американской форме, стоящих у пункта на радость туристам, у меня даже возникли патриотические чувства к моей новой родине.

Jewish Memorial.После Checkpoint Charlie мы отправились к Бранденбургским воротам. Идти было относительно близко. Было холодно, но солнечно и вобщем-то приятно. По пути мы заметили большое поле, уставленное многочисленными серыми каменными плитами разной величины. Мы не могли понять, что это такое, хотя было ясно, что просто так плитами поле никто не заставляет. Немного погодя мы прочитали на знаке, что это поле — мемориал памяти убитых евреев в Европе, и открыт он был относительно недавно, в 2005 году. Надо заметить, что мы сознательно старались не посещать в Германии места, связанные с войной, но, конечно же, совсем избежать истории невозможно, да и не нужно. Причина для ограничения соприкосновения с напоминанием о последней войне проста. Моё отношение к немцам двояко: с одной стороны я думаю о Бетховене, Бахе, Гёте, организованности, педантичности, трудолюбии, а с другой — о фашистах, холокосте, загубленных жизнях и прочих ужасах. Вобщем, я боялась, что при более близком столкновении со второй частью, первая уже не будет иметь значения.

Шарманщик.Бранденбургские ворота были как на картинках — ничего неожиданного, но всё равно приятно на них посмотреть. Людей вокруг было довольно много, но, наверное, меньше, чем в разгар туристического сезона. Мне понравился шарманщик — он улыбался и время от времени приподнимал шляпу и слегка кланялся зевакам. Играл он Баха, и от этого как-то острее чувствовалось, что мы находимся именно в Германии.

Memorial to soviet solders.Потом Даня отправился к мемориалу павших советских воинов в местном парке, Тиргартене. Монумент был внушительных размеров, с надписями на русском языке. Даня читал, что где-то должен стоять советский танк, но мы его так и не нашли.

Потом мы посмотрели на здание Рейхстага, который планировали посетить на следующий день (туда надо заранее регистрироваться, и сделать бронь на субботу у нас не получилось), и отправились в гостиницу, чтобы немного отдохнуть перед праздничным ужином.

Праздновать восьмую годовщину нашей свадьбы мы планировали в крутящемся ресторане, расположенном в сферической части Берлинской телевизионной башни. Даня еще из Бруклина купил билеты на башню, которые во-первых, гарантировали нам место в ресторане, а во-вторых, освобождали нас от необходимости стоять в очереди, чтобы попасть на смотровой этаж башни. Обошлось нам такое удовольствие 50 евро, но мы решили, что оно того стоит.

Rotating restaurant at the top of TV Tower.И вот, пребывая в отличном расположении духа, мы добрались до башни, поднялись в ресторан и получили замечательное место у окошка. И тут я начала понимать, что, может быть, крутящийся ресторан был не такой уж и хорошей идеей. Мы долго ждали официанта, и чем дольше мы там сидели, тем хуже я себя чувствовала. Я пробовала сидеть и по ходу движения, и против, но разницы не было. Думаю, на это еще повлияло то, что всего пару дней назад мне было так плохо из-за новых очков (ведь мы когда-то ели в подобном месте в Торонто, и всё было ОК).

Вобщем, минут через 20, так и не дождавшись официанта, мы оттуда удрали. Конечно, немного было жалко зря потраченных денег, но и оставаться там смысла не было.

West Berlin traffic light.Мы зашли в сувенирный магазин при телебашне, и при покупке подарка для Арошки — чашки с забавными человечками, которых мы видели на светофорах — мы узнали интересный факт. Даня на всякий случай решил уточнить, что это именно светофорные человечки.
– Да, да, — уверила нас продавщица, — Это наши, восточноберлинские светофорные человечки Ampelmännchen.
– А что, в западном Берлине на светофорах кто-то другой?
– Да, в западном Берлине люди на светофорах больше и без шапок, и руки у западного красного человека прижаты к бокам, тогда как у восточного они расставлены в стороны.

East Berlin traffic light.Мне данный факт показался особенно интересным потому, что это дало нам возможность ориентироваться в какой части Берлина мы находимся. В основном мы гуляли по территории бывшего ГДР.

Berlin bear. One of many.Еще одна интересная вещь, которя бросилась мне в глаза в Берлине — это большие статуи медведей из стеклопластика. Мы почитали на интернете, и выяснилось, что называются они Buddy Bears, и появлись в Берлине в 2001 году. Мишки эти сначала были созданы для украшения города, а потом появился проект обьединённых мишек, и они стали путешествовать по разным странам, проповедуя терпимость, мир, дружбу. Вобщем, мишки мне показались очень симпатичными, и мы чуть не купили одного из них в качестве сувенира, но передумали, и вместо них купили… пивные стаканы. Ну какая же Германия без пива? Стаканами, мы, кстати, уже пару раз дома воспользовались, и пить нам из них очень нравится.

At our anniversary dinner.После фиаско с телебашней, мы отправились искать что-нибудь поспокойнее для ужина. Выбор пал на ресторан “Mutter Hoppe”, хотя мы чуть было не ушли из него из-за того, что Даня принял русскоговорящего посетителя за владельца ресторана (хотелось есть в аутентичном немецком). Конечно, начали мы с пшеничного пива, в данном случае Erdinger Weissbräu, которое оказалось ожидаемо вкусным. Еще мы ели очень вкусную селёдку, мясо дикого кабана и sauerbraten (тушеное кисленькое мясо), который, правда, оказался немного жестковатым. Ужин удался. Так хорошо, когда можно уделить друг другу время и снова признаться в любви.

At the top of Reichstag dome.Следующий день был пасмурным и даже немного дождливым. Зонтики я не брала, но, к счастью, Хилтон отдолжил нам два чудесных больших зонта. Впрочем, к тому моменту, когда мы вышли из гостиницы, дождь прекратился, и зонтики из функциональной вещи превратились в громоздкий аксессуар.

Inside the dome.Прогулка по Рейхстагу была интересной — мы посмотрели на старые фотографии здания, почитали исторические комментарии, поднялись в купол, и в очередной раз пообсуждали немцев и Вторую Мировую.

At the top of Park Inn.Потом мы погуляли по городу, отдохнули в отеле и на такси отправились в Park Inn — гостиницу с открытой смотровой площадкой на тридцать-каком-то этаже. Даня очень хотел сделать фотографии Берлина, которые включали бы в себя телебашню. К сожалению, у него не было трипода, а площадка, хоть и открытая, была завешена сеткой, но всё же он смог сделать очень неплохие, на мой взгляд, фото. Надо заметить, что там было жутко холодно (а я, как всегда в отпуске, была в короткой юбке), но мы мужественно провели там минут 30, дожидаясь правильного света. Мы всё равно ушли немнго раньше, чем хотел бы Даня, но еще минут 5, и я бы превратилась в самого настоящего снеговика.

Потом мы побродили по рождественскому рынку возле Александрплац, но ничего там не покупали. Люди пили тёплый глинтвейн, ели аппетитно пахнущий гуляш, приобретали новогоение подсвечники и ёлочные игрушки. Вобщем, красота, да и только!

Holiday market at Alexanderplatz.Поужинали мы в ресторане “Lutter & Wegner”. Еда там была отличная — мы взяли гуляш и sauerbraten — а вот пшеничного пива не оказалось. Мы выпили какой-то пильзнер, но нам оно показалось горьким и совершенно невкусным. Ну ничего, после такого пива, то, что пьём мы, кажется в два раза лучше.

На следующий день, попрощавшись с нашей шикарной хилтоновской “квартирой”, мы отправились в Мюнхен.

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Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas 2014

Детки и елка.Весь день 24-го декабря дождило. У обоих деток поднялась температура, появились сопли и кашель.

С Анюткой.Мы как обычно пригласили на ужин Даниных родителей, сестру с женихом и Мишу. В этом году я, честно говоря, так устала от мяса тушёного в вине, что несмотря на простоту этого рецепта, я решила приготовить что-то другое. Посоветовавшись с Даней, мы остановились на котлетах по-киевски. Давно я их не готовила — слишком трудоёмкие. К котлетам, приготовленным почти до готовности в предыдущий день, я подавала картошку с чесноком и укропом, салат с помидорами и фетой, и салат с редиской и греческим йогуртом. А еще мы с Арошей на сладкое испекли пирог с яблокам, грушей, черной и красной смородиной. Тесто было как у шарлотки, и получилось очень вкусно. Даня обычно равнодушен к сладкому, но даже ему понравилось.

Арошка.Посидели мы хорошо. Как всегда поговорили об отпусках, о политике, о праздниках. Насмешила Анюта — когда она решила, что уже пора спать, она всем сказала бай-бай, помахала ручкой и отправилась к входной двери. Видно, перепутала, в чьей квартире она находится, и отправилась домой. Хорошенького, мол, понемногу — детям спать пора.

Бабушка с внуком.А в понедельник я ходила в школу к Ароше. У них был праздничный сладкий стол, а потом они пели песенки под аккомпанемент мисс Люпион. Мне, в принципе, понравилось, хотя представление было и попроще, чем утренники в советских детских садах. К сожалению, пианино было расстроенным, а пела главная учительница весьма средненько, но в принципе я была очень рада, что они вообще поют и что-то подобное разучивают в школе. Первая песенка, кстати, была не Рождественская, а на тематику Хануки (Oh, Dreidel). Ну, а потом они пели Рождественские песенки, в частности, знаменитые Jingle Bells. Ароша, хоть он и утверждает обратное, совсем не пел, но бубенчиками в этих самых Jingle Bells звенел исправно.

Родители.А ёлку дома мы поставили пару недель назад. Она совсем уже подсохла, но всё равно доставляет лично мне кучу удовольствия. Надо заметить, что в этом году Ароша принимал самое активное участие в украшении зелёной красавицы. Именно он повесил большинство игрушек и конфеток, а так же придумал вырезать из бумаги снежинки, и принёс из школы бумажные ёлочку, минору и дрейдел, которые тоже стали ёлочными украшениями. Ну, и еще он всегда клянчит у бабушки и дедушки игрушки с их ёлочки. Ну очень хозяйственный 4-х летний мальчик у нас!

Даня.Даня к Рождеству получил неплохое повышение зарплаты, чему мы, кончено, рады.

Бабушка с внучкой.А Анютку всё мучает её диатез. Зимой он стал хуже — наверное, погода всё же оказывает влияние. Я стараюсь как можно меньше пользоваться гидрокартизоном, но без него не обходится.

Дядя Миша.Кстати, мы с Арошей как раз в эти дни читали сказки Эн Хогарт про Ослика Мафина и его весёлых друзей. Ему очень понравилось, особенно о том, как Мафин пытался петь, а все его друзья пугались, и о том, как он был сыщиком и переодевался в разные костюмы. Еще мы читали сказки о Финдусе и Песоне шведского писателя Свена Нурдквиста. Они Ароше понравились меньше, но оттуда он взял идею о самодельной ёлке. В результате, он притащил домой палку и хотел просверлить в ней каким-то образом дырки и вставить туда еловые ветки, но я предложила просто прикрепить их скотчем. Вобщем, мы сделали не одну, а две самодельные “ёлки”, которыми Ароша очень гордился.

Пирог со смородиной.
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Saturday, February 15, 2014

February

Another snowstorm.Ах, февраль, февраль. Мой нелюбимый месяц. Зима уже надоела, холодно и зябко, праздники закончились, и вообще…

Хорошо, что мама сейчас у нас. Пожалуй, это самое для меня удачное время для её приезда. Ей, конечно, было бы лучше весной или осенью, но мне как раз сейчас помощь нужнее всего — и Анютку на улице не покормишь, и одеваться долго, и даже по площадке, когда много снега, с коляской не проедешь. Плюс, когда Ароша проводит много времени дома, ему скучно, и он становится более капризным и хочет, чтобы его больше развлекали.

Our little units.Ну, и к подгузникам тряпичным надо привыкнуть. Установить рутину так сказать. Вообще должна признаться, что от использования многоразовых подгузников я получаю чувство морального удовлетворения. Даня надо мной посмеивается, потому что тема эта мне за две недели не приелась, и обсуждать достоинства, недостатки, особенности и уход за этими самыми подгузниками я готова с кем угодно. Пока что я время от времени стираю их в ландромате, но чаще мы с мамой стираем их руками и развешиваем сушиться на батареи и стояк для сушки белья. Еще мне хочется купить их побольше, и даже не потому, что мне их не хватает, а потому, что их делают такими красивыми. Пока я сдерживаю свои порывы, и приобрела только мешок для хранения грязных подгузников и сумочку для улицы с отделами для чистых и грязных подгузников.

А Ароша выучил два стишка. У него вообще очень, на мой взгляд, неплохая память, но вот стихи не шли ни в какую. А тут мы на него немного надавили, и он, буквально за 5 минут, выучил сначала “Зайку бросила хозяйка”, а немного попозже “Уронили мишку на пол”. Больше стихов он пока учить не хочет, но я рада, что у нас уже какой-то прогресс в этой сфере.

Еще Ароша учится сам одеваться. Он может довольно легко сам одеть трусы, штаны и майку. Носки с колготами ему даются плохо, а сапоги и кофта средне. Проблема в том, что он не очень хочет одеваться сам, и часто отвлекается в процессе на посторонние дела. Мы его за это поругиваем, но в принципе за последние две недели виден явный прогресс. Я надеюсь, что к тому моменту когда уедет мама он сможет всё одеть сам и быстро.

Our tricks.Еще он очень любит сейчас смотреть мультфильмы о Смешариках, и почерпывает оттуда кучу полезной информации. Особенно ему нравятся мультфильмы о лейкоцитах, вредных бактериях и иже с ними. Когда-то давно мы покупали ему книгу о работе организма — тогда она ему не очень понравилась, а сейчас он с удовольствием её рассматривает и просит рассказать что к чему.

Trick, stage 2.Еще Ароша очень любит звонить дедушке и бабушке. Дай ему волю, он звонил бы им по 10 раз на день, но я обычно разрешаю это делать дважды в день. Я не уверена что именно ему нравится — сам процесс дозвона (он сам всё находит в телефоне) или разговоры, а, может, и то, и другое.

Мне кажется, что Ароше немного не хватает общения со сверстниками, но про садик он и слышать не хочет, плюс это дорого, плюс скорее всего будет носить домой болячки, а Анюта всё же еще такая маленькая. Ну, и мне, конечно, спокойнее когда он при мне. Так что, думаю, будем ждать до pre-K. Подача заявлений начинается в марте. Будем стараться попасть в нашу школу. Хоть она и не самая хорошая, но и не самая плохая тоже. А водить его туда очень удобно, да и первый год это всего два с половиной часа… Вобщем, надеюсь, попадём в неё.

More snow.Зима, кстати, в этом году снежная и холодная. Конечно, не такая снежная как в прошлый мамин приезд, но гораздо суровее, чем две предыдущие. Когда очень холодно, я даже не выхожу с Анютой на улицу гулять, а когда выхожу, то обычно не больше, чем на час.

Анюта вообще очень забавная. Она такая улыбчивая, такая общительная. Любит смотреть в глаза, любит быть в компании. Характер у неё иной, чем у Ароши. Она, мне кажется, намного спокойнее. Засыпает она лучше всего сама, при помощи большого пальца правой руки. Если Ароша просто обожал грудь и брал её практически в любой ситуации, то Анюта берёт грудь исключительно когда она хочет подкрепиться. Если я пытаюсь ей её всунуть когда она неголодна, то крик поднимается очень громкий. А вот если она голодная, то она практически никогда не кричит. Она начиает усиленно сосать руки и становится более капризной, но ничего не требует.

Jumping!Спать она в последнее время предпочитает, кстати, на боку. Из-за этого у нас время от времени текут подгузники, но поменять их, а так же мокрую одежду и постель, можно без проблем, потому что ночью плачет она редко.

Мы достали для неё прыгалку (jumperoo), которую в своё время обожал Ароша. Этот снаряд ей очень нравится! Она не сразу поняла, что там можно прыгать, но через день уже начала скакать как положено. Еще она ну очень любить купаться. Вечером, когда она уже усталая и капризная, достаточно принести её в ванную, и настроение сразу поднимается. Я купаю её сама — сажусь на край ванны, опускаю туда ноги, её придерживаю правой рукой, а купаю левой. Мылом я не пользуюсь, но мне кажется ежденевных купаний достаточно даже и без мыла (тем более, что под краном мы подмываем её часто с мылом).

Old jumperoo.Еще Анюта явно более пугливая, чем Ароша. Она боится громких звуков и если мы подходим к ней незаметно, то неожиданно заслышав наши голоса, она частенько вздрагивает.

Улыбается она много, а вот смеётся пока довольно редко, хотя у нас и получается иногда её сильно рассмешить. Например, на днях она начала хохотать когда я, рассердившись на Шублика за троекратное кусание, стала гоняться за ним с тапочком по квартире.

Valentine rose and a box.А еще вчера был день Святого Валентина. Даня меня приятно удивил и обрадовал — он подарил мне розу и плакат с нашими фотографиями с инстаграммы. Ароша тоже очень обрадовался розе. Он вообще очень любит цветы и всегда хочет их купить.

А еще чуть больше недели назад началась зимняя Олимпиада в Сочи. Мы смотрели открытие и часто смотрим разные соревнования — фигурное катание, катание на лыжах и санках, конькобежцев. Сегодня вот, я первый раз в жизни с интересом смотрела хоккей. Играли сборная США и России, и игра была ну очень увлекательной, особенно когда после счёта 2:2 начались шрафные броски шайбы. Россия проиграла, но, надеюсь, она всё же выйдет в финал.

Arosha and a rose.Каждую субботу мы ходим куда-нибудь поесть. На прошлых выходных ездили с моей мамой к Дэвиду в “Red Bowl”. Мы заказали их чудесных жаренных кольмаров, сладкие рёбрышки и утку по пекински. Маме всё очень понравилось, ну и приятно было попробовать знаменитое китайское блюдо в хорошем исполнении.

Snow.Ну и напоследок о самом неприятном, что тревожит нас уже несколько месяцев. Соседи, живущие под Даниными родителями, продали в конце прошлого года свою квартиру молодой русскоговорящей паре. Они там сделали капитальный ремонт, и вот с момента их ремонта в квартире Даниных родителей появился странный химический запах. Понять откуда он нам не удаётся. В менеджемент они жаловались, но те ничего не решили. В городскую инспекцию они обращались — те сняли пробы воздуха, но ничего не нашли. Запаха у соседей не чувствуется, но у них сильно пахнет свежими полами, и мы допускаем, что запах полов забивает тот странный химический запах. Вобщем, что делать и как с этим бороться мы не знаем, но запах этот очень угнетает, особенно Даниного папу, который проводит дома практически всё время. И зима выдалась особо холодной, так что окна настеж всё время держать не получается. Что же делать?

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Saturday, January 11, 2014

New Year 2014

Our little family unit. Featuring little and little little units.When Arosha was celebrating his first New Year, we had a lot of people to share it with. Anna’s first New Year was much more low key — just the four of us and Daniel’s parents.

Aunt Lilya got out of the hospital a few days before the year end and did not feel well enough to come, Lina and Lёonya were celebrating with his parents, Ignat, Vika and Alisa were celebrating with Ignat’s mom who came to visit from Moscow. My family is in Minsk…

Grandparents.I cooked herring “shuba” and olivie — luckily Anechka took a good nap while Danya and Arosha went to Kings Plaza to get one last gift (Swarowski figurine for grandma) and to ride an escalator. Arosha really wanted to help with cooking, so I asked him to peel some eggs, and he did it with great pleasure!

Danya’s mom made New Year staples — holodets, funchoza, “French” meat, oven roasted potatoes, fried eggplant with tomatoes and fried shrimp.

Danya’s dad bought a really nice bottle of French champagne — Veuve Cliequot. We had a cheaper champagne too the next day, and I can say that I much preferred the good brand one.

Our tree.We went to Danya’s parents at around 7pm and started off with some pictures. I like this new tradition of ours! By the time we were done, it was around 3 hours since last Anechka’s nap, so she got really fussy and started crying. I am surprised she lasted that long! I guess, she knew that it was important to be on family pictures.

I nursed her and she went to sleep peacefully. We started our dinner, and toasted the leaving year with some wine. I am very grateful to 2013. We got the best gift a family can get — a brand new life, our beautiful and healthy daughter.

Arosha really wanted to open gifts, so taking his age into account we did not make him wait until midnight, but let him start the process at 10. Last year d. Boris changed into Granfather Frost, but this year we thought that Arosha will see right through the charade. Instead t. Oksana suggested that we should distract him, while she will ring the doorbell and leave a bag of gifts at the door. We did just that. Arosha was slightly disappointed that Grandfather Frost was too busy to pay a visit, but later on he said that it was actually a good thing since he (Arosha) did not learn a poem for Grandfather Frost. Traditionally children have to recite a poem to Grandfather Frost to get gifts, but I had no luck with our smart, but stubborn son, who did not want to memorize any poems.

Alёna and Anюta.To be honest, by the time the New Year has come I was really tired. Without guests the celebration is not as exciting, plus lately I am chronically sleep deprived. We toasted the incoming 2014 year of the wooden horse and proceeded to open all the gifts.

My gift to Danya sucked — I got him leather gloves which did not fit well even though I bought two sizes, and UGG sleepers which had an odd fit as well. He got car pedal covers for the car from his parents, fancy socks from Linka (both gifts he picked up himself), and a bar of nice soap from t. Lilya.

I got a set of good German knives from Danya (so far I am really liking them), cast iron grilling pan from Lina and Lёnya (I picked it myself and it’s great), a daily calendar with our Instagram pictures from Danya (every day Arosha tears off a picture), clothes from Danya’s parents and soap from t. Lilya.

Alёna and Arosha.Arosha and Anechka got a whole bunch of toys from everyone, including Zhanna (Danya’s mom co-worker). The one Arosha plays with the most at home at the moment is a foam sword which Danya picked out for him on Amazon.

We did not know it yet, but Arosha was coming down with an upper respiratory tract infection, so he was really tired by the time the gift-gifting was over. I have decided to go home to sleep even though we could have stayed at Danya’s parents. I know that Anechka and Arosha are early risers, and I wanted to give Danya’s parents an opportunity to get a good rest.

It’s a good thing that we did leave, since Arosha was coughing and waking up a lot that night. Now, 11 days later he is still sick, although in much better condition. In addition he got double otitis, had a fever for 4 days straight (never happened before) and was prescribed antibiotics for the first time in his life. At first he stopped eating at all, but then he ate chicken soup for 7 days, by his own will. I had to cook it 3 times.

Little helper.Even though we tried to separate them as much as possible, Anechka got sick too. She has a bronchiolitis now, but she seems to be slowly getting well.

Anyhow, I hope this coming year will be happy, healthy and lucky! Cheers!

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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas 2013

Christmas dinner table.В этом году мы традиционно собрались у нас дома в предрождественский вечер. Мы пригласили Даниных родителей и Мишу. Еще мы приглашали Даниного коллегу с женой, Игната с Викой и Маруков, но, к сожалению, никто из них не смог придти (в основном по болезни).

В пятницу Даня предложил пригласить в гости кого-то помимо родителей, и почему-то факт того, что надо будет приложить чуть больше усилий по украшению квартиры и готовке навеял на меня праздничный дух.

Us.В пятницу вечером Даня с Арошей сьездили за ёлкой (сторговались за $75). Мне она показалась очень большой, но она как раз хорошо уместилась у нас дома. Правда, как вяснилось, ствол у ёлки оказался слишком толстым для нашей посдставки. Я приуныла и начала ворчать что ёлка-то таки слишком большая. А Даня тем временем обрубил лишнюю древесину моим кухонным топориком — я им не пользуюсь и поэтому, в отличие от всех остальных ножей, он довольно-таки острый.

Вообще ёлки у нас дома не было уже 5 лет — мы отмечали Новый Год у Даниных родителей, и ёлку всегда ставили у них. В этом же году Арошке очень хотелось, чтобы мы поставили ёлку и у нас. Ну как не порадовать ребёнка?

Grandparents.Ароше очень нравилось наряжать ёлочку — правда, у него не совсем это пока получается. Еще он решил, что на ёлку надо повесить настоящие конфеты — идею эту он подсмотрел в одном из рассказов Зощенко о Лёле и Миньке. В связи с этим на ёлке у нас, кроме шаров и гирлянд, висят разноцветные “коровки”. Ароше очень нетерпелось похвастаться ёкой, и он настойчиво приглашал в гости бабушку и дедушку. В пятницу они не смогли к нам зайти, зато в субботу смогли полюбоваться и выразить свое восхищение нашей зелёной красавицей. Кстати, ёлка первые два дня не пахла, а потом отогрелась, отомлела и стала пахнуть очень сильно.

Beef braised in wine.На ужин я решила традиционно готовить мясо в вине и картошку с чесноком. Еще захотелось внести какое-то разнообразие, и я приготовила тыквенный суп-пюре. Когда мы в октябре ездили за яблоками, мы прикупили там еще большую тыкву. Из неё предполагалось что-то вырезать на Хэллоуин, но до этого руки так и не дошли. Так вот эта тыква мозолила мне глаза уже давно, а тут подвернулся такой хороший повод её так сказать слопать. Суп я готовила в два этапа — в понедельник, 23-го декабря, я запекла тыкву в духовке и сварила куриный бульон, а во вторник соединила все компоненты (бульон, тыкву, луковицу, специи и немного сливок), всё поварила и пюрировала. Получилось очень неплохо.

Greek salad.Еще мы с Даней сделали два салата — один из огурцов, помидоров, лука, брынзы и маслин. А второй получился неожидано — я планировала приготовить салат из стручковой фасоли с чесноком и кинзой. Когда Даня ходил в магазин за продуктами, он купил баночку оливок с каперсами. Вот эти самые оливки я тоже решила пустить в салат, и в результате я соединила их со стручковой фасолью (слегда отвареной в солёной воде), помидором, сладким перцем и кинзой. Заправила оливковым маслом и соком половинки лимона и дала помариноваться в холодильнике пару часов. Всем понравилось.

На сладкое были фрукты в шоколаде, которые как и в прошлом году купила Данина мама, мандарины и виноград. А пили мы моё любимое Бужоле.

Us.Вообще посидели мы очень хорошо. Я получила удовольствие. А засчёт того, что меню было лёгкое и большинство работы я сделала днём, пока Даня и Ароша гуляли и ездили стричься, я даже не была слишком уставшей к приходу гостей. Анюта вела себя нормально. Самое главное, что она хорошо поспала в первой половине дня, когда мне надо было поработать на кухне. Она, кстати, с удовольствием сидела у Миши на руках.
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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Fire Island

Fire Island Lighthouse.Last Saturday we had another travel-adventure. We haven’t visited Fire Island since the time when Andrey came to visit us and that was right before Aroshka was born. So I thought that it would be fun for Arosha to see a real big lighthouse which can be climbed.

Wooden trail.I wasn’t sure if everything was open after Sandy last year, but my call confirmed that all was good. Some portions of the wooden path have been destroyed, but you could go around via a paved road for that section and they said that stroller wouldn’t be a problem.

Alena, Anechka, Arosha.The day was nice and warm. The park was filled with visitors. We felt like we were quite far away from home in some National Park. And indeed, Fire Island is a National Seashore and has its own official stamp. It was very pleasant to be taking a walk in such a beautiful place breathing fresh air imbued with salty water smell of a raging open ocean.

Near lighthouse.This time there were 5 of us. My dad decided to join us and managed to squeeze in between the two car seats on the back seat. The drive to Fire Island was very short — took us less than an hour to get there. During our drive and during our walk Anechka slept well as always and Arosha was running back and forth exploring different places and plants.

Fire Island beach.We’ve seen a number of lighthouses in our travels and some with Arosha, but none are as impressive as the one on Fire Island. The second most impressive lighthouse I’ve seen was in Bass Harbor in Maine, but that one’s place in memory should be attributed to its location rather than the lighthouse itself.

Ocean.When we got to the lighthouse itself I was told that in order to climb to the top one had to be above a certain height. Somehow I naturally assumed that Arosha would be fine, but it turned out that he was exactly to the mark. If I remember correctly the mark was at 43 inches. As we found out later — Alena talked to somebody on the trail — not all 5 year olds qualify.

Ocean.I imagine Arosha was one of the very very few 3 year olds who not only attempted by actually got to the top. I was actually surprised with the speed of his ascent via a spiral staircase. Not all adults could be so brisk. In addition to a 3 year old Arosha my soon to be 75 year old dad was right along us. It takes 182 iron steps and two small ladders to get to the top.

View from the top.The view was great. We took a lot of pictures. Arosha was very cautious around the perimeter, although it was all protected by steel net which seemed pretty sturdy. After taking in the view we easily made it down where we were awarded certificates of achievement. I declined mine, but Arosha and my dad decided to keep theirs.

Cake was good!It also turned out that on that very day the lighthouse turned 155 years old and there was a lot of live music and a lot of free cake in celebration. Arosha claims that it was quite delicious. While Arosha was eating cake we took some portraits around the lighthouse.

By lighthouse.After that we walked to the beach. It was really beautiful. The waves were pretty big, but that’s because it’s an open ocean. The was very little wind. One could really spend a good while there just admiring the beauty of nature with all one’s senses — the view, the smell, the sound. Peace and serenity.

Sleeping.To finish our day off we had a nice dinner on the shore — a nostalgic type of place that reminded me of our great time in Maine and more recently Olympic Peninsula in Washington. It was yet another great weekend outing for our brave and not-so-little family.

Captain Bill's. Dinner.
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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Anniversary in Venice

Sunny day in Venice.Venice was the final stop of our Italian trip. We timed it so that our 6th wedding anniversary would fall on one of the days that we would be staying in Venice. In fact, originally we planned to spend 2 nights in Venice and 2 nights in Milan, but shifting one of those nights over to Venice was definitely the right thing to do.

Venice character.If I were to write a short story it would be this: Venice was magical. It really was the peak of our trip. Rome was a great place to start our vacation and Venice was the right place to finish. I’m glad that it wasn’t the other way around. And it really would be hard to find a more romantic place on Earth to celebrate our anniversary at. And our hotel was the most luxurious one of our whole trip. While other cities have places to see Venice itself is a place to see.

Canals of Venice.And now into the details. We arrived to Venice by high speed train sometime in the early afternoon. Venice has two train stops and luckily we did our research ahead of time, so we got off on the right one — the very last stop of the line. We were slightly worried about getting to our hotel as we had to catch the right “bus” boat since we couldn’t really walk to the right place and taxi-boats would be very expensive. However directions that we prepared ahead of the trip turned out to be very easy to follow.

Canals of Venice.Right after walking out of the train terminal we saw what looked like a bus stop, only for boats. We had two options — either take one directly to the island where our hotel was located and walk, or take the boat to the island across the canal and catch a shuttle provided by hotel directly to the doors.

Streets of Venice.We figured we’ll just take the one that shows up first — they had numbers just as buses do. The one that arrived first actually stopped at both places, but the shuttle schedule didn’t really line up, so we figured we’ll take a walk, even though we worried slightly that there might not be a sidewalk or something like that.

Hilton Molino Stucky Venice.Our hotel was located on an island called Guidecca, which is directly to the south, across the canal from the main Venice itself. The stop that we got off at was called Palanca. Turned out that the walk itself took no more than 10 minutes at a relaxed pace and the only slight complication was that we had to carry our luggage up to a pair of small bridges to cross the canals — no big deal at all. Soon after we were inside the lobby of Hilton Molino Stucky Venice hotel — the most expensive (point-wise) stop of our trip.

Our suite.Several days before our arrival I got an email from the hotel manager asking what is the occasion for our stay and I told him that we are celebrating our anniversary. When we arrived instead of getting an upgrade to executive floor (our Diamond VIP benefit) they actually upgraded us to an executive floor suite with a view of Venice. When I checked the actual cost of the room it clocked in at over $1,000 per night. And we were getting this for free.

Window view.The view really was great. Included breakfasts were usual Hilton style — full kitchen with hot food. And executive lounge provided free drinks and snacks all day long. We really did drink a lot of wine throughout our vacation. There was no way to walk to the main part of Venice, but there was a ferry running every 30 minutes provided by our hotel with two stops on the other side: Zattere — a stop right across the canal and San Marco — main squire of Venice. The ride to Zattere was about 5 minutes and to San Marco around 15.

Ponte dell'Accademia. View from Accademia Bridge — one of four bridges over the Grand Canal.We also soon realized that you can walk all across Venice by foot. All the places are interconnected by tiny bridges along with several large bridges across the Grand Canal — no need to figure out public transportation or anything like that. Plus Venice itself is pretty tiny and can be walked across in a short amount of time.

Streets of Venice.Now we heard things from people that Venice doesn’t smell good, is very hot and humid. It very well might be that during the summer, but it defiantly is not the case at the end of November. We didn’t notice any smells and the temperature was very mild.

Venice. Daniel.We actually lucked out with the weather. Less than a week before we got to Venice there were a lot of reports of Venice being completely flooded. When we were there it was perfectly fine and we didn’t see any signs of flooding. However right after we left the city got flooded again. Talk about good timing.

Foggy night.I also got a good amount of great photographs. First day was cloudy, second day was sunny and third and forth days were very very foggy which made the place even more cozy and romantic. The city definitely has character. We spent hours upon hours just walking around, looking for the tiniest and quietest streets and bridges we could find. All in all we absolutely loved it.

San Marco. The center of Venice.On the first day we just walked around and looked around and had a very nice dinner at Santo Stefano. Alena’s black ink risotto was especially nice.

Inside San Marco Cathedral.On the second day we went to explore the main square and San Marco Cathedral itself. It’s an eastern influenced architecture and has 5 domes more reminiscent of those that you would see on a mosque.

Piazza San Marco.There is also a high tower next to it. There are no stairs and only an elevator ride to the top. As a result it didn’t seem as impressive — there is no sense of accomplishment that I’ve experienced when I was at the top of the tower in Florence. But the weather was nice, so we got some bird-eye view photos.

View from the top of the tower.And we did a lot of wondering on this day as well. We also stopped by Venetian Guggenheim museum, and quickly realized that if you want to visit Guggenheim you do it in New York. They advertised that they had Picasso, Dali, Kandinsky and such, but in reality had one of each. New York is where you go.

Anniversary dinner at Trattoria Ai Cacciatori.This was the day of our anniversary. We decided to find a dinner place somewhere on Giudecca for this night. We ended up walking all the way from our hotel on the west side of the island to the very eastern side of the island and in the process discovered only two open places. I guess in low season this island is really asleep. We ended up eating dinner at one of the places that we found online prior to our walk — Trattoria Ai Cacciatori.

Streets of Venice.Although the pictures that we saw showed a very rustic looking place when we got there it turned out that they renovated and ended up with plain white walls. Sounds like a mistake to me. The food however was good. We ordered a couple of appetizers, I had Venetian liver and if I remember correctly Alena had some fish. And of course more wine again. This also was the only place where our waiter (a young guy) had trouble understanding our English — probably one and only such occurrence during our whole trip.

Venice masks.On our third day we did a lot of wondering around again. I’m repeating myself — but what a beautiful place. On this day we started looking for something authentic to bring as a gift to my parents and something for ourselves. When we first arrived to Venice we noticed tons of shops selling masks. At first we thought that it was weird, but later on, when you start looking at them you see how really beatiful and well crafted some of them are — they are indeed art. However the trick is to find the real ones that are made in Venice and not some imports. At first imports might sound like a good deal price-wise, but when you hold both in your hands you feel a substantial difference.

Mask shop.We walked through a lot of stores until we found one that we really liked. This place didn’t even have a sign, but when we walked in it had a nice collection of all kinds of masks and there was no sales person to pester you. There was a master working on them. When we walked in he was picking the masks out of the forms and cutting them out. He greeted us and carried on doing his thing leaving us to look at everything at our own pace.

Venice. Fog.We ended up picking out the ones that we really liked and got a pair of them for a very nice price of about €50 each — it really is a good deal. I asked him to pose for a picture, but he, what seemed like a typical Italian, said that he doesn’t really like himself on pictures, but instead will do something else. So he grabbed a mask, a cape and a hat and stroke a rather cool pose for us. We were quite happy with our acquisition and were actually glad to see the process of those being created with our own eyes.

Streets of Venice.In the evening we picked another restaurant to eat at, but this was really the only time that we struck out with our random picking. Not that the place was bad or anything, it just wasn’t anything special either — and by now we were spoiled with our luck with restaurants.

Foggy day. Venice.When we got to our hotel we ordered a taxi to the airport. The price was quite high — €105 if I remember correctly. But we were aware of it from the time that we were booking planes and decided that we don’t want to fumble with public transportation and other people’s schedules on the day of our departure. My nerves are worth to me more than the money and me being me — this was money well spent.

Canals of Venice.In the morning taxi picked us up at our scheduled time and gave us the last ride through the romantic canals of this beautiful city. We arrived at Marco Polo aiport and had an uneventful non-stop flight back home. Now some time has passed and all those cities have a very fond place in my memory. So many great days and places I’ve seen with my bestest friend in the whole wide world, my beautiful wife.

Streets of Venice.P.S. I have a lot of great photographs of Venice left, but no room to post them. The city is just too photogenic.

Fog. View from our window.
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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas 2012

Arosha.None of us are religious, but it’s become sort of a family tradition to gather in our home on Christmas Eve.

This year we’ve invited Danya’s parents and Misha. I cooked my Christmas staple — beef braised in red wine with carrots and garlic, potatoes with garlic and dill and a salad. For desert we had candies and chocolate covered fruit, which Danya’s mom and Zhanna got for me.

Grandma and grandpa.When Aroshka saw a pretty box with fruits, curiosity got the better of him. He waited until the kitchen was clear and knocked the box off the counter. When I heard the noise and ran to the kitchen to see what happened, I found Aroshka sitting on the floor surrounded by chocolate treats. He was trying to break the chocolate shell on one of the fruits and see if the inside is more eatable than the outside — it happens so that our son, just like his father, hates chocolate. There was also a very curious Shublik sneaking around the scene, so I asked Aroshka who did this, and Aroshka said that it was him (Arosha). The whole thing looked so funny, and it was actually the first time that our boy took food from the counter without asking first. We freed a strawberry from its chocolate prison for Aroshka, and he was very happy with this turn of events.

Getting the table ready.And in the morning of December 24th the three of us decorated the apartment a little bit by hanging some lights and garlands and ornaments on the walls and ceiling lights.

Misha and Arosha.The dinner itself was very nice and laid-back. Aroshka was pretty excited that we had guests. When I told him that his grandparent are coming for dinner, he pondered for a moment, and then said:
– Но у нас нет большого стола! (But we don’t have a big table!)

Daniel.The thing is that Danya’s parents invite us to dinner often, and they do have a big table in their dinette, and we always eat there. It did not occur to Arosha that we can move our glass table and use it for dinner, but I was pretty impressed that he even thought about the necessity of having a table big enough for all of us to sit comfortably.

Meat and potatoes.And on Christmas Day we went out with Ignat, Vika and Aliska to celebrate their getting green cards not long ago. We went to Vietnamese restaurant, which was packed by the way (we planned to have sushi originally, but there was a 30 minute wait line). It was nice! And earlier that day Alex came to visit, and we went to Cloves Lake Park (Danya has already wrote about it).
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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2012 is Here

Grandpa, grandma and Arosha.Another year is behind, another year is ahead. I am sure it will bring a lot of happy moments, a lot of opportunities to be good and to do good, a lot of sweet dreams, and hugs, and smiles. I am sure it will bring some sad moments, some worries, some things that we’d rather avoid. There is no light without darkness, and I can only hope that I’ll be wise enough to appreciate all things, both good and not so good, that life throws my way.

I wanted 2011 to be nice and quiet, and that’s pretty much what we’ve got — no life-changing events or moving to new apartments — although it was not completely uneventful either.

My mom spent the beginning of 2011 with us, and this made me very very happy (and extremely sad when she left). Moms are so special! I hope we’ll see each other again in 2012.

The whole family.We went on two great vacations last year. One was Bermuda cruise which we took together with Danya’s parents and Aroshka, and another was our recent trip to Japan (special thanks to Danya’s mom who spent her vacation taking care of Aroshka and made this whole thing possible). All I can say is that exploring the world is one of the best things in life, and I hope we’ll continue doing it in 2012.

I have become an aunt for the second time last year. My sister gave birth to a baby-boy in July, and it is so much fun to see him growing (over Skype, but still), even more so because him and Aroshka are so close in age. I have to be honest, I like it when my older sister asks me for advise — makes me feel smart and all.

Both us and Danya’s parents have refinanced our apartments last year. The rates are even lower now, but I don’t think that it’s worth the hustle to re-do it again. I dream of a big house, with nice backyard which will have real grass and trees, with roomy kitchen, with hardwood floors which we would not have to cover with carpets because of neighbors. It would be nice to have Danya’s parents to live close to us — we really are lucky to live next door to them now.

Us. We look tired.Aroshka has grown so much during the last year! He turned from a bold chubby baby to a tall and slim toddler with beautiful curls and mischievous smile. He learned how to sit, crawl, stand on his own and walk. He’s got 10 new teeth and started to eat solid food. He learned to make so many sounds, and can verbally communicate a lot of things already. I bet that by the next New Year’s eve he’ll be a pretty proficient talker. I love him so much and he makes me happy and proud every single day.

My wonderful husband and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary last year. It was really special — we had a traditional Japanese dinner at ryokan in Kyoto! I wish us many more happy years together. Hopefully, next year we’ll be able to travel again on this date.

I hope that the mighty Dragon will bring a lot of luck and happiness to everyone in 2012!

Dinner table getting set.And just a few words about our celebration. It was pretty low key this year. We went to Danya’s parents (one of Danya’s mom acquaintances joined us since she had nowhere else to go to), and started a holiday dinner at around 19:00. In about an hour Aroshka opened some of his presents and went to sleep.

We watched some TV and greeted 2012 with traditional champagne at 00:00 and then everyone got their presents. For some reason we had really tough time buying presents this year, especially for Danya and d. Borya. They said that they really had everything that they need, which is kind of true. I ended up ordering Danya’s present (leather journal) really late and got it in mail just a few hours before the deadline. I personally got a cool tea brewing gadget, a set of cookware, a summer dress and a box of candies.

Shortly after 12 Alex came for a short while, and around 1 o’clock I went to sleep. We slept over at Danya’s parents’ since we did not want to wake Aroshka up in the middle of the night. Both him and I had (and still have) a mild cold, but luckily he only woke up once during the night.

Alena and Arosha.We spent the majority of January 1st at Danya’s parents. Danya’s friend, Igor, with his wife Tanya and 3 children paid us a visit (at Danya’s parents aparment), and somehow it put me into more holiday mood. Aroshka was excited to see them (their youngest daughter, Anechka, is only 5 days older than Aroshka). I was also happy that they came because we’ve been to their home a few times already, and it was nice to return the hospitality. They are really nice people, and I can only imagine how much work it takes to take care of all of their kids! Lina and Lenya also came for a short while. They were celebrating the New Year with Lenya’s parents this time around, but next year they’ll be joining us, which is good.

By the way, we did not have any snow yet! As far as holiday mood goes, it’s a downer. Should we wish for a white 2013 New Year?
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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Japanese Food

Plastic dishes.To try actual real Japanese cuisine or rather cuisines was as interesting and as important of an objective for us as visiting ancient Japanese temples and shrines. We knew some facts about Japanese food, but we had more surprises than we expected.

First lunch. Shibuya, Tokyo.For one thing it turns out that all the foods that we have at local Japanese restaurants such as sushi, rolls, tempura, yakitori, soba and so on — in Japan these are all different restaurants specializing in each one of those things. One place does sushi, another does tempura, third does something that we’ve never heard of at all.

We didn’t do much research on food before going — we only had one place that was “must visit” on our list. And that’s the place I will start with.

Sushi & Sushi Dai


Sushi Dai is a tiny “hole in the wall” type of restaurant located on the famous Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo. As you can guess by the name — the restaurant specializes in sushi and is considered to be the best sushi restaurant in Japan, which in turn makes it the best sushi place in the world. I’m nowhere near being an expert on sushi, so I don’t know if it is true or not, but I can share my own impressions.

Sushi Dai sign.Having the reputation that it has this little place has a long long line all the time. It opens at 5am along with the market itself and closes before noon. It is said that the earlier you get there in the morning the faster you’re going to get in. It is also said that if the line is too long one might want to try to get into another famous restaurant a couple of doors down called Daiwa Sushi and see if the line is shorter there.

As I’ve mentioned before we really lucked out with our hotel location. The fish market was a 10-15 minute walk from our hotel, so we didn’t have to take subway or anything else to get there. It also happened so that we were still running on New York time. We set the alarm for 6am just in case, but we managed to wake up at 4am on our own — perfect.

Red snapper.Now I want to mention that I’m not the biggest sushi fan in the world by any stretch of imagination and having sushi for breakfast was even stranger. But our hearts were really set on Sushi Dai, in fact so much that we watched a ton of videos on YouTube about people visiting it. One thing that stands out in all the videos is the fact that somewhere in the middle of the course that you’re getting served you get a thing that is clearly moving on top of your rice. That was making me quite nervous.

Another thing about this place is that from everything I’ve read it seems that majority of people have a really hard time finding it on the fish market. And even if you do you must be able to identify it by a sign which is done in the same style as all other restaurants on the market and obviously it is in Japanese. I had the sign printed out, but by the time we got to Japan I had it committed to memory anyhow. I also looked at a lot of satellite photos and maps of the area. I was just hoping that things would look familiar from non-satellite perspective when we actually get there.

Sardine sushi.I’m proud to say that we got to the fish market without making a single wrong turn. And not only that, but we also arrived to Sushi Dai inside the fish market without making a single wrong turn either. One thing was obvious — no need to identify the restaurant by the sign. It was the only place with a line and a long one at that. The time on the clock was 5:40am — we did take our sweet time showering and getting dressed.

I would say there were about 10 couples in front of us. The problem is that the restaurant fits about 10 people (not couples) at a time. We took our place in line — which still was in front of Sushi Dai at the time, but soon after the line grew bigger and eventually extended around the corner of the block.

Our chef at Sushi Dai.Right in front of us was a couple of older people — a Japanese looking man and a very Russian looking woman. It turns out that they live in LA and he travels on business to Japan very often. And when she comes with him they do a mandatory trip to Sushi Dai. A couple of times per trip if they can.

It took us about an hour and 40 minutes of waiting to get in. This couple went in ahead of us and we got in right after them. We ended up sitting next to them too at sushi bar (there are no tables inside) and we kept getting advice on how to properly eat each thing which was helpful.

Miso soup.We knew what we were going to order before we got there. Our choice was an omakase option — which means that it’s up to the chef to pick the best pieces for us — for ¥3,900 ($52) per person. The course consisted of 10 sushi items selected by chef plus 1 item of our choice at the end. It also included Japanese omelet, spectacular miso soup, hot green tea and one roll, but I’m not sure if it was one of the 10 items or not — I lost count.

The chef keeps making sushi pieces in front of you and keeps serving you piece by piece as he goes. The first piece was fatty tuna. I cannot forget its taste to this point. I never really ate sushi pieces in my life. I rarely order rolls with raw fish. Typically it is somewhat chewy, and I don’t enjoy the texture, nor the taste.

Sea urchin — uni.In Sushi Dai we were told to try not to use any soy souse as it kills the taste of the fish. We did as suggested and avoided soy souse except for the things that they said it was OK to use it with. Back to fatty tuna — it basically melted on my tongue. The texture was pleasant and the taste was great. I realized that this type of sushi not only can I eat for breakfast — I’m going to enjoy it too.

After that a couple of other fishes followed which were all great. Than we were served sea urchin (uni) which most people say is pretty disgusting in U.S. It was not bad at all. And somewhere soon after my nemesis has arrived. I saw the chef put some rice into his hand, then a piece of something on top of it, then a hard slap and then he lands it right in front of me on the table. And what do you know? The moving part was no an illusion. It sure is alive.

Red clam — this thing was moving.Good thing I knew this was coming, because if I were not prepared there is a good chance I would lose everything I ate before it. But now I was set on trying it. Not for the taste, but for the experience.

I grabbed it with my hand and stuffed it into my mouth. I didn’t feel any movement, but this thing was like rubber which would squirt out some nasty tasting juice at each bite. I declare it by far the most disgusting thing I have ever eaten. But I was ecstatic nevertheless about the fact that I did not chicken out and went through with it. I was really proud of myself for that. Although I don’t think I will try it ever again. I repeat, ever again.

Roe.After that we had a piece filled with roe, but that’s not a thing you can scare us with. In fact it was much more delicious than the one sold in Russian stores — it was not salty at all. I think it ended up being Alena’s favorite piece.

Either way by the time I ate my last piece I was full. I could eat no more. Alena felt about the same. Overall it was most definitely worth it. The food was great, the soup was great, the tea was great. Even the rice that they use was great. This is the experience that should not be skipped whether you are passionate about sushi or not.

Our chef was great — very friendly and helpful — had no problem explaining to us, dumb tourists, what was what and how it should be eaten and so on. Also most people did not use chopsticks and just used their hand. We did the same.

Rolls and baby shrimp sushi.I have to mention that when we got to the market Daiwa Sushi had no line and you could just come in. When we came out the line to Sushi Dai has gotten even longer. At this point Daiwa Sushi also had a pretty sizable line, but this one consisted mostly of European looking people. Sushi Dai line had mostly Japanese people, but a good number of patient westerners as well.

On a bit of side note — this past weekend we went with Maruks to a local sushi place in Brooklyn. It was supposed to be a good place. Alena and I ordered the same sushi pieces that we ate in Japan to see if there really is a difference. Were we astonished or what by that difference. Local sushi hardly compares. The fish was chewy with a nasty after taste. The rice was stale or something. The only way I could eat these was covering them with ginger and wasabi and dipping them fully into soy souse. So basically quite the opposite of what one is supposed to do.

Possibly fatty tuna sushi.I think I could have been a big sushi fan as well if I had regular access to Sushi Dai though.

Traditional Kaiseki Dinner


Traditional Japanese multi-course dinner.One of the amazing experiences of our trip was a traditional Japanese multi-course dinner at Nishiyama Ryokan in Kyoto. We scheduled it to fall on the eve of November 23rd — our 5th wedding anniversary and it definitely made this date memorable.

Boiling pot at traditional dinner.There were 12 different courses served to us. I can’t really recall all of it — a lot of seafood prepared in different ways, a lot of vegetables, a pair of soups. Not everything was to my taste, but a lot of things were quite delicious. There was some boiling soup prepared right on our table and we were served by a woman in traditional Japanese attire. We also wore kimonos for the dinner which added to the whole experience.

Cooking tofu on the table at traditional breakfast.I would not do this every night, and I probably wouldn’t do it for the food, but the experience itself was really great. We ordered 2 bottles of hot sake which made things even better.

Dinner at ryokan.In the morning we were served a traditional Japanese breakfast which was not any less interesting than the dinner with more boiling stuff on our table. During the breakfast time the dinning room was full of people, but during the dinner we were the only people there so it made it feel like it was our private special evening. It was great.

Breakfast


Not much to say on this topic. As I’ve mentioned before breakfast was included in our hotels for free because of our Diamond VIP status. Both places had a large buffet with a selection of American and Japanese dishes. It was a great way to save time and money and we ate breakfast in our hotels every morning with 2 exceptions — Sushi Dai and traditional Japanese breakfast at our Kyoto ryokan.

Okonomiyaki


Okonomiyaki.Okonomiyaki is dish that originates from the western part of Japan. There are 2 distinct styles — one that is popular in Osaka and another that is popular in Hiroshima. I heard about okonomiyaki before and I’ve read about it and we definitely wanted to try it.

Okonomiyaki dinner.Okonomiyaki is kind of a Japanese omelet. It is made with some special batter and cabbage. You can have it loaded with a lot of different things — ours came with pork and squid. It is often prepared right on your table, which has a grill built in.

Okonomiyaki chef.We asked our chef to make it for us as we had no idea how to make it ourselves. We picked a completely random place that we ran into in some food-court maze in Umeda district of Osaka. I liked it quite a bit, but Alena found it to be just OK. Worth a try anyhow.

Tempura


Tempura in Japanese restaurants is completely different from what we get in ours. If here it is overly greasy and feels extremely unhealthy in Japan it is very light and quite delicious. We ordered a 10 piece tempura course in one of the restaurants near our hotel and came away pretty happy with our dinner.

Tempura.Interesting thing about 95% of Japanese restaurants is the fact that they all have plastic replicas of their dishes displayed in the windows — be it an upscale place or a simple corner place to grab a bite. We as tourist definitely found it very much to our liking — otherwise we would have no idea what to order.

Tonkatsu


Fried pork cutlet dinner.Tonkatsu or at least I think it was Tonkatsu is a Japanese pork cutlet. We weren’t sure what to do with dinner for our first night in Osaka so we went to one of the huge malls at Osaka Station City and picked out a meal by looking at the plastic dishes. It turned out to be very very good.

Bento Boxes


I was familiar with the term bento box before I came to Japan. It’s yet another type of thing that you can order in pretty much any Japanese restaurant in New York. There are different types of bento boxes, but each one consists of many sections filled with different types of food.

Bento box lunch on a bullet train.It is common to see bento box kiosks on JR stations especially in Shinkansen sections. We bought a pair of these for our trip on a bullet train from Tokyo to Osaka. I think the total for a pair was somewhere around ¥2,000 or so which comes out to $27.

Kobe Beef


And for the last, but not least I left Kobe Beef. Anyone who even remotely likes steaks have probably heard of Kobe beef. There are a lot of urban legends floating around about it — these are special cows that are feed with beer and massaged all day long or something along those lines. I’m quite sure that those things are not true, but it sure is famous.

Kobe beef.Now while most of the food in Japan is moderately priced and very comparable to prices of decent restaurants in New York, Kobe beef places in Japan are extremely expensive. In fact they are so expensive that we were considering for 6 nights whether we should visit one or not.

And even if you do want to visit one — they don’t seem to be easy to find. And when you do find them or somebody recommends you go to one you still better make your own research and make sure that in fact they do serve Kobe beef. After doing a bit of research we found a place right across the street from our Hilton hotel in Osaka — a place called Rio.

Teppanyaki.Now because the price was so high we decided that we’ll just go up to them and ask if we can share a meal and to our surprise they had no problems with that. So we made a reservation for Friday night and we kept it.

My biggest fear was that I’m going to get disappointed. Our dinner in the end came out to ¥15,000 which is roughly $210. And that is for a single portion. So back to my biggest fear — I was thinking that it would really suck to pay so much money for a steak that I wouldn’t be able to tell apart from something that would get served in a local Hibachi place in Brooklyn.

Teppanyaki chef preparing Kobe beef.Kobe beef is often served in a teppanyaki style dinner (I always knew this process as hibachi, so I’m not really sure what the difference is). They started with different appetizers, vegetables and so on. They gave us two plates and split everything for us, so we didn’t feel bad at all about splitting a single meal. They made us feel comfortable.

Kobe beef was weighted on a scale in front of us to be exactly 150 grams (as it states in the menu). It turned out to be a bigger piece than we expected. I guess the reason is that it has a lot of fat in it. If you look at the meat you can tell that it looks different. A couple of strands of meat, a couple of strands of fat — like marble.

Kobe beef is almost done.When the meat was cooked and given to us — oh, wow! All the worries about it being “usual” were instantly gone. Had I known all along that it would be as it was we would go to this dinner without the slightest hesitation. The meat just melts away with a slight press of the tongue. I think it was one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten.

The closest thing that I can compare it to is a shish-kebab from a Uzbek restaurant. If you were to take a piece of fat that they typically put on the skewers and a piece of meat and merge them into a single piece you would get something somewhat similar. The fat becomes non-nasty and the meat becomes super soft.

Us visiting Rio teppanyaki to try Kobe beef.We were so happy we decided not to miss this opportunity and go. So not only did Japan ruin sushi for us it ruined steaks as well. How am I supposed to enjoy steak after that? And luckily for us one full course was enough food for 2 of us that we didn’t walk away hungry at all — we were quite satisfied.

Conclusion


What a rich country Japan is. So many things to try, so different from the ones we know. There are many more things that we didn’t have the chance to try in our time there, but I think we did good. Lots of memories, lots of great impressions that will stay with us for a long time.

However I will add that I was very happy to eat a good old American hamburger upon getting back home. I guess you need time to get used to the tastes of things that are so foreign to us.

P.S. A lot of photographs are going to be from iPhone, since we don’t have pictures of all our meals taken with D700.
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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Pork Chops & Green Beans Salad

Pork Chops & Green Beans Salad.What I like about this meal idea is that it can be easily cooked on a week day, but it is still sophisticated enough for a weekend special. I did not use any recipe for pork chops, but rather added ingredients based on common sense. The salad idea was taken from one of the wonderful cooks (Клара_С) of kuking.net forums.

For pork chops I used:
  • 4 pork chops
  • 1/2 sweet onion
  • 1/2 lb fresh mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil Continue Reading
In: Food & Dining   Tags: , , , , , , , ,
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O.o teeth mrgreen neutral -) roll twisted evil crycry cry oops razz mad lol cool -? shock eek sad smile grin