Wednesday, January 31, 2018

New Year 2018

Kids with grandparents.We did not deviate from the regular routine this year and celebrated New Year with family at Daniel’s parents place. There were four of us, Danya’s parents and Lina.

Authentic Erdinger beer glasses. I did not cook anything for the holiday table this year. First of all, after a week of stomach virus traveling from one family member to another, I felt exhausted. Secondly, I was worried that if I cook something, I might inadvertently make my in-laws sick. I was the only one from the four of us who did not throw up by the way, but I’m pretty sure that I had the virus in some milder form.

Us.Anyhow, back to the pleasant stuff. We gathered close to 7 o’clock. Took family photos as usual. Had a nice dinner, with most of the holiday favorites including olivie, holodets, funchoza, “french” meat, fried eggplants, roasted potatoes. Drank some champagne, remembered the good things about 2017.

Arosha with his Instax camera.We let the children open some of their presents ahead of time, because it was really hard for them to wait for midnight. On the topic of gifts. They were plenty!

Anюta with her pink markers.Arosha got a Parrot minidrone, an Instax instant pictures camera with additional film and a photo album, toys, jigsaw puzzles, art supplies, bubble bath, candies and clothes. Anюta got toys, clothes, candies and art supplies, which included pink sparkly glue, beads, markers, paint sets, coloring pad, stamps. One of the things that she asked for was the whole set of pink markers. Amazingly, you can order a pack of such things on Amazon. Too bad that they were all the same shade, but she liked them nonetheless.

Family.Danya got clothes, socks, a set of Erdinger beer glasses and Allen Edmonds boots and gloves, both of which we returned since they did not fit all that well. I got clothes, a new electric kettle by Cuisinart and a meat grinder, which I thought about getting for the longest time.

Some of the Instax photos that Arosha took.Daniel’s dad got clothes and an electric shaver by Braun. Lina got clothes and a bluetooth keyboard by Logitech. Daniel’s mom got a Svarowski figurine, fancy facial cream set and an iPhone 8 Plus.

Siblings.Everyone was happy with their gifts, although I was a little disappointed that Danya’s boots did not fit well. Oh, and we did order the Instagram calendars as we do each year for both us and parents.

Some of the Instax photos that Arosha took.We went home at around 1:30. Anюta has fallen asleep at around 11:30 and did not wake up to greet the New Year and to participate in gift giving. We tried to wake her up, but she was too tired and did not want to get up. Arosha, on the other hand, had no problems staying awake so late this year. He was very excited about the gifts and volunteered to be a “New Year Elf”, a helper of “Father Frost”. In his enthusiasm he was a bit of a hasty helper, so we had to ask him a few times to slow down a bit, so that everybody can see what the others are getting.

Generations.Also, I am not sure if Arosha believes in Santa Claus or Father Frost anymore. He figured out the Tooth Fairy business recently. I guess, I could have kept the illusion longer, but I just did not have the heart to do it. He kept asking me if I was his tooth fairy for over a year already, and I kept saying that even if I am, I will not tell him because tooth faeries are secretive.

Parrot Swing minidrone.And then after his most recent tooth loss he said that if I am the tooth fairy that he’ll exchange the tooth for the money since he knows that I will save his baby teeth, but if it is someone else, then he would prefer to keep his tooth and not get the money. So after he was agonizing about the best course of action for a while, I gave in and told him the truth. I think he was mostly happy with this information, which confirmed his suspicions.

Generations.As for Father Frost, one of his theories is that it is a dressed up building’s superintendent. I guess, he is close enough. He also said that an elderly man flying all over sky with the help of his deer makes no sense whatsoever and is quite ridiculous.

Silly 2018 glasses.Unfortunately, I started to develop a bad headache after midnight and it was intensifying rapidly. I ended up suffering the whole next day as well, but luckily I could just rest. We spent half of January 1st at home, and the other half at Daniel’s parents.

New Year elf. Eyes seemed appropriate, so we left them unfixed.By they way, credit for Arosha’s main gift ideas belongs totally and completely to Daniel. Arosha got very excited about both drone and the camera, and he still uses both, a month later.


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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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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!


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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Испания — Барселона

Avinguda Diagonal. Barcelona.Ну что ж, еще один отпуск позади! Пора писать, пока мысли и ощущения не потускнели в каждодневных хлопотах.

Конечно, я знала, что Испания и Португалия — это южная Европа, но всё равно меня почему-то очень поразили пальмы и апельсиновые деревья. Первые дни я то и дело удивлялась, а потом привыкла и уже принимала их как должное. Еще меня очень удивило то, что в Испании очень мало и плохо говорили по-английски. Я-то думала, что все европейцы из развитых стран как минимум двуязычны (со вторым английским языком), но это оказалось не так. Вот думаю, что надо будет Ароше выучить испанский — очень даже может в жизни пригодиться. В Португалии же, напротив, все могли обьяснится по-английски — кто-то лучше, кто-то хуже, но не владеющих английским языком людей мы там не встретили.

Streets of Barcelona.Все города мне понравились по-своему. Пожалуй, немного худшее впечатление произвёл Мадрид — своей грязью и подозрительного вида типами в людных местах — но и в нём несомненно есть свои прелести и интересные места.

In front of one of Gaudi's buildings.Начали мы наше путешествие с каталонской столицы Барселоны. Кстати, я и не знала, что существует каталанский язык, который совсем не похож на испанский и активно используется в Каталонии наряду с испанским языком.

Hilton of Barcelona.Прилетели мы в Барселону рано, и в гостинице были часам к 10 утра. Нам повезло — в гостинице в это время уже была свободная комната и нам не пришлось ждать до 14 или 16 часов дня чтобы заселиться. Мы немного отдохнули, и пошли гулять по городу.

Av. Diagonal.Барселона оказалась очень чистой, с ухоженными домами, на балкончиках которых очень часто гордо висели каталонские красно-жёлтые флаги, с маленькими уютными детскими площадками, с большим количеством красивых зданий, с пальмами и, конечно, мотоциклистами. Мотоциклистов в Барселоне ну просто пруд пруди. Причём мне показалось, что для большинства людей мотоцикл — это не принадлежность к определённой сабкультуре со всеми вытекающими отсюда последсвтиями, а просто средство передвижения.

Streets of Barcelona.В первый день мы просто пошли вперед по широкому проспекту, идущему вдоль нашего отеля, а когда решили свернуть на понравившуюся аллею, то с удивелнием обнаружили, что мы оказались на известной Ла Рамбле, которую хотели посетить. На Рамбле было много кафешек на открытом воздухе, но несмотря на относительно тёплую погоду, мы решили перекусить где-нибудь в помещении.

Inside Cathedral of Barcelona.Еще до поездки Даня читал, что на Ла Рамбле надо держать ухо востро, потому что там много карманных воришек. Мы старались быть осторожными, но честно говоря, там было не очень много людей и момента, когда я могла бы заволноваться о своей собственности у меня не было.

La Rambla.Мы прошли по Рамбле до Готического квартала, по которому тоже немного подбродили. Мне барселонский Готический квартал сразу напомнил Флоренцию. Те же каменные старые здания, узкие улочки, мощёные булыжником дороги. Мы дошли до Барселонского Собора. Площадь перед ним мне очень понравилась в первую очередь из-за уличных музыкантов, которые очень хорошо играли на гитарах. От их музыки создавался особый настрой и теперь в моём сознании Готический квартал Барселоны прочно ассоциируется с гитарными ритмами.

Inside Casa Mila.Поужинать мы решили недалеко от гостиницы. Нам очень хотелось попробовать испанскую кухню, и была надежда, что в ресторанчике под не очень благозвучным для нашего уха названием Piscolabis будет вкусно, несмотря на средненькие отзывы о нём на Trip Advisor. К сожалению, приятного сюрприза не произошло. Еда была сьедобной и сытной, но не более того. Вкусной её не назовёшь. Мы заказали по пиву и штук 5 разных тапас — закусок, распространённых в Испании. Единственное, что мне на самом деле понравилось — это оливки.

Tapas by our hotel at Piscolabis.Вообще надо сказать, что несмотря на то, что иногда мы в Испании ели вкусно, еда в целом была так себе. С нами такое случилось впервые — обычно во время отпуска в другой стране мы не могли нахвалиться национальным кухням, а в Испании уже на третий день при слове “тапас” пропадал аппетит. Паэлья нам тоже не понравилась — но мы и раньше её не очень-то любили, просто думали, что в оригинальном исполнении она будет лучше. Зато нам очень понравилась испанская иберийская ветчина, по-испански хамон. Хамон, особенно от свиней вскомленных желудями, блюдо дорогое, но вкусное. Больше всего он мне напомнил поляндвицу и кумпяки, которые готовили мои бабушка и дедушка, несмотря на то, что в случае моих родственников мясо коптили, а испанский вариант — сыровяленный.

Inside Sagrada Familia.Следующий день мы посвятили Гауди и его постройкам. Начали мы с парка Гуэля, куда добрались на такси. Денёк был очень тёплый, и в парке мы даже сняли куртки. Парк оказался большим — мы там довольно долго бродили. Было много музыкантов, играющих на совершенно разных инструментах — от волынки до цимбал. Сами постройки мне понравились, но из-за того, что я их уже видела не один раз на фотографиях, какого-то особо сильного впечатления не произвели.

Sagrada Familia.После парка, мы пошли в Храм Святого Семейства, или Саграда Фамилия. Этот храм, работы над которым начались в конце 19 века по проекту Гауди, до сих пор находится в процессе постройки. В принципе это не очень удивительно, ибо многие знаменитые церкви строились не одно столетие. Несмотря на незавершённость, Саграда Фамилия поражает своей красотой и необычностью как снаружи, так и внутри. Я не очень разбираюсь в архитектуре и не владею правильной лексикой, но мне запомнились разноцветные витражи, колонны в виде деревьев и вообще когда мы были внутри, то мне казалось, что я нахожусь в каком-то подводном царстве. К сожалению, на крышу мы не попали, потому что день был ветренный и туда не пускали из соображений безопасности.

Park Guell.После посещения Саграды Фамилия мы снова пошли в готический квартал. Мы там немного побродили, а потом наобум зашли в какой-то ресторан подкрепиться. Выбор наш оказался неудачным — тапас там были не слишком свежими, а паэлья слишком жирной. После еды мы побродили еще немного, посетили площадь со огромной статуей Колумба, доехали на метро до гостиницы, где вскоре после небольшого ужина в executive lounge отправились спать.

Casa Mila.В наш последний полный день в Барселоне мы посетили еще две знаменитые постройки Гауди — дом Мила и дом Бальо. Находились они относительно недалеко от гостиницы, так что мы дошли до них пешком.

Inside Casa Mila.В доме Мила, или камелономне, как её когда-то прозвали не очень впечатлённые постройкой барселонцы, сразу чувствуется рука Гауди. Извилистые фасады, своеобразные функциональные статуи на крыше, внутренние дворики, несущие осветительные и вентиляционные фунции… Внутри дома находится квартира-музей, обустроенная предметами быта испанкой буржуазии начала 20 века. Мы эту квартиру посетили, было довольно интересно. Еще мы поднялись на крышу.

Casa Batlló.Дом Бальо находится совсем близко от “каменоломни”, так что мы туда быстро дошли пешком. Внутрь дома Бальо мы не пошли — только полюбовались на “рыбий” фасад сидя на скамеечке напротив, сделали пару фотографий, и отправились дальше.

Потом мы снова дошли до Барселонского Собора, и на этот раз зашли внутрь и забрались на крышу, с которой открывался неплохой вид на Барселону.

Cathedral of Barcelona.Потом мы решили пообедать, но на этот раз, чтобы снова не поесть чего-нибудь невкусного, мы опирались на помощь Trip Advisor. Даня подключился к интернету возле какого-то ресторанцика с бесплатным вай-фаем, и для обеда мы выбрали ресторан под названием Xaloc с относительно высоким рейтингом.

Park Guell.Еда там была очень даже неплохая — закуски хорошие (хотя “русский салат” наподобие “мимозы” есть было скучно), Данино мясо оказалось очень вкусным, ну а мои кальмары средненькими. Я их взяла в первую очередь из-за соуса айоли, который несколько раз делала дома сама, но хотела попробовать в оригинале. Мой соус мне нравится больше. Еще мы зашли в джелатерию и я заказала какие-то экзотические сорта джелато — из маракуйи и инжира. Было неплохо, но, наверное, слишком холодно, чтобы насладится холодной сладостью по полной программе.

Dinner at Xaloc.На следующий день нас ждал Мадрид.

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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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So our Tennessee vacation is the thing of the past. What left is a bunch of fond memories, hundreds of colorful pictures and of course stronger family bonds.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee.To be completely honest, I was quite nervous beforehand. Danya and I never traveled alone (without parents) with Arosha, let along with two small children. Plus there is Anюta’s eczema, my gluten-dairy-nut-soy-eggs-you-name-it diet, eating out multiple times a day with an infant for almost two weeks, cloth diapers which need laundry every other day, and 400-miles-a-day drives. Oh, and staying together in the same room with two little children, who go to bed at different times, was also on the list of things that made me anxious.

Our travelers.It all turned out better than expected! Apparently, our kids are born travelers! They handled long drives just fine — Arosha was either talking, listening to Russian rock music or sleeping; Anюta was either playing with her toys or sleeping. Rarely did they complain or cry. During long drives we made sure to stop every few hours, so that everyone can stretch, run around and get some rest.

Car travel. Stop in Great Smoky Mountains.Danya downloaded a whole bunch of audio books for Arosha to listen to in the car, but we listened to them very little on account of Anechka. Every time Danya turned on a story, usually read by a man, she was crying after a few minutes and did not calm down until the recordings were off. Interestingly enough, the exception to this was when the story was told by a woman. Anna had no issues with music and songs as well. She is a pretty sensitive child, so my theory is that she was getting scared of strange men that were suddenly talking and talking in our car.

Sleeping arrangements. Pillow barricades for Arosha.Cloth diapering on the road was a little annoying (when is it not), but totally manageable. We mostly stayed in Hilton branch hotels, and all of them had guest laundries. The only hotel that lacked both laundry and hot water in the room was the Skyland Lodge in Shenandoah National Park. There I had to hand wash diapers in ice cold water and then dry next to the radiator. We also had to finish drying some inserts on the dashboard of our car — luckily it was a very sunny day, so it only took an hour or so. I did not even try using disposables in fears to irritate Anna’s sensitive skin. By the way, she does #2 on the potty every morning pretty consistently, so I rarely have to deal with soiled diapers. Not that they disgust me — I think nothing my kids do at this age can — but it’s still nice to catch even a little break.

Drying cloth diapers.Anюta’s eczema was getting worse little by little throughout our trip. She had almost clean skin in the beginning, and was all covered in red itchy spots by the end. I am still not sure what causes it — probably food sensitivities — but at least I was able to rule out cat allergy, which is a huge relief. I think that she definitely has a reaction to bananas, but the rest is still questionable. I keep maintaining my diet to the best of my ability, although by the end of the trip I ate some gluten and other things which I try to avoid.

DoubleTree restaurant.Both kids did great at restaurants. Arosha loves going out and we never have issues with him. He loves hamburgers and french fries, so he had his share of those, but majority of the time we ordered him healthy things like vegetables, grilled chicken, wild salmon, soups, hummus, rice and beans. He also developed a fondness of oatmeal for breakfast. He usually hates it at home, but brown sugar and raisins really made the difference it seems.

Shenandoah. Skyland Resort.Anюta was as easy in restaurants as a 7 months old baby could possible be. I started following a baby led weaning approach with her a few weeks prior to vacation, so she loves holding pieces of food and munching on them. For breakfast I was giving her apples, melons and even a piece of bacon ones (I know, not good). For lunches she was usually munching on steamed vegetables or grilled chicken — I realized though that I have to ask them to not season vegetables and it made my food more delicious. She does not swallow much — food is more for tasting and playing for now — so getting proper nutrition was not a concern.

Best toys.I also am happy about the fact that our children seem to really like and enjoy nature. Arosha loves being outside and he always can come up with some game to play — he pretends to be fishing, or sweeping, or building a fire and such. He found a great tree for climbing in the Big Meadow in Shenandoah and could not get enough! He hiked one and a half miles each way to two different waterfalls in the Smokies, he also had no issues with steep road uphill to Clingman’s Dome, although we had to stop for rest more than ones.

Anna playing with the grass.Anюtka also loved being close to nature. Sometimes, when I was taking her out of the car and she saw how beautiful it was outside, she laughed out loud out of sheer delight. I let her play with sticks, stones and the likes. She also really enjoyed playing with the water near Laurel Falls. I carried her around either in ergo or just in my hands since she prefers to be forward facing. We took our City Mini stroller, but have not used it a single time.

And of course it was so good to explore new things with Danya! We see each other a lot since he works from home twice a week, but on vacations its a different quality of together time. I love traveling with him, with our children. I will write more about the nuances of our trip, but for now let me just say again that I am very glad that it all went so well.
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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, March 20, 2013

Costa Rica — Impressions

View from the balcony.Alёna already wrote about things in general, so I’ll probably be somewhat repeating her thoughts here, but here are my own impressions in a few words.


The flight was surprisingly easy. Arosha has “matured” a lot since our last trip to Dominican Republic. Even though the flight to Costa Rica was quite a bit longer he spent most of it in his seat either watching cartoons (not much at all) or looking at books, looking out of the window or just talking to us. And when he needed to go to the bathroom he would just ask. The flight back went pretty much the same way.

In addition to that I myself stopped taking motion sickness pills for the flights about a year ago. I find that I actually handle flights much better lately because I’m not insanely drowsy and can just watch movies and read without falling asleep while not being able to actually sleep.

Our Hilton Papagayo resort.One interesting thing was the fact that when we landed we expected to pay an entrance fee as it usually happens at these types of destinations. We were quite surprised that there was none. However as it turned out later there is a catch after all. Even though there is no entrance fee everyone has to pay a departure tax of $30 per person. I actually would’ve rather dealt with that upon arrival than having to do all that when you’re trying to catch a plane.

Car Rental

Renting a car worked out rather well for us. I’m typically not a huge fan of beach vacations, but a car gave us an opportunity to see more of the country rather than spending it in the confines of our resort. As Alёna said I just got a decent quote from a guy in the airport — you can actually push them for a better deal, and we got the car for exactly the price that was promised to us.

Our rental — Toyota RAV4.A quick shuttle took us to their location and soon after we were in a nice Toyota RAV4 on our way to our hotel with the help of a rented GPS unit. We decided not to rent a car seat for Arosha, even though we originally planned to do so. Instead we just bought a brand new one at Wall Mart for the same price that the renal would’ve cost us and this way we were sure that it was clean and new. It was light enough and you can check it in with your luggage for free for the flight.

Vacationing.The car was big enough for us to fit four of our suitcases in and seat 5 people comfortably. Later I also was glad that we rented an SUV as some of the roads would just be not passable on a normal sedan inside the national parks. The roads around the country itself were in a quite decent condition.


We decided to stay in Hilton Papagayo Resort. However we didn’t really win much beside free Internet for all our iDevices for our Diamond VIP status. We ended up booking the vacation through a travel agency because the combined price for the flight and hotel was coming out $500 cheaper as opposed to us booking it all separately. As a result we got no points for all the money spent.

Our rooms are next to each other and 2 balconies.The property had 3 restaurants in addition to a buffet, but the food seemed quite repetitive. Italian restaurant actually had different kind of food, but the service was the worst and the food didn’t taste good. For example risottos that we ordered with Alёna were so salty that we couldn’t really eat it.

The territory itself was quite big situated on the coast of a very nice quite bay of Pacific Ocean among pretty steep mountains. There were very frequent shuttles running around, but as Alёna mentioned we ended up being pretty close to the beach, pools and main restaurants that we didn’t even need to use those shuttles.

Buffet. Checkout that fork action.Basically the moral of the story here is that as far as food goes we had the best experience at Riu Palace in Cancun and Hilton wasn’t really worth it in this situation. I think we’ll stick with Riu for our next vacation of this type if it will be available. Although maybe all the waving of my Diamond VIP card did have some effect on the rooms we got, even though we did have to move to get them.

The Beach

The beach was really nice. As I mentioned it was located on the bay and therefore there was practically no waves which can’t be said of the open coast of Pacific Ocean. When we were in one of the parks there were waves my height hitting the sand. Nobody dared to get into that water at all.

Arosha on the beach with his beach accessories.Arosha had a blast. He loved playing in the sand, jumping into the water, playing with his shovel and a bucket and all other things. He also spent a lot of time in the pools and enjoyed going from one place to another. He spent hours and hours playing and swimming throughout these days.

I on the other hand jumped into the ocean water once and preferred to spend my time hiding under a shade reading something on my iPad. I am very susceptible to sunburn and I enjoy putting on all the sunblock about as much as I enjoy the sunburn itself. Although I did swim in the pool almost every day when there was shade from the water bar covering a portion of the pool.

In the pool.Also on our last day my dad got burned by jellyfish. He had a pretty severe red line around his arm and a bad burning pain. I read that the best thing to treat this would be to spill some vinegar on it and fresh water would actually be the worst thing one could do. I suggested he goes to the diving equipment rental place that we had and ask them about it. Luckily enough the lady working there whipped out a bottle of vinegar when she heard about it and put it on his arm, so I guess it’s not a very rare occurrence there. Vinegar did help a lot. We were just glad that it happened on the last day and didn’t happen to Arosha.


These were actually the most fun days for me, but I’ll write about them in the next post.

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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Costa Rica — Vacation Start

Hilton Papagayo Resort.Vacation time came unexpectedly fast as always. As the majority of people, I dislike packing, but at least I’ve become quite efficient with it over the years. It takes me 2-3 hours on average to pack bags for the three of us, and even though I usually overpack, the amount of unused stuff nowadays makes up a considerably smaller proportion of our overall luggage than it used to.

Anyhow, we packed, we made arrangements for Shublik, we went to bed early on Suturday and got up early on Sunday. The drive to the airport was quick — we do live very close to JFK after all. Checking in and going through the security lines was a pretty fast process too. We had a flight on JetBlue.

Our first set of rooms — 404 and 406.Aroshka was excited. The best thing about the airport as far as he is concerned are escalators. He kept telling us from the moment we set foot in terminal #5 that he wants to take a ride! He had to wait for all the necessary procedures to be finished (and that included breakfast), and then he just ran to the escalators and kept going down the escalator and up the stairs (there was no escalator up) over and over and over again. By my count he did it for about 20 times before it was time for us to go and board the plane.

Our second set of rooms — 202 and 203.What I love about JetBlue planes is more spacious leg room. In majority of airplanes my knees touch seat in a row ahead, and when people lean back, it actually hurts. I don’t have this issue while flying JetBlue. We had 5 seats next to each other — Aroshka, Danya and I were on one side of the isle, and Danya’s parents on the other. Arosha got a window seat. He first watched cartoons for about 10 minutes, but got quickly bored (maybe because they were in English and he does not understand it yet). We talked to him a lot, I read one of his favorite books for a little while, he watched cartoons on iPad for a little while (no more than 20 minutes I think). He ate potato chips snack — he likes chips, but we don’t buy them, so for him it was a rare treat. He did not sleep, but we kind of expected this. I was a little worried about him using the restroom on the plane — we have not had any accidents in months, but I was not sure if unfamiliar situation will affect him — but it turned out that I had nothing to worry about.

Aroshka playing on the beach. Check out the running part.Upon our arrival to Liberia airport, we took a shuttle which drove us to Budget car rental. Danya made a few reservations with other places in advance, but at the airport he got a better price quote from the Budget representative, so we decided that there really is no point to pay extra. We rented a Toyota RAV4, and there was plenty of room for all 5 of us and all our luggage. Before the trip we bought an inexpensive car seat at Wallmart for Aroshka and brought it along. It makes me feel better to use our own car seat — not only it’s cleaner, but we also know its complete history of accidents.

The drive to our hotel was relatively short, around 20 minutes. Hilton Papagayo resort, where we stayed, is located in Guanacaste area. The bay where resort is placed is really beautiful. I did not tire of the view throughout our stay, but kept thinking of how nature can create such an amazing, breathtaking grace. There is an old tree at the center of the beach line, and due to the dry season it was absolutely naked. Each time I looked at it, it seemed as though its branches formed faces and bodies of some magical creatures.

Main buffet-restaurant.We were pretty exhausted and starving. When we were checking in, in turned out that they only had rooms which required taking a shuttle to get to the main area where beach, restaurants and pools were located. It was slightly disappointing, but not a big deal, since this particular Hilton had a lot of small bungalows covering large territory and I think that majority of people have to take shuttles to move around. When we arrived to our rooms, it turned out that they were not interconnected as we have requested months in advance, but just next to each other.

Danya went to the front desk to see if it was possible to fix this, since having interconnected rooms was really convenient because of Aroshka. After initial reluctance of a lower level manager to do anything, the upper level manager fixed it — he told us that tomorrow a pair of interconnected rooms will be available, and that if we wish, we could move. And so we did. Our new rooms were also much closer to the center, which was an added bonus. We did not have to take a shuttle to get to the beach anymore. I have to say though that shuttles were driving around often and you could always request one. Moreover, Aroshka LOVED riding on shuttles, so pretty much each night we were taking a ride just for the fun of it.

One of hotel's frequent shuttles.We had a dinner at local buffet, and the food was pretty decent. They have a salad bar, and then everyone has to order the actual meal. It was functioning as a 100% buffet only at breakfasts. There were three other restaurants, but I find that the food was very similar in all of them. We got progressively more tired of it, but this usually happens to us in all-inclusive resorts. The only exception was Riu Palace hotel in Cancun — their food was far superior to other places we stayed in, and their restaurants were definitely high end. Aroshka ate pretty well. I felt slightly bad that he was eating french fries almost every day, but he ate a lot of fruits and vegetables too, so whatever.

We spent Monday at the resort. Woke up early, ate breakfast and headed to the beach. The sand on the beach was not yellow as we are used to, but grayish-black in color due to its volcanic origin. I think it also had a smaller grain and was lighter. There was also a lot of small pieces of corral on the beach, so I guess the beach itself has a mixture of volcanic-coral sand.

Hard at play.Aroshka loved the ocean. He spent around 3 hours running around, playing in the water, playing with sand and overall being happy. The sand area of the beach was pretty much deserted. Sometimes there were people going for a swim in the ocean, but they preferred to stay under umbrellas in the grass-covered area above the beach. Which worked perfectly for us — it was much easier to track Aroshka when there were no other people around.

I used a combination of zinc oxide sunscreen by Badger, which made Aroshka and I look like a pair of mime artists, and a more conventional spray which provides a chemical block. The combination of Badger and small-grain black sand was really something, plus it was hard to wash off!

Hilton Papagayo from the top.After the beach we ate a lunch in one of the cafes, and went to get some rest. After a shower Aroshka was fast asleep. He did not require any song-singing or fairy-tale telling throughout the whole trip. The only thing that was needed is the cosiness of his crib. By the way, he could barely fit into the standard hotel crib. I fear that in a few months he will outgrow it completely.

We planned a trip to Santa Rosa National Park for Tuesday, but I’ll leave it for the next post.

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Monday, January 7, 2013

Happy New Year 2013!

Our little family unit.Вот и наступил Новый 2013 Год. Честно говоря, не очень чувствовалось предпраздничное настроение. Может быть из-за того, что в этом году, так же как и в прошлом, совершенно не было снега?

А отметили мы очень хорошо. Традиционно у Даниных родителей. Кроме них с нами там были тётя Лиля, Лина с Лёней и Игнат с Викой и Алиской. Вобщем, народа собралось довольно много. Еды наготовили просто ужас сколько — одних салатов, наверное, штук 10 если не больше, плюс три горячих блюда, плюс блинчики с икрой, плюс холодное! Вобщем, я даже всё и не попробовала.

Кстати о еде. Лично я готовила три салата (пока Даня и Арошка гуляли), и получилась очень удачная шуба. Чтобы не забыть в чём секрет, быстро напишу какие были слои: картошка, майонез, селёдка (но тонким слоем!), сладкий лук, майонез, морковка, яйцо, майонез, свёкла, майонез.

Papa and mama.Начали ужин мы где-то в 20:30, но не в полном составе. Лёня работал допоздна, и они с Линой пришли уже после 22 часов. Пили шампанское, провожали старый год, вспоминали что в нём было хорошего (плохое-то какой смысл вспоминать). Главное, что вспомнилось, это отпуска, рефинансирование квартиры, ну и в принципе отсутствие каких-либо новых серьёзных болезней. Арошка с Алиской тоже пили “шампанское”. Мы хотели купить им десткую безалкогольную версию, но не нашли; суррогатом послужил газированый розовый лимонад. Алиска-то, конечно, знала что именно она пьёт, а вот Ароша думал, что в фужере у него было то, что надо. Пластиковые фужеры для детей мы купили заранее, Арошка сам выбирал — себе зелёный, Алиске красный.

Aunt Lilya.Мы решили не дожидаться полночи, и вручить детям подарки пораньше, пока они еще не такие уставшие. Д. Боря переоделся в костюм Деда Мороза и с мешком подарков позвонил в дверь. Алиска сразу поняла в чём дело — она еще до представления услышала, что мы планируем сделать. Ароша не был уверен кого же именно он видит. Видно, в его детскую душу закрались смутные сомнения, потому что он практически сразу же начал спрашивать: “А где наш дедушка? А где наш дедушка?”, и успокоился только тогда, когда мы сказали ему, что дедушка устал и прилёг отдохнуть. Алиска была очень рада подаркам, а Арошка пока что был к ним довольно равнодушен (все подарки были запакованы в праздничную бумагу). Единственное, к чему он сразу проявил интерес — это конфеты. К его счастью, в коробочке оказались не только нелюбимые шоколадные, но и вкусные карамельки с леденцами.

Alisa, Ignat, Vika.В этом году Арошка дождался-таки 12 часов. Правда, едва-едва. За 5 минут до Нового Года он совсем подкис и начал проситься спать, но я взяла его на руки и под мои рассказы он встретил его вместе со всеми. Спали мы у Даниных родителей, так что после питья шампанского мы сразу отправились укладываться. Несмотря на поздний час, мне пришлось просидеть с Арошкой почти до часа ночи (я пробовала выйти пораньше пару раз, но он вставал на кроватке, сильно плакал и звал меня).

Mama and Lina.Потом раздавали подарки взрослым. Я в этом году, как и хотела, получила кучу всего полезного для кухни — чугунный казан (La Crueset signature enamel cast iron dutch oven), чугунную же сковородку, рисоварку для сладкого тайского риса, разные стаканы (а то у нас их всего 2 дома оставалось), многоразовую пробку для бутылок. Еще мне досталась маечка, зеркальце, качественное мыло, фигурка змеи, календари. Дане подарили разноцветные носки (он сам хотел) и линзу для фотоаппарата (некоторые из мелочей, перечисленных как мои подарки, были для нас обоих).

Даниному папе мы подарили iPhone, чему он был очень рад, а Даниной маме пару тёплых тапочек от Ugg (к сожалению они ей не подошли, так что мы сейчас в процессе подбора нового подарка). Лине с Лёней от всех нас достался пылесос Dyson, т. Лиле мы подарили сковородку, а Вике с Игнатом соковыжималку. Арошке мы в этом году угадали с подарком — набор для игры с пластилином ему очень понравился, и детские (не игрушечные) вилка с ложкой тоже оказались очень удобными (еще мы подарили ему книгу про одного из полюбившихся ему героев, слонёнка Бабара, но не могу сказать, что он ей сильно впечатлён).

Alena and Daniel.Спать мы пошли где-то в 2:30. Арошка, несмотря на позднюю укладку, встал в 7:30.

А вообще хочется пожелать нам всем счастливого 2013 года. Пусть все будут здоровы, пусть сбудутся заветные мечты (или хотя бы одна мечта), пусть будут интересные путешествия, пусть будет много удачных и радостных дней. Побольше нам любви, терпения, доброты.

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Sunday, December 9, 2012

Grand Italian Vacation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday, July 27, 2012

The Switch

Pasture Butter.In June we started buying grass fed local organic beef, no antibiotics pork and no antibiotics free roaming chicken. I kind of thought that it’s nearly impossible to afford, especially on one income, but the truth is that even though the price for this kind of meat is 2-3 times higher than for conventional one, it’s quite feasible to buy it.

The thing is that the portion of grocery bill allocated to meat is small compared to the amount that we spend on fruits and vegetables. I was surprised that 8 pounds of beef ordered from FreshDirect and consisting of ground beef, top round roast, beef liver and stew meat lasted us almost two months. We did of course ate more meat than 8 pounds during this time (chicken, pork, eating out, barbequing, hamburger patties from another store), but still. And I cooked plenty of meals with this beef too!

It’s not an end of the world when we eat conventional meat, but when I cook, I try using the better quality meat products almost exclusively. Unfortunately, there are no supermarkets nearby which have grass-fed beef and antibiotics free pork available, but at least our local Silverstar has all natural free roaming chicken. Luckily, there is FreshDirect, which is a convenient way to shop, and their shipping rates are minimal (a bit over $5 for us).

I was also excited that they have pasture butter from Organic Valley available. I don’t know if it’s in my head or what, but I think it tastes better, is more yellow in color (which is a sight of it being a true pasture butter), and it actually reminds me a lot of the butter that my grandmother used to manually make from her cow’s milk. It’s a seasonal product as expected, so I’ve ordered 3 packages of it just in case it’ll be out of stock soon.

We mostly buy conventional fruits and vegetables. I think that if we spend extra money on organic stuff, it should be animal products, although if I had a choice (if our local supermarket carried any organic produce other than milk, eggs and yogurt), I might buy organic berries, apples, potatoes, celery and peppers. I try to wash everything we eat really well and not to read too much about it not to freak out.

I hope that we’ll be able to keep affording better quality meat in the future. It really makes me feel better about eating meat overall.

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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

Япония — О Еде

Street vendor on Miyajima Island.Наша поездка в Японию удалась. Мы погуляли по многим новым местам, попробовали много необычных блюд, услышали много непонятных слов, увидели много красивых лиц, и в целом на мгновение окунулись в другой мир. Мне было одинаково интересно смотреть и на Японию, и на самих японцев. Очень хотелось пообщаться с ними поближе и попытаться лучше понять их обычаи и культуру, но такой возможности не было. Несмотря на то, что все были чрезвычайно вежливы, много кланялись и улыбались, я иногда остро ощущала себя чужаком в этой мононациональной стране. В целом же японцы произвели на меня очень и очень приятное впечатление, и я лично убедилась, что японские женщины не зря славятся своей красотой.

Plastic dishes.Вообще очень сложно писать о нашем отпуске, потому что он был очень насыщенным и от этого не знаешь с чего начать. В эту субботу мы ходили в местный японский ресторан с Маруками, и с тех пор мне очень хочется попасть на рыбный рынок в Токио и отведать вкуснейших суши из Суши Дай. Разница в качестве морепродуктов, риса и чая очень заметна — а это значит, что еще не скоро я смогу получать удовольствие японских ресторанов в Бруклине. Итак, о еде.

Суши Дай

Chefs at Sushi Dai.Вопреки распространённому мнению, в Японии есть очень много разных блюд, которые не включают в себя морепродукты. В суши-ресторан мы сходили только один раз, но зато как метко! Даня почитал на интернете отзывы о разных местах, и этот ресторанчик, расположенный на рыбном рынке в Токио, очень хвалили. Работает он в первой половине дня — с 5 утра и до полудня, и попасть без очереди туда невозможно.

Japanese omelet.Мы запланировали поход на рыбный рынок на утро понедельника. Наша гостиница находилась минутах в 15 ходьбы от рынка, что пришлось весьма кстати, так как метро в Токио закрывается на ночь. Мы проснулись в 4 утра (разница во времени между Токио и Нью-Йорком составляет 14 часов, и к понедельнику мы были на каком-то промежуточном времени) и в начале 6-го вышли из гостиницы. Благодаря тому, что Даня хорошо изучил карты еще до нашей поездки (а так же тому, что в моего мужа при рождении кто-то встроил компас), мы нашли и сам рынок, и нужный нам ресторанчик без каких-либо проблем. В 5:40 утра мы присоединились к очереди (которая, кстати, заметно выросла вскоре после нашего прихода), а в 7:10 нас запустили внутрь. Стоит заметить, что в целом ряду маленьких ресторанчиков, наш был единственным возле которого в такую рань стояла очередь. В очереди там и сям встречались европейские лица, но большинство ожидающих являлось азиатами (скорее всего японцами). Прямо перед нами стояла пара средних лет — муж японец с русской женой. Живут они в Калифорнии, но у него в Японии мама и бизнес, и каждый раз когда они прилетают погостить, то заходят в это место.

Daniel at Sushi Dai.Сам ресторанчик очень маленький и узенький. Не уверена сколько там посадочных мест — думаю, не больше 12. Мы заказали омакасе — курс на выбор повара, и остались очень довольны. Каждый из нас получил по 10 суши (плюс одну на наш выбор в конце завтрака), суп мисо, 4 кусочка рола с тунцом и сладковатый японский омлет. Еще в Нью-Йорке мы смотрели видео из этого места, и поэтому для нас не было шоком, когда одно из блюд — какой-то там моллюск — зашевелилось прямо перед нашими носами. Мне было страшновато это есть — всё-таки непривычно есть такие свежие морепродукты в сыром виде европейскому человеку — но с заданием я успешно справилась. Даня тоже сьел этот кусочек суши, хотя потом он откомментировал что большей гадости в жизни не едал. Еще мы ели тунца (жирного и обычного), морского ежа, красную икру, скумбрию, мелких креветок, окуня, угря и еще какую-то белую рыбу. Я помню, что окуня в Бруклине я прожевать не могла, а тут он мне так понравился, что я заказала его в качестве дополнительного кусочка. А еще мне очень понравилась красная икра — солёную красную икру я не люблю, а вот свежая была просто обьеденье.

Rolls and tuna sushi, I think.Завтрак нам стоил $50 на человека — не дешево, но оно того стоило.

Говядина Кобе

Kobe beef.Дегустация кобе бифа входила в планы нашей поездки. Мы точно не знали где, но надеялись, что в Осаке найдётся приличное место с умереными ценами (хотелось уложится в $100 на человека). Но то ли доллар сейчас настолько слабый (курс доллара к японской иене не был насколько плохим со времён второй мировой войны), то ли мы не там искали, но найти что-то дешевле $200 на человека мы не могли. К счастью, в ресторане, на котором мы остановились, никто не возражал разделить нам одну порцию на двоих. Хочется заметить, что так получилось даже лучше. Конечно, мяса могло быть и больше (мы получили 150 грамм мяса на двоих, но за счёт того, что в эта говядина очень жирная и соответственно относительно лёгкая, получился довольно приличный кусок), но закусок, овощей и риса входящих в цену ужина было более чем достаточно. Мы оба наелись до отвала.

Teppanyaki chef.Перед походом в ресторан мы очень боялись разочароваться ($200+ за ужин для нас довольно дорого), но получилось даже наоборот — мясо превзошло наши ожидания. За счёт его необычной “гранитной” текстуры оно было очень мягким (я бы даже сказала нежным) и сочным, и его практически не надо было жевать. Я очень рада, что мы побороли наши сомнения и попробовали этот деликатес.


Teppanyaki.Кобе биф нам готовили в тэппаньяки ресторане. Не считая мяса, всё очень похоже на наши местные хибачи. Вкусно (особенно жаренный чеснок), но ничего необычного.

Традиционные ужин и завтрак

Traditional dinner at ryokan.На 5-летний юбилей нашей свадьбы мы останавливались в традиционной японской гостинице — рёкане. Мы решили так же попробовать традиционные ужин и завтрак, которые предлагались в этом месте. Ужин состоял из более 15 наименований, включающих в себя супы, сырую и жаренную на гриле рыбу, овощи, различные соления, рис, десерт.

Traditional breakfast at ryokan.Что-то мне понравилось, что-то было слишком экзотичным на мой вкус, но в целом мы остались очень довольны и хорошо наелись. Завтрак тоже был интересным и включал в себя успевший полюбиться мне омлет по-японски, рыбу, суп, варёный тофу, рис, соления и грейпфрут. Гостиничный персонал посоветовал нам одеть на ужин предоставленные рёканом традиционные халаты с накидками, что мы и сделали. Мне кажется, это добавило всему действу остроты, чего мы собственно и добивались.


Okonomiyaki dinner in Osaka.Это блюдо, представляющее собой жареную лёшку с капустой и мясом либо морепродуктами, мы ели в одной из забегаловок в Осаке. Было неплохо, но лично на мой вкус не более того. Я выбрала окономияки с осьминогом и креветками, а Даня с беконом.


Tempura dinner.Я никогда не была большим любителем тэмпуры (обжаренные в кляре морепродукты или овощи) в Бруклине, но Японская темпура на голову выше местной. Не знаю в чём заключается секрет, но тесто в Японии было более воздушным, лёгким и хрустящим, и поэтому я с огромным удовольствием ела тэмпуру и в специализированном ресторане, и как часть нашего традиционного ужина.

Свинина в кляре

Fried pork cutlet dinner.К сожалению я не записала как называется эта ветвь японской кухни, но было очень вкусно. Эта свинина напомнила мне темпуру, но немного отличалась от вышеназванной по вкусу.

Бэнто Бокс

Bento box.Из Токио в Осаку мы ехали на синкансэне — “поезде-пуле”. Даня купил в дорогу две коробочки бэнто. Идея таких коробочек, где еда красиво и аккуратно разложена по отсекам, мне нравится, но больше покупать их как-то не тянуло.

Зелёный Чай

Tea ceremony.За неделю отпуска я выпила не меньше ведра этого чудесного напитка. Нам повезло, и когда мы уезжали из рёкана, тётушка-японка в кимоно угостила нас чаем, сделанным в рамках чайной церемонии. У чая был насыщенный зелёнй цвет, вкуснейшая пенка и очень приятный терпкий вкус. Второй по вкусности чай нам давали в Суши Дай.

Tea ceremony green tea.Очень многие рестораны тоже подавали неплохой чай, хотя, конечно, с тем, что нам подали в рёкане они не могут сравнится. Я покупала очень много чая в торговых автоматах, понатыканных на улицах с удивительной частотой. Причём, чай в автомате можно было купить как холоный, так и горячий. Я очень удивилась когда первый раз мне выпала бутылка с горячим зелёным чаем, но потом мы заметили, что под горячими и холодными напитками было написано “hot” и ” cold” соответсвенно, плюс у горящих напитков на бутылках были оранжевые крышечки, а у холодных белые. Мы привезли домой 3 упаковки по 100 грамм листового зелёного чая — надеюсь, что когда он закончится, можно будет пополнить запасы с помощью интернета.

Vending machine with hot and cold drinks.А еще мы пробовали буллочки с мясом, приготовленные на пару на острове Миядзима. Очень вкусно! А еще мы ели ланч в районе Сибуя в Токио, но он не представлял из себя ничего особенного. Что мне показалось очень интересым и необычным — это то, что практически кажый ресторан на витрине высталяет пластиковые модели своих блюд. Очень удобно, особенно для иностранцев.

Hiroshima steamed buns at Miyajima Island.А еще хочется отметить, что Хилтон как всегда был на высоте. Так как Даня является “алмазным” членом хилтоновского клуба, то мы получили в отеле бесплатные завтраки и доступ в “executive lounge”, где можно было вечером попить чаю или спиртных напитков, и подкрепится сладким или лёгкими закусками. Завтрак в стиле шведского стола был просто шикарным и включал в себя блюда как европейской, так и японской кухни.

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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.


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 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 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.


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.


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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Alena, Mama, Mama, Lina, Arosha.Вот и пришел Новый 2011 год! Пусть он будет счастливым для всех! Пусть все будут здоровы! Пусть всем улыбается удача!

Согласно китайскому колендарю, 2011 год является годом кролика. ) Я не очень разбираюсь в китайском гороскопе, но мне всегда интересно знать под знаком какого животного пройдёт следующий год. ) Как пошутили на первом канале — в году кролика женщины будут сговорчивее, а мужчины шустрее. Мне хочется, чтобы этот год прошел спокойно, без больших событий и потрясений, чтобы мы просто имели возможность наслаждаться каждым часом, впитывать в себя драгоценные мгновения жизни.

Papa and Arosha.2010 год был лично для меня замечательным. Самым главным событием было, без сомнения, рождение Ароши. Я пока еще новичок в новом искусстве материнства, и даётся пока оно не так легко, как я ожидала, но всё же в целом я ощущаю себя очень счастливым человеком. Как было бы здорово, если бы можно было законсервировать момены абсолютного счаться, которые случаются у меня почти каждый день, когда Ароша радуется маленьким вещам (прыганью в Jumperoo, купанию с Даней, стоянию на ножках, общению с нами)!

Us.Еще очень важным событием 2010 года для меня было получение гражданства. Я так долго этого ждала, и когда вспоминаю об изначальных сложностях, то кажется, что всё это было очень давно, и было ли оно вообще? Память всё же замечательная вещь — она стирает острые углы и черные дыры, и неприятности не кажутся такими уж неприятными, и как-то в общей картине всё преобретает свой смысл. Я, к слову, почти прослезилась во время церемонии натурализации, когда после клятвы судья говорил мне и еще сотне-другой человек о том, какая же замечательная страна Америка, и о том, что она принимает нас с распростёртыми обьятиями. )

Alena and mama.Еще я очень рада общению с мамой. Всё же мы не виделись очень много лет! Если бы звонки в Беларусь не были такими дорогими, я бы чаще ей звонила…

Our New Year tree with tons of gifts.Год кролика мы встретили расширенным составом — нас было, считая Арошу, аж 9 человек! Еда, как всегда, была очень вкусной (Данина мама и Лина приготовили фунчозу, мясо по-французски, запечённую в духовке картошку, 7 разных салатиков, мы с мамой принесли курицу, селёдку под шубой, оливье и цветную капусту, тётя Лиля напекла луковых и кабачковых оладушек, а Лёня прикупил печенья и конфет к чаю). Всё прошло тихо, мирно, по-семейному. ) Вобщем, как в “ладушках” — попили, поели, домой полетели. )

Us.После официального наступления Нового года, д. Боря сыграл роль Деда Мороза и раздал всем подарки. Подарков было много!!! Все старались порадовать друг друга. ) Лично я получила в подарок 2 кофточки, майку, тёплые сапожки, фен, соль для ванны, мыло и стеклянного зайца. Ароша получил в подарок целую кучу игрушек и спортивный костюмчик (он, конечно, всю встречу Нового Года проспал, чему все были очень рады). ) Вобщем, надеюсь, как встретили, так и проведём!

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View from our balcony. Ocean and dolphins.Ну вот и пролетел наш отпуск. Впечатления вобщем остались очень хорошие, но лично для меня многие места после поездки в Yellowstone кажутся более бледными в сравнении…

Our room.Hilton Waikoloa Village была на высоте. За счёт Даниного Gold VIP статуса в Hilton Honors club, комната нам досталась в самом дорогом здании отеля — Lagoon Tower. Окна выходили на лагуну, дельфинариум и частично на океан. В комнате был балкончик, где мы иногда завтракали. Дверь же наша выходила на водный канал по центру которого на кусочке земли росли тропические деревья. Среди деревьев важно разгуливали фазаны и утки, а еще там любили тусоваться маленькие, но очень шумные птицы — ор, который они поднимали по вечерам и ночам нас сперва просто поразил (спать нам они, к счастью, не мешали)!

Hilton hallways.Еще меня очень впечатлила коллекция статуй, ваз, и других вещей расположенных в коридорах (и не только) отеля. Иногда создавалось впечатление, что идёшь не по отелю, а по музею. Если верить вебсайту отеля, цена этой коллекции превышает $7,000,000.

Бассейны и джакузи работали до 11 вечера. Вообще бассейнов было много, и мне очень понравилось сьезжать по водному слайду в одном из них. Джакузи на мой вкус могли бы быть и погорячее, но в принципе и так было ничего. )

Hilton dolphins.Лагуна, которая сперва на нас не произвела особого впечатления, оказалась замечательным местом для загорания и купания в океанской водичке. Вода была очень чистой — я могла видеть дно даже в тех местах, где ногами до него я уже не доставала.

Buddha Point.Еда не территории отеля оставляет желать лучшего. Завтрак в буфете (омлет с соком и фруктами) стоит по $25 на человека. Чашечка кофе – $7; а когда мы заказали еду в комнату, то нам пришлось заплатить дополнительные $10 за “сервис” и “доставку” (это учитывая, что два скромных салатика нами заказанные стоили $28).

Alena on the way to breakfast.Вообще из всех мест, где мы если, больше всего мне понравился Brown’s Beach House ресторан, расположенный в The Fairmont Orchid отеле. Да, там цены тоже были солидными, но отменное качество еды, великолепный сервис и романтическая атмосфера этого места делали эти цены хотя бы оправданными. Alena being a samurai.Сидели мы на лужайке практически на берегу океана (правда, было уже темно и океан мы не видели), толстенький гаваец играл на гитаре и очень приятным голосом пел гавайские и не только песни, там и сям полыхали огнём факелы… Вобщем, было хорошо, а эсколар (масляная рыба) с эдамаме полентой и грибами не разочаровал ни меня, ни Даню.

На День Благодарения мы, следуя американской традиции, ели индюшку (в Ruth’s Chris ресторане). Было очень даже вкусно – и мы просто обожрались одной порцией на двоих (даже представить не могу как кто-то мог умять целую порцию).

Koi poind near Imari restaurant.Раз уж речь идёт о еде, то хочется упомнянуть и походе на Luau. Мы много слышали о “kalua pig” — свинье запеченной в банановых листьях в специальной подземной печи — и каково же было моё разочарование, когда на вкус эта свинья оказалась ничуть не лучше “pulled pork”, которую я уже неоднократно готовила дома используя slow cooker. Если честно, мной приготовленная свинина мне нравится даже больше — думаю причина в барбекью соусе, который придаёт ей более пикантный вкус.

От шоу на луау я тоже ожидала большего — танцы мне показались несколько примитивными и однообразными. Конечно, было интересно посмотреть на традиционные танцы “хула”, но 2-3 танцев было бы более чем достаточно, чтобы составить полную картину (шоу, естественно, включало намного большее количество танцев). В целом я не жалею о походе на luau, но больше туда я бы не пошла.

На сей ноте хочу сделать паузу. Продолжение следует.
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