Christmas Time. Part 2.

After finishing our Christmas Eve Dinner we went to visit our local North Pole.

In the hearts and minds of youngsters across Norwalk, the Midwood Road home of Joan and Rick Setti is an elaborate winter wonderland and popular holiday destination.

With 110,000 hanging lights and 641 characters on display, the attraction draws thousands of people from around the world each holiday season, many of them repeat visitors.

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The Setti Christmas Village has been illuminating 6 Midwood Road for 25 years and each year the display is a little different.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney characters, Looney Tunes, Harry Potter, Dora the Explorer, Barney, SpongeBob Squarepants and Scooby Doo are just some of the returning favorites. A “Precious Moments” collection and a huge lighted wire reindeer assortment adorn the area by the street.

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The lights go on at 5 every night until around 11, except on Christmas Eve, when he leaves the lights on all night for those who want to catch the display after midnight mass.

On Christmas Eve, the Setti’s dress up as Santa and Mrs. Claus to greet visitors, pass out candy canes and listen to the Christmas wishes of hundreds of children.

Mr. Setti said it takes him from August until October just to hang the lights every year, and without the help of many friends and neighbors who help him plan the display he could never do it alone.

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They don’t ask for anything. Sure, there is a small “tip” jar out there because heck, that’s got to be a monster electric bill, right?!

Even more than the lights, there is a mailbox for children’s letters to Santa that Mr. Setti surely gets to the North Pole in time, and a guestbook to sign your name or write a cute little note.

 This year we found Settis’ new displays, a tribute to Sandy Hook. Although the Settis are celebrating 25 years, he wanted to put up a tribute to 26 Angels of Sandy Hook.

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Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. This year, the year 2013, marks the 25th anniversary of the “house with all the lights.” This year is a warning because next year, the year 2014, is it. No more lights.

While I am sure the people of Norwalk and beyond are sad, Rick & Joan deserve a huge “thank you” for 25 years, and if you’ve never been, you must.

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We came early night, so it took us around 3o minutes to wait for Santa Claus.

Sophia was super excited, asked for her present, and after we left the village, it started snowing, so it was definitely the magic Christmas Eve.

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After getting home and putting Sophia to bed, we got all the presents ready for the next morning:

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It was impossible to put the presents under the tree before Christmas night this year. Sophia has tons of questions now, and to make her believe in Santa Clause we waited to the last minute.

10 Things Most Americans Don’t Know about America

I found this great article from one of the blogs, and I couldn’t stop myself to share it.

Let me know what you think:)

“10 Things Most Americans Don’t Know About America

May. 8, 2013

By Mark Manson

usa

Imagine you have a brother and he’s an alcoholic. He has his moments, but you keep your distance from him. You don’t mind him for the occasional family gathering or holiday. You still love him. But you don’t want to be around him.

This is how I lovingly describe my current relationship with the United States. The United States is my alcoholic brother. And although I will always love him, I don’t want to be near him at the moment.

I know that’s harsh, but I really feel my home country is not in a good place these days. That’s not a socio-economic statement (although that’s on the decline as well), but rather a cultural one.

I realize it’s going to be impossible to write sentences like the ones above without coming across as a raging prick, so let me try to soften the blow to my American readers with an analogy:

You know when you move out of your parents’ house and live on your own, how you start hanging out with your friends’ families and you realize that actually, your family was a little screwed up? Stuff you always assumed was normal your entire childhood, it turns out was pretty weird and may have actually fucked you up a little bit. You know, dad thinking it was funny to wear a Santa Claus hat in his underwear every Christmas or the fact that you and your sister slept in the same bed until you were 22, or that your mother routinely cried over a bottle of wine while listening to Elton John.

The point is we don’t really get perspective on what’s close to us until we spend time away from it. Just like you didn’t realize the weird quirks and nuances of your family until you left and spent time with others, the same is true for country and culture. You often don’t see what’s messed up about your country and culture until you step outside of it.

And so even though this article is going to come across as fairly scathing, I want my American readers to know: some of the stuff we do, some of the stuff that we always assumed was normal, it’s kind of screwed up. And that’s OK. Because that’s true with every culture. It’s just easier to spot it in others (i.e., the French) so we don’t always notice it in ourselves.

So as you read this article, know that I’m saying everything with tough love, the same tough love with which I’d sit down and lecture an alcoholic family member. It doesn’t mean I don’t love you. It doesn’t mean there aren’t some awesome things about you (BRO, THAT’S AWESOME!!!). And it doesn’t mean I’m some saint either, because god knows I’m pretty screwed up (I’m American, after all). There are just a few things you need to hear. And as a friend, I’m going to tell them to you.

And to my foreign readers, get your necks ready, because this is going to be a nod-a-thon.

A Little “What The Hell Does This Guy Know?” Background: I’ve lived in different parts of the US, both the deep south and the northeast. I have visited most of the US’s 50 states. I’ve spent the past three years living almost entirely outside of the United States. I’ve lived in multiple countries in Europe, Asia and South America. I’ve visited over 40 countries in all and have spent far more time with non-Americans than with Americans during this period. I speak multiple languages. I’m not a tourist. I don’t stay in resorts and rarely stay in hostels. I rent apartments and try to integrate myself into each country I visit as much as possible. So there.

(Note: I realize these are generalizations and I realize there are always exceptions. I get it. You don’t have to post 55 comments telling me that you and your best friend are exceptions. If you really get that offended from some guy’s blog post, you may want to double-check your life priorities.)

OK, we’re ready now. 10 things Americans don’t know about America.

1. FEW PEOPLE ARE IMPRESSED BY US

Unless you’re speaking with a real estate agent or a prostitute, chances are they’re not going to be excited that you’re American. It’s not some badge of honor we get to parade around. Yes, we had Steve Jobs and Thomas Edison, but unless you actually are Steve Jobs or Thomas Edison (which is unlikely) then most people around the world are simply not going to care. There are exceptions of course. And those exceptions are called English and Australian people. Whoopdie-fucking-doo.

As Americans, we’re brought up our entire lives being taught that we’re the best, we did everything first and that the rest of the world follows our lead. Not only is this not true, but people get irritated when you bring it to their country with you. So don’t.

2. FEW PEOPLE HATE US

Despite the occasional eye-rolling, and complete inability to understand why anyone would vote for George W. Bush, people from other countries don’t hate us either. In fact — and I know this is a really sobering realization for us — most people in the world don’t really think about us or care about us. I know, that sounds absurd, especially with CNN and Fox News showing the same 20 angry Arab men on repeat for ten years straight. But unless we’re invading someone’s country or threatening to invade someone’s country (which is likely), then there’s a 99.99% chance they don’t care about us. Just like we rarely think about the people in Bolivia or Mongolia, most people don’t think about us much. They have jobs, kids, house payments — you know, those things called lives — to worry about. Kind of like us.

Americans tend to assume that the rest of the world either loves us or hates us (this is actually a good litmus test to tell if someone is conservative or liberal). The fact is, most people feel neither. Most people don’t think much about us.

Remember that immature girl in high school, who every little thing that happened to her meant that someone either hated her or was obsessed with her; who thought every teacher who ever gave her a bad grade was being totally unfair and everything good that happened to her was because of how amazing she was? Yeah, we’re that immature high school girl.

3. WE KNOW NOTHING ABOUT THE REST OF THE WORLD

For all of our talk about being global leaders and how everyone follows us, we don’t seem to know much about our supposed “followers.” They often have completely different takes on history than we do. Here were some brain-stumpers for me: the Vietnamese believe the Vietnam War was about China (not us), Hitler was primarily defeated by Russia (not us), Native Americans were wiped out largely disease and plague (not us), and the American Revolution was “won” because the British cared more about beating France (not us). Notice a running theme here?

(Hint: It’s not all about us.)

We did not invent democracy. We didn’t even invent modern democracy. There were parliamentary systems in England and other parts of Europe over a hundred years before we created government. In a recent survey of young Americans, 63% could not find Iraq on a map (despite being at war with them), and 54% did not know Sudan was a country in Africa. Yet, somehow we’re positive that everyone else looks up to us.

4. WE ARE POOR AT EXPRESSING GRATITUDE AND AFFECTION

There’s a saying about English-speakers. We say “Go fuck yourself,” when we really mean “I like you,” and we say “I like you,” when we really mean “Go fuck yourself.”

Outside of getting shit-housed drunk and screaming “I LOVE YOU, MAN!”, open displays of affection in American culture are tepid and rare. Latin and some European cultures describe us as “cold” and “passionless” and for good reason. In our social lives we don’t say what we mean and we don’t mean what we say.

In our culture, appreciation and affection are implied rather than spoken outright. Two guy friends call each other names to reinforce their friendship; men and women tease and make fun of each other to imply interest. Feelings are almost never shared openly and freely. Consumer culture has cheapened our language of gratitude. Something like, “It’s so good to see you” is empty now because it’s expected and heard from everybody.

In dating, when I find a woman attractive, I almost always walk right up to her and tell her that a) I wanted to meet her, and b) she’s beautiful. In America, women usually get incredibly nervous and confused when I do this. They’ll make jokes to defuse the situation or sometimes ask me if I’m part of a TV show or something playing a prank. Even when they’re interested and go on dates with me, they get a bit disoriented when I’m so blunt with my interest. Whereas, in almost every other culture approaching women this way is met with a confident smile and a “Thank you.”

5. THE QUALITY OF LIFE FOR THE AVERAGE AMERICAN IS NOT THAT GREAT

If you’re extremely talented or intelligent, the US is probably the best place in the world to live. The system is stacked heavily to allow people of talent and advantage to rise to the top quickly.

The problem with the US is that everyone thinks they are of talent and advantage. As John Steinbeck famously said, the problem with poor Americans is that “they don’t believe they’re poor, but rather temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” It’s this culture of self-delusion that allows America to continue to innovate and churn out new industry more than anyone else in the world. But this shared delusion also unfortunately keeps perpetuating large social inequalities and the quality of life for the average citizen lower than most other developed countries. It’s the price we pay to maintain our growth and economic dominance.

In my Guide to Wealth, I defined being wealthy as, “Having the freedom to maximize one’s life experiences.” In those terms, despite the average American having more material wealth than citizens of most other countries (more cars, bigger houses, nicer televisions), their overall quality of life suffers in my opinion. American people on average work more hours with less vacation, spend more time commuting every day, and are saddled with over $10,000 of debt. That’s a lot of time spent working and buying crap and little time or disposable income for relationships, activities or new experiences.

6. THE REST OF THE WORLD IS NOT A SLUM-RIDDEN SHITHOLE COMPARED TO US

In 2010, I got into a taxi in Bangkok to take me to a new six-story cineplex. It was accessible by metro, but I chose a taxi instead. On the seat in front of me was a sign with a wifi password. Wait, what? I asked the driver if he had wifi in his taxi. He flashed a huge smile. The squat Thai man, with his pidgin English, explained that he had installed it himself. He then turned on his new sound system and disco lights. His taxi instantly became a cheesy nightclub on wheels… with free wifi.

If there’s one constant in my travels over the past three years, it has been that almost every place I’ve visited (especially in Asia and South America) is much nicer and safer than I expected it to be. Singapore is pristine. Hong Kong makes Manhattan look like a suburb. My neighborhood in Colombia is nicer than the one I lived in in Boston (and cheaper).

As Americans, we have this naïve assumption that people all over the world are struggling and way behind us. They’re not. Sweden and South Korea have more advanced high speed internet networks. Japan has the most advanced trains and transportation systems. Norwegians make more money. The biggest and most advanced plane in the world is flown out of Singapore. The tallest buildings in the world are now in Dubai and Shanghai. Meanwhile, the US has the highest incarceration rate in the world.

What’s so surprising about the world is how unsurprising most of it is. I spent a week with some local guys in Cambodia. You know what their biggest concerns were? Paying for school, getting to work on time, and what their friends were saying about them. In Brazil, people have debt problems, hate getting stuck in traffic and complain about their overbearing mothers. Every country thinks they have the worst drivers. Every country thinks their weather is unpredictable. The world becomes, err… predictable.

7. WE’RE PARANOID

Not only are we emotionally insecure as a culture, but I’ve come to realize how paranoid we are about our physical security. You don’t have to watch Fox News or CNN for more than 10 minutes to hear about how our drinking water is going to kill us, our neighbor is going to rape our children, some terrorist in Yemen is going to kill us because we didn’t torture him, Mexicans are going to kill us, or some virus from a bird is going to kill us. There’s a reason we have more guns than people.

In the US, security trumps everything, even liberty. We’re paranoid.

I’ve probably been to 10 countries now that friends and family back home told me explicitly not to go because someone was going to kill me, kidnap me, stab me, rob me, rape me, sell me into sex trade, give me HIV, or whatever else. None of that has happened. I’ve never been robbed and I’ve walked through some of the shittiest parts of Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe.

In fact, the experience has been the opposite. In countries like Russia, Colombia or Guatemala, people were so friendly it actually scared me. Some stranger in a bar would invite me to his house for a bar-b-que with his family, a random person on the street would offer to show me around and give me directions to a store I was trying to find. My American instincts were always that, “Wait, this guy is going to try to rob me or kill me,” but they never did. They were just insanely friendly.

8. WE’RE STATUS-OBSESSED AND SEEK ATTENTION

I’ve noticed that the way we Americans communicate is usually designed to create a lot of attention and hype. Again, I think this is a product of our consumer culture: the belief that something isn’t worthwhile or important unless it’s perceived to be the best (BEST EVER!!!) or unless it gets a lot of attention (see: every reality-television show ever made).

This is why Americans have a peculiar habit of thinking everything is “totally awesome,” and even the most mundane activities were “the best thing ever!” It’s the unconscious drive we share for importance and significance, this unmentioned belief, socially beaten into us since birth that if we’re not the best at something, then we don’t matter.

We’re status-obsessed. Our culture is built around achievement, production and being exceptional. Therefore comparing ourselves and attempting to out-do one another has infiltrated our social relationships as well. Who can slam the most beers first? Who can get reservations at the best restaurant? Who knows the promoter to the club? Who dated a girl on the cheerleading squad? Socializing becomes objectified and turned into a competition. And if you’re not winning, the implication is that you are not important and no one will like you.

9. WE ARE VERY UNHEALTHY

Unless you have cancer or something equally dire, the health care system in the US sucks. The World Health Organization ranked the US 37th in the world for health care, despite the fact that we spend the most per capita by a large margin.

The hospitals are nicer in Asia (with European-educated doctors and nurses) and cost a tenth as much. Something as routine as a vaccination costs multiple hundreds of dollars in the US and less than $10 in Colombia. And before you make fun of Colombian hospitals, Colombia is 28th in the world on that WHO list, nine spots higher than us.

A routine STD test that can run you over $200 in the US is free in many countries to anyone, citizen or not. My health insurance the past year? $65 a month. Why? Because I live outside of the US. An American guy I met living in Buenos Aires got knee surgery on his ACL that would have cost $10,000 in the US… for free.

But this isn’t really getting into the real problems of our health. Our food is killing us. I’m not going to go crazy with the details, but we eat chemically-laced crap because it’s cheaper and tastes better (profit, profit). Our portion sizes are absurd (more profit). And we’re by far the most prescribed nation in the world AND our drugs cost five to ten times more than they do even in Canada (ohhhhhhh, profit, you sexy bitch).

In terms of life expectancy, despite being the richest country in the world, we come in a paltry 38th. Right behind Cuba, Malta and the United Arab Emirates, and slightly ahead of Slovenia, Kuwait and Uruguay. Enjoy your Big Mac.

10. WE MISTAKE COMFORT FOR HAPPINESS

The United States is a country built on the exaltation of economic growth and personal ingenuity. Small businesses and constant growth are celebrated and supported above all else — above affordable health care, above respectable education, above everything. Americans believe it’s your responsibility to take care of yourself and make something of yourself, not the state’s, not your community’s, not even your friend’s or family’s in some instances.

Comfort sells easier than happiness. Comfort is easy. It requires no effort and no work. Happiness takes effort. It requires being proactive, confronting fears, facing difficult situations, and having unpleasant conversations.

Comfort equals sales. We’ve been sold comfort for generations and for generations we bought: bigger houses, separated further and further out into the suburbs; bigger TV’s, more movies, and take-out. The American public is becoming docile and complacent. We’re obese and entitled. When we travel, we look for giant hotels that will insulate us and pamper us rather than for legitimate cultural experiences that may challenge our perspectives or help us grow as individuals.

Depression and anxiety disorders are soaring within the US. Our inability to confront anything unpleasant around us has not only created a national sense of entitlement, but it’s disconnected us from what actually drives happiness: relationships, unique experiences, feeling self-validated, achieving personal goals. It’s easier to watch a NASCAR race on television and tweet about it than to actually get out and try something new with a friend.

Unfortunately, a by-product of our massive commercial success is that we’re able to avoid the necessary emotional struggles of life in lieu of easy superficial pleasures.

Throughout history, every dominant civilization eventually collapsed because it became TOO successful. What made it powerful and unique grows out of proportion and consumes its society. I think this is true for American society. We’re complacent, entitled and unhealthy. My generation is the first generation of Americans who will be worse off than their parents, economically, physically and emotionally. And this is not due to a lack of resources, to a lack of education or to a lack of ingenuity. It’s corruption and complacency. The corruption from the massive industries that control our government’s policies, and the fat complacency of the people to sit around and let it happen.

There are things I love about my country. I don’t hate the US and I still return to it a few times a year. But I think the greatest flaw of American culture is our blind self-absorption. In the past it only hurt other countries. But now it’s starting to hurt ourselves.

So this is my lecture to my alcoholic brother — my own flavor of arrogance and self-absorption, even if slightly more informed — in hopes he’ll give up his wayward ways. I imagine it’ll fall on deaf ears, but it’s the most I can do for now. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some funny cat pictures to look at.”

High Line Park. NY

Few weeks ago me and my friend decided to take our little ones to the city. I am so glad, we are only 40 minutes away from NY, and it lets us travel there pretty often.

Our plan was to take the girls to High Line Park. Let them run around and play for a little bit.

Before walking into the park, we decided to stop at Chelsea market for lunch. This expansive retail space is home to a couple dozen vendors, most of which do food of some kind. You will find any kind of food there: from regular sandwiches to whole steamed lobsters.

I let Sophia had pizza. When we go to the city, she always needs to have a special treat, and her favorite one is pizza, so this time she had Margarita one from Amy’s Bread.

I was super excited about my lunch because there is a vegan sushi place at Chelsea market: Beyond Sushi. The Green Roll.

This was my first time eating completely vegan green rolls. These rolls look like piece of art. Their choices are unbelievable.

Each fruit and vegetable sushi gem is wrapped in either black forbidden rice or a customized six-grain rice blend. Black Rice is a gluten free grain that contains 18 amino acids and has a natural black hue. Beyond Sushi’s iron-filled six-grain rice is a medley of rye berries, hulless barley, pearl barley, brown, red, and black rice. Both rice options paired with the seasonal fruit and vegetable fillings, create for exhilarating textures as well as flavor profiles.

I picked Combo 2: 2 rolls and 2 individual pieces. ( you pick your own rolls). My choice was Spicy Mang( black rice, avocado, mango, english cucumber, spicy veggies), Green Machine( six grain rice, english cucumber, asparagus, basil marinated veggies).

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They tasted really good and I wish we had this place in our area too.

The prices surprised me too: 13.50$ for 2 rolls and 2 individual pieces.

Now, back to High Line Park.

The family friendly elevated park, the High Line, opened in 2009. Running from the meatpacking district to 20th Street, the park doubled in length in 2011 and extended to 30th Street.
Though not a traditional park–ball playing is not allowed and no walking on the rails is forbidden–the High Line is still fun for kids. At one spot you walk through a building; at other places you can watch the street life unfold below through large glass viewing areas. Plus there are special events for kids, like art projects and movement classes.

A water feature lets kids (and the young at heart) splash, and a small grassy area in the new section tempts emerging walkers.

This is the place where the girls played the most. It was warm enough and they really had fun in the water.

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The High Line is open from 7am-8pm daily, with the last entrance at 7:45pm. In April through summer, the park is open until 10pm. Park workers are serious about getting you out on time.

The area around the northern end of The High Line is possibly the most unattractive in Manhattan, so double back and end your walk at another place.

The park has nine access points: Gansevoort Street, 14th and 16th steets (both with elevator access), 18th Street, 20th Street, 23rd Street (elevator access coming, 26th Street. 28th Street and 30th Street (elevator access).

Tips: If you are bringing a stroller, be sure to use the access points with elevators.

You can bring food to the park and sit at one of the cafe tables or on a bench. The popular lounges are at a premium, so you may have to wait for one.

They sell my favorite Blue Bottle Coffee there now, and although I don’t drink coffee for a few months already, I couldn’t say “no” to this one.

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On our way back home, we let our girls have the local fruit ice pops that taste really good. Strawberry and basil is the perfect combination for ice pops, and Sophia enjoyed hers not even letting me have a lick.

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There is only one bathroom, near the 16th Street entrance and lines can get long; don’t wait until your newly trained toddler HAS to go:)

It was a great trip and if you want to take your kids to NY and explore something else besides Times Square and Central Park, you should definitely try Chelsea Market and High Line Park.

Fun weekend.

I can’t believe that our every weekend is planned to the minute. We always are running somewhere, meeting friends, going out. I usually try to do some chores around the house, find at least 30 minutes to exercise and then just sit by the pool and relax.
Last weekend was busy as usual. We went to a barbecue at our friends’ house.IMG_8398

They have a little boy, the same age as Sophia, and because they speak Russian, I like when the kids get together. We are trying to teach Sophia 2 languages, but because almost all her friends speak English, sometimes she refuses to speak Russian.

It is very important for us to teach her to speak Russian, and be able to communicate in two languages, but it is not easy when she hears  everyone around her but her parents speaking English, So, Sophia’s friend Alec speaks Russian very well, and he always teaches her some words that she never heard before. On the other side, she teaches him English, and even though he doesn’t have a lot of experience speaking English, he totally understands her. Now, that they are older, it is so much fun to see them communicating and playing together.IMG_8401

Sophia likes to take the leader role ( I have no idea where she got that from), and as a caring little girl she always makes sure Alec is doing well, isn’t hungry or thirsty, is feeling comfortable and is just having fun.

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Sometimes I wonder whether it is better if the girls play with the girls, and boys with the boys, but honestly, it does not really matter, they need to have a chance to play with everyone and learn to get along together, share, communicate and make themselves comfortable with the other kids.

The next day we made a trip to the city with our friends. There is a nice, cosy Russian restaurant in Flatiron District called Mari Vanna.

Mari Vanna was opened in August 2009 in NY. Their interior transports you into an old  Russian-style home complete with layers of  wallpaper that are peeled away in places to show the generations that have past. Pretty crystal chandeliers hang fromthe ceiling, classic Russian literature line the bookshelves filled with Russian classic literature. Elegant antique tableware and silverware make you feel you are dining at a Russian tsar’s table.

I really like their interior and style. It feels very cosy and warm.

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Even the kids’ high chairs are hand-painted in Russian-style.

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Because we went to the restaurant  with our american friends, we wanted to introduce them to the popular Russian dishes. They have Sunday Brunch buffet, which let us show them different kinds of food: traditional Borsh soup, different kinds of salads-vinegret, olivier, country salad; vareniki( traditional Russian dumplings with potato), homestyle fried potato with mushrooms, chicken stroganoff, and for dessert- Russian blinis( crepes) with different kinds of jams and sweetened condensed milk.

Mari Vanna is kid-friendly place, and Sophia loves it a lot. They let the kids run around and dance to the popular Russian cartoon songs, and the stuff always make sure the kids feel comfortable and happy at their restaurant.

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Russian food is not always the healthiest, but you always can find some healthy options for yourself.20130811-221844.jpg

The restaurant makes really delicious food and if you are looking for some place in the city to try the Russian food and learn a little about the Russian culture, this is the place to go.

San Francisco. Part2

Where to go? What to see?

Because we were with the toddler, who was 1,5 at that moment we had to plan what we will do and see there.

If you have a prewalking baby with you, it’s so much easier, you can just put the baby in the carrier or a stroller and explore the city, but when your toddler is 1,5 and wants to explore everything around with you, running without looking and picking up every single piece from the ground, you should be prepared for this kind of trip.

First of all we decided to visit San Francisco ZOO.

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http://www.sfzoo.org

Huge place, with a lot of animals, activities and places to see. It’s a great place to take your kids to, and you probably will spent half of the day there. What saved us?

Toddler walking leash.

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http://www.amazon.com/Animal-Planet-Backpack-Harness-Bear/dp/B005C3K6HW/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1374778935&sr=8-5&keywords=walking+leash+bear

It really helped us a lot. At that time our daughter didn’t want to sit in a stroller even for a minute. It made everyone happy and we explored the zoo and had a lot of fun together.
A little advice is to have a hat and a jacket for your little ones, because there is an ocean next to the zoo, which makes it chilly and windy around.

Pier39.

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http://www.pier39.com

Great place to visit with your kids too. They have an aquarium there, a lot of different little stores, and restaurants, carousel, and sea lions close to see. We love their street performances. There were so many other things to see like Musical Stairs, Infinite Mirror Maze etc., but you can’t really do everything at once, especially with a toddler.

Golden Gate Park.

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http://www.golden-gate-park.com

I wish we went there at our first days but we left it to the end. It is a HUGE park with different attractions: aquarium, carousel, playgrounds, conservatory of flowers, california academy of science etc. We had a chance just walk around and visit The Japanese Tea Garden. I wish we had more time to explore it. It is a great family place and next time we will definetely put it in our MUST SEE list.

Golden Gate Bridge.

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http://www.goldengatebridge.org

This bridge is worth to see. We walked there, leaving our car on the parking lot. Sophia probably doesn’t remember it already. This place is enormous and huge. It’s a shame to be in SF and don’t have a chance to walk on this beautiful tremendous bridge. It’s also chilly and windy there, make sure you have some hats and sweaters for your little ones.

Alkatraz.

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http://www.alcatrazcruises.com

We really wanted to see this place. We booked our tickets in advance. It made our trip there with no problems or waiting lists. It’s almost impossible to buy the ticket at the day of your visit or for the next few days.
They have a tour guy at the island who you can follow, or just grab an audio tour and walk around by yourself. We didn’t follow the tour guy, and tried to listen our audio tour chasing our daughter around the prison. I wouldn’t recomend to go there with the toddler. It is impossible to watch your little one and see the place, I mean you can see the place, but not learn anything about it.

San Francisco cable car.

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http://www.sfcablecar.com/routes.html

The little cable car which will take you through the downtown of San Francisco. Yes, yes, yes definitely is worth to try. Kids love it!!! Sometimes it gets to packed by the end. There is no line to get on, but when you are coming back you will need to wait at least for 15min. Just be ready for it. They also have the Cable car museum there. We didn’t visit it.

The Beach.

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There are a lot of beaches in SF, and to tell you the truth I don’t really know which one we picked. We just drove by and stopped at its parking lot. It is the other fun part for the kids and family. The water is pretty cold in the ocean, but you can run around, play with the sand, meet interesting people, have a picnic and just have fun.

San Francisco. Part 1

Our trip was more than a year ago, but I would like to share some tips and places where to go, and what to see.

This is the best healthy food place in US. I would be the happiest person moving there. Local farmers markets, organic restaurants, the best bakeries, the food that tastes completely different from our North part of the country.

My first part is about FOOD.

We stayed in the rented 1 bedroom apartment, 5 minutes walking from the Twin Peaks, that means we shouldn’t go out to eat all the time, and have the chance to explore their local grocery stores.

There are Whole Foods markets everywhere, in every part of the city, so it was easy to find something to eat. Besides the regular groceries, we also bought some sushi, soup, and sandwiches there sometimes.

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Their variety of fish amazed me. Local wild ocean fish, which I couldn’t resist buying and making for dinner.

It was a tiny grocery store next to our apartment that carried just simple kinds of food. It saved us the first night from dying hungry:), because it was the easiest thing just go there, and made the simple salad, omelet and sandwiches with the super delicious avocados and local crispy bread.

Bakery.

La Boulange de Cole.

This was the only one that we tried there. Why? Because it is the best bakery ever. It was 10 minutes walking from our place. They have the best pastries and macaroons, a huge choice of breakfast, lunch and dinner menus, and my favorite organic tea Mighty Leaf. I wish we had this place in our area here, but unfortunately it is only in San Francisco.

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Organic Cafe.

 THE PLANT.

There are a few of them in San Francisco. We went to the one in Marina area.

Great choices of healthy organic food. I was happy with the kids menu, and ordered oven baked chicken tenders with steamed brocolli for my daughter. Their healthy shakes are super delicious. I personally had the almond milk banana one and it was a hit. Soups, sandwiches, salads are just great. Recommend this place to everyone.  When you travel with kids it hard to find some healthy choices for them.

Farmer Markets.
FERRY PLAZA FARMER MARKET.

The most popular Farmer Market in San Francisco. You just need to plan ahead your trip there. It works only 3 times per week: Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The best day to visit is Saturday with tons of vendors and unbelievable delicious food.

Definitely recommend to try their popular lox sandwiches and the most delicious coffee from Blue Bottle Coffee. The local honey, fresh fruits, nuts and so many other things will stay in your memories for a long time.

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We also had some bad experience with two restaurants that I would not recommend: Rue Saint Jacques( The french restaurant), and Barracuda( japanese restaurant). I decided to save some money and bought two Groupon deals for these places, and it turned out we paid much more than anywhere else, with terrible service and horrible food. No more Groupon deals on vacation ever.