OUR SUMMER IN PICTURES + 10 helpful tips for visiting New York

By   October 12, 2016

This post is so overdue, but I decided to share with you our summer memories anyway. Seems like summer is long gone, but looking through the pictures and videos that we’ve captured brings some sort of peace and warmth to my heart. So here it goes.

Our summer has started two days before the school year ended. Long awaited vacation to East Coast, here we come!  My dad lives in New Jersey, and it happens that summer starts earlier there than it does here, in Pacific Northwest.

We stayed at my dad’s house. The first morning there, my girls were so busy counting my dad’s collection of ships. They were counting and re-counting, and  I don’t think they have ever agreed on a number, but I tell you, he has a lot of them!


So, while the weather was still playing tricks in Washington state, we hit the beach in New Jersey. My idea of a perfect vacation is the beach, and of course, good food. We had both!

Sandy Hook beach, where we ended up staying, is amazing. Beautiful warm sand, clean ocean water, lazy days…  Priceless!

Well, maybe not too lazy. My dad taught me how to do Sudoku. So I was exercising… my brain 🙂 I love that thing!

This quickly became a new beach attraction that my builders-at-heart have created. A pyramid!

This picture doesn’t do a judgment, but that pyramid had so much detail, that many people couldn’t help but stop and take pictures of it. And of course, “the builders” made sure that the “attraction” was built every day for three weeks for everybody to enjoy.

Ok, this makes me feel excited every time I look at it.  We stopped by this European market, called Emporium, every day to get ice cream on our way to the beach.  Everything looked so good that I couldn’t even decide which one would be the pastry that I wanted the most. So we just grabbed ice-cream every time.

Russian ice-cream (plombir) is to die for, or maybe not. Maybe it’s just nostalgia, a taste from childhood, but we love it.

Once, while driving, we saw a U-pick sign for sour pie cherries. Did I ever mention that I love sour cherries? Sour Cherries are perfect in pyrogies (vareniki), pies, and preserves. Sour cherries preserves is something that I’ve been wanting to make for a while, just couldn’t find enough cherries anywhere. I couldn’t find any farms that have them in Western Washington. So we went cherry picking. There’s a beautiful farm “Battleview Orchards”. They grow peaches, apples, cherries, and so much more.


This time we had enough for everything I wanted to make, pyrogies, and preserves.

Look, what we found while picking cherries. I wonder what bird lays such tiny eggs? Those eggs were smaller than cherries, interesting….

Making preserves was a three-day process. It is pretty easy, but time consuming, but oh so worth it! I’ve got lots of help with pitting the cherries, and than it was all up to the heat and timing.

I don’t think you can find anything like this in stores. This is perfection, freshly picked cherries, organic sugar, and  there you have a perfect dessert to enjoy. I call it “summer in a jar”.

We found this cute little organic ice cream place while exploring Long Branch Boardwalk.  It had a wide variety of ice cream flavors, smoothies, ice cream cakes. This place accepts cash only. I had no clue that those kind of businesses exist anymore. We loved it there.


We’ve also visited few attractions. One of them was New Jersey Navesink Lighthouse (Twin Lights). It was built on the highest point of the Atlantic Coast. This lighthouse was usually the first seen when entering New York Harbor. It became a historic attraction because it was the first electrically-operated lighthouse in the country. So that was pretty cool!

Here we are in Manhattan. We wanted to show the kids a busy New York city, but we didn’t want to drive there. So we took a bus from New Jersey. This way we didn’t have to worry about traffic, parking or anything else. The bus took us right to Time Square. The moment we got out of the bus station, the kids were wowing. It is truly amazing to see so many people and tall buildings. It is like a whole different world. We intentionally came there at about 6pm. I didn’t feel like walking and exploring during the day while it is hot. So we came in the evening, this way we got to see New York at night as well, which is so beautiful and busy, and must see. I must say that we had to hold kids’ hands, because they could quickly get lost in an enormous sea of people. Everyone and everything were moving so fast, the current of people was seriously strong. You really have to know which way you’re heading, otherwise, it’ll take you places. You don’t even have to move a leg 😀

We didn’t buy a city pass this time or any tours. It would take good couple of days to explore it all. Maybe, when the kids are older. For now, we decided to somehow get to the Central Park and explore it a little bit, then go for a dinner, and call it a day. So, while walking and taking pictured on Time Square, we were approached by two guys offering a Central Park tour on Pedicabs.  It was just what we needed! They took us around the park, showing attractions along the way. We stopped couple of times to take pictures. This was so much fun!  After we came back to Time Square, we had a dinner at Italian Restaurant, stopped by a gift shop for some souvenirs, and took a bus back to New Jersey. Kids were tired, but not exhausted. They were talking about their experience with such excitement for few days straight. Mission accomplished!


Here are some tips for visiting New York that I found very helpful:

  1. Be aware of people, who come up to you, offering help on how to get places. Keep your distance. These individuals are generally hustling for tips. (We’ve been approached several times on the street and on the bus station. Just grab a map!)
  2. There are a lot of free concerts in New York, especially in summer time. There are days (usually Friday mornings), when celebrities perform at Central Park.
  3. The Bronx Zoo offers free admission on Wednesdays.
  4. New York is a great walking city. There are so many cute shops, galleries and eateries that you can explore at your own paste. Once again, grab your kids hands, and a map (or this app) and walk! Rent a pedicab if you have younger kids or would like to get around little faster, that’s what we did. Pedicabs service Mid-town and Central Park.
  5. There are last-minute deals for Broadway Shows. Check Broadway Box for reduced tickets few hours before showtime.  Do your research, and if you’re flexible with your time, this is the way to go.
  6. There are a lot of TV sows that are being taped in New York, like Good Morning America, Rachel Ray Show, Dr.Oz. Show. The tickets are free, but limited. It’s helpful to do a research in advance, and again, being flexible is a plus.
  7. Downtown Boathouse offers free 20-minute kayaking tours on Hudson on the weekends.
  8. Staten Island Ferry is a free public service that runs 5 miles through New York harbor. Hop on the ferry and enjoy beautiful views of the city and the Statue of liberty. Skip the expensive tours and cruises!
  9. Take advantage of  Restaurant Week twice a year (January/February and July/August) in New York. During that time you can dine in the top-rated New York restaurants for a fraction of the regular price.
  10. Do you research, and plan in advance!



So long, New York! There’s so much to see, so much to do. Having everything planned and on the schedule is the best way to discover all the highlights in New York. We’ll be back!

Meanwhile, we’re back on the beach! We have discovered a beautiful Point Pleasant Beach and Boardwalk. There are so many beautiful places to visit. Summer time in New Jersey resembles Hawaii. You get the beach, you get the sand, beautiful weather, vacation homes right on the beach, cute little restaurants with good food. I loved it there.


Our vacation wouldn’t be complete without family re-union. I finally got to see my cousins after fifteen or so years. Last time I saw them, I was the tall one  😉


We did fishing, and carousel rides, and lots of sour cherry pyrogies. And three weeks went by super fast.


When we got home, the first thing I had to check on was my garden. I walked in on the pleasant surprise. Even though the weather was rainy most of the time, my garden produced a lot of berries, and veggies, and weeds. So we got busy right away. Lots of berry picking, and weeding, and all the things that we do in summer time, here at home.


The kids went to church camp for five days. We tried going to the beach few times here, in Washington, but this summer wasn’t as warm, plus, after beautiful and warm Atlantic ocean, our Pacific Ocean felt too cold. Now, when the weather is getting colder, I’m dreaming of warm summer days, walks on the beach, and treasuring all the memories that we have made this summer. ‘Till next time!

If you made it to the end of this super long post, THANK YOU! I appreciate you all! I hope that you’ll find my tips helpful. And if you live in New York or visited New York, and have an advice or any helpful info, please do share! I would love to hear from you.

4 Comments on “OUR SUMMER IN PICTURES + 10 helpful tips for visiting New York

  1. Olena@iFOODreal

    What a beautiful post and a trip, my friend! So much Russian flare and nostalgia in it. I really enjoyed reading it from top to bottom and saved it for NY travel tips. Whenever we make it there haha.
    Did plumber taste the same as back then? I think of it often! In chocolate, without chocolate and in waffle cups. Best ice cream ever!

    1. Vera Post author

      Thank you so much, Olena! I always look forward to visiting New Jersey and New York. In summer time, you get everything, beautiful beach, big city, farms (if you’re up for it:)), and lots of Russian ice cream! There are different brands of Plombir, not all of them are the same. I prefer “DADU” vanilla flavor in waffle cup, to me, it taste so authentic and delicious. There’s also “Eskimo” – plombir in chocolate, also very delicious, and to my opinion, tastes exactly the same as the one I remember from my childhood.

  2. Fae's Twist & Tango

    Absolutely delightful post. Love to see the girls growing-up and so happy. Family vacations always remain as fond memories.
    We, Persians love sour cherries too, and have preserve, confectionery and rice recipes. Are you going to post your sour cherry preserve recipe? 🙂

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