Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Day 1.110: Here we snow again

Yes - we really did have snow today.

No - this is not a picture of it.

Yes - our newly potted plants are sheltering inside in the kitchen tonight from an expected frost.

No - we are not expecting icicles in the morning.

Exile #4 had her first swimming lesson this afternoon and seems to have enjoyed it. She asked me this evening, "Can I have another one some time?" So I explained that she would be having them every week for a while. "Oh goody!" she replied.

When I took a cup of water up to Exile #3 after she had been in bed for about 20 minutes tonight, she told me that she has finished her book - this is one she has been reading by herself in bed in the mornings and evenings. She is quite pleased with herself and rightly-so - hopefully the first of many.
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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Day 1.109: TV! Dinner?

Today is one of those days best dwelt-on as little as possible. I was very unwell this morning with a headache that couldn't be lived-with and resisted all treatment for at least 5 hours. I feel much better now.

So, let's talk about something completely different. Here we are on TV! Fame at last.

As British people living in the US, we are always keeping a look-out for (or using the ex-pat grapevine to find out about) new opportunities to eat our national dish. So it was with some interest that we greeted the news of a new Indian restaurant opening in a nearby town. We have not yet sampled their food, although I hope we will do so soon, but we have enjoyed the other pleasure that Indian cuisine brings to our lives - the wording on the menu. So, if you're local why not visit Zaika and tell us how the food tastes. Otherwise check out the menu for such joys as:
  • "Rice Preparations" including, unusually, "Goat Biryani" - specifically 'chunks of goat'.
  • "Vegetable Pillao - Mixed vegetables and rice cooked together for a delightful outcome.'
and best of all:
  • "Kadai Chicken - Chicken cooked with peppers and onions in a "c" shaped cooking apparatus."
Actually - the menu does look good - I'm getting quite hungry - I wonder when they close?

And here we are again!

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Day 1.108: It never rains...

Exile #3 and I developed 'stomach flu' symptoms at almost exactly the same time this morning. In fact - I had been not-quite-right for several days, but not enough to interfere with normal life. Anyway, Exile #3 was off school and I stayed at home and did some work here. E5N1 had his 12-month check at the doctors where the big surprise to us was not his extremely below average weight but his average height - how did that happen?

After tea, the girls went to play outside - as expected the weather has changed quite significantly and it has basically rained all day. Exactly what they were doing I didn't find out, but it looks like they've built a bonfire - not that, with the fire-risk index now much reduced, there is much chance of it bursting into flames.
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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Day 1.107: Last day of summer

We made the most of the tail-end of this...what's the early-equivalent of an Indian Summer?...well if my calculations are correct (and they're probably not), Easter Island is as far away from India as you can get, so let's say...Easter Summer.

The girls made mud-pies and left them to 'cook' on the paving stones at the side of the deck. E5N1 played at the water table again. These pictures of him up to his normal inappropriate eating/drinking antics - yes pictures - catch him in the act! - were actually taken yesterday - today in the middle of the afternoon he was wearing just a diaper and a soaking wet pyjama top. Just then one of our neighbors arrived to say hallo - of course - and then Exile #3 came out wearing some dressing up clothes followed by Exile #4 in just her underwear. Exile #2 and I were fully dressed to introduce ourselves - I am happy to report.

We both had material to prepare for church - mine was a discussion on this (well those verses rather than that performance) and Exile #2's was a children's lesson on Creation. The first material she read suggested asking the kids to imagine if God had not created the sun...you wouldn't be able to see to play outside. Straight to the heart of the matter!
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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Day 1.106: King of the Castle

This afternoon, Exile #2 took Exile #3 to keep Albaniana's Boy company during his sister's birthday party. That left me with Exile #4 - extremely grumpy at being left and home and a bit tired, and E5N1 - rudely awakened mid-nap by his grumpy sister.

I re-settled E5N1 and persuaded Exile #4 to lie down in our bed to try to regain some composure. After I had been cutting the grass for a couple of minutes Exile #2 returned with one of the girls' school friends (in the year in between them) to spend the time while her big sister was at the party playing with Exile #4 at our house.

Exile #4 rallied immediately with some company - and the two girls played nicely for the whole afternoon. At some point - spurred on by the glorious weather (about to come to an end), the newly cut grass and our unexpected visitor - Exile #2 said to me, "We should retrieve the bouncy-bounce from the basement soon." (she talks American now - she meant Bouncy Castle you know!)

"I could get it now I suppose." and about ten minutes (and a fair deal of huffing and puffing) later the girls were bouncing. Later, as you can see, E5N1 and I had a turn.
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Friday, April 25, 2008

Day 1.105: Creation theory

Tea-time today.

Exile #3
:
Mmmm, this soup is so good...it's delicious...it's really nice. This soup is so nice, thank you Mummy for making it for me.

Exile #2:
Oh, thank you for saying that. It makes me feel so good to hear you say that about something I made for you.

Exile #3:
Yes, because when I first tasted it I thought, "This is so good, someone else must have made it!"

Parenthood is a constant joy.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Day 1.104: Dead again?

Yes - I am car-less again. It's probably bad news when the tow-truck man recognises you from last time as he comes to take your car away. He nearly didn't find me. I had broken down on the way off the highway and had not quite made it down to the first set of lights.

"I'm on the slip-road."
- Deafening silence of incomprehension.
"I was going east along I---, I came off towards ------ Rd."
"So you're on ------ Rd?"
"No I didn't make it I'm on the slip-road."
- Nearly audible whirring this time.
"You're on the off-ramp?"
"Yes! the off-ramp."

I later had to call them back and explain that I had meant the-other-east.

Unfortunately, the car was not the only thing misbehaving today - I have had a bad crick in the neck - it developed between 4 am and 6.15 am (I know this thanks to Exile #3 and E5N1 respectively) but I suspect that it was playing squash and not sleeping awkwardly that caused the problem as the pain has continued developing through the day.

Broken down car - pain in the neck - there's a joke there somewhere.
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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Day 1.103: Squashed!

Exile #4 just woke up screaming. Well, on the plus-side it got me up off the sofa where I was otherwise quite firmly rooted.

As far as I can work out it was a bad-dream type of event. I use that tortured-phrase advisedly because I also suffer from episodes of waking extremely agitated about something undefined. Sometimes I go long periods without any of these episodes, often it results - for me at least - in my just rolling-over (or more often, climbing back into bed) and going back to sleep. Other times like last night I lose a more significant amount of sleep. Perhaps the 'why-not?' attitude of the US medical system will allow us to find out what we can do about it in a way that the 'do-we-really-need-to?' attitude of the NHS failed to do (it's not all one-sided).

Exile #4 (like I often do) calmed down reasonably quickly and is almost certainly fast asleep again. Happily, E5N1 is finally calming down having been rather shaken up by his room-mate's blood-curdling scream. I think Exile #2 knows how he feels.

I have been feeling a bit off-colour today, but whether it is sleep-deprivation, the lurgee that kept Exile #3 home from school today or just the premonition of failure, we may never know.

Our work squash-ladder saw its second match today - and I was roundly thrashed and as a result plummet past my opponent of last time to the bottom of the three-place ladder. OK - 'step gracefully' - might have sufficed. No excuses, I was out-played, but I'll be back.

Anyway, here is a picture that has made Exile #2 and me smile each time we've stumbled upon it since I took it yesterday morning. I hope it does the same for you.




Sweet dreams!
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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Day 1.102: Flushing, meadow

We received a warning that the town 'watermains' were going to be flushed over a few weeks. The warning was because apparently the water coming into the house can be 'discolored' and may cause staining if used for laundry. It didn't mention local flooding. The water being let out of 'our' fire hydrant ran down the street and into the storm drain, only causing minor inconvenience at the end of the morning rush-hour yesterday morning. The reason for this work is to remove rusty water from dead spots in the system (such as the spurs to the hydrants perhaps). In looking this up I just discovered that the familiar 'H' signs marking water access spots in the UK stand for 'hydrant'. My education was clearly lacking.

We are not allowed to use a hose to sprinkle lawns or shrubs between 10 am and 6 pm - a sensible water conservation policy. It has however meant that our newly seeded patch of lawn has been drying out badly during the long warm dry days we've been having recently (whether a patch of dirt with grass seed on it counts as 'lawn' for the purpose of this rule is not entirely clear).

Today as I got home at 6.40 pm or so, I was preparing to get the hose out when I discovered that not only was it already damp, but there was a significant development - some compensation for the neighbours' trees (of the same type as the dead one we removed) which are currently in full bloom as you can see above.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Day 1.101: 'Shakers' by Exile #3

[Exile #3 took this drawing and these words to school for show-and-tell today. The drawing is her version of this photo, and the words are what she remembered learning about the Shakers on our trip there this week. She was also quite taken with the pictures of the chairs hanging upside-down on the walls - which ever way up you look at them - well done locals grinned!]



They were farmers and milked cows. They made lots of things: shoes, clothes, oval boxes, stools and chairs. The oval boxes were very strong.

When they met together at church, they liked to sing and dance - sometimes they fell over. Sometimes they would eat popcorn and lemonade.

Their barn looked like cylinders stacked on top of each other.

They hung their chairs on the wall on special hooks - they also hung brooms on the hooks.

They called the village the "City of Peace" and they shared everything.

They all lived in one big house but there was one staircase for the girls and one staircase for the boys.

When they ate there was one table for the women and girls and one table for the men and boys and they ate in silence! The people in charge had their own room to eat in.

The 'sisters' would go down in the morning and make breakfast. It would be apple pie!

There was a bedroom for the kids and a bedroom for the men and bedroom for the women.

There was a school.

They didn't have TV.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Day 1.100: No fly zone

Exile #2 and I have been married for thirteen and a half years and in all that time I have had a firm rule that we do not have lights on and windows open. This is because I do not wish to invite the flying insects of the neighbourhood into our house. Since we never had an air-conditioned home (until this one) this has resulted in a fair deal of inconvenience at times (whether it was keeping the windows closed or the lights off) but less than the inevitable bug-hunt in my opinion at least.

So why was it that I was taking a photograph of this serious aberration this evening rather than doing something about it?

Screens.

Fantastic. I fitted five (debasemented) to the windows around the deck this afternoon, and we now have a cool and fresh house having had windows open all over it today. Of course the time may come when we feel it is time to shut the world out and turn on the house-fridge, but for now it is nice for it to feel like outside inside - except for the insects (hopefully).

E5N1 has been a bit off colour today and he and Exile #2 missed our church gathering as a result. We suspect that his ailment was induced by the large quantities of inedible stuff he ate at the beach yesterday - if we're right, hopefully it's a physical reaction to the sand rather than because he actually poisoned himself or caught something.

Last chance to comment on Friday's quiz as tomorrow's guest blogger has the answer at the ready.
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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Day 1.099: Some err in April?

"Let's go to the beach tomorrow." said Exile #2 yesterday. So we did and ended up recreating a classic mid-summer English seaside trip in New York in the middle of Spring. OK not quite, but we did quite well: sandcastles - check, fish and chips - check, exhausted but happy kids - check. We skipped on actually going to the sea, a town (in fact any sort of facilities - open anything before Memorial Day? Don't be ridiculous!), parking problems, crowds, running away from waves, missing the tide.
We had an early lunch on the way and at about 1 pm arrived at our favourite year-round beach destination. It was not exactly crowded.


Soon the kids were playing in the heat of the warmest day of the year so far.


After a while E5N1 started to get tired so we persuaded them to come on a walk in the forest around the lake.

The girls did amazingly well on an uneven and a times waterlogged trail.


We did about two miles there-and-back to the far end of the lake. It would have been two and a half to go around, but we decided that we'd go with the known rather than risk continuing with the girls anxious to get back to the beach.

Once again, we managed to find a bit of beach-space when we returned.


The park closes at dusk and as the sun was dipping below the trees, we returned to the car - it was not until we set off to find something to eat that Exile #2 noticed that it was 6.30 pm. As we ate our fish and chips we watched a temperature reading on a display outside a bank fall, in about 10 minutes, from 80 °F to 75 °F. It's been pretty close to a perfect day.
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Friday, April 18, 2008

Day 1.098: A light meal...


Never mind about Chinese lead paint in toys - how about this for an inappropriate-looking toy-cum-foodstuff?

Today we had a lunchtime visit from my old boss who only managed six months of exile before returning to the UK. He was over in the US on business and it was really good to see him and hear about his moving-home experiences, another whole blog in waiting perhaps.

This evening our regular Rock Band night had a really good turn out, 9 active participants, 2 adults who declined and a total of 4 other children who made at least brief appearances and were then ushered off to bed.

...and other curiosities. Any idea what's going on here?


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Day 1.097: Hiking


This morning we set out for another adventurous outing - a hike along a trail we had previously caught glimpses of, but never attempted. At the end of it, we reached this nice spot by a river. Temperatures were getting high, E5N1 had a fairly decent accident resulting in an impressive bump on the head, so we rushed back as well as we could to civilisation, by which time we decided he was fine.

Day 1.097(a): Cycling

OK, less hike, more cycle ride (well, the girls cycled, E5N1 was in the backpack and Exile #2 and I walked) - as you can see it wasn't exactly scenic. These highways (largely on over-passes) separate Albany from the Hudson River. Shame really.

Then again. Here is a picture of the same place looking the other direction. Not so bad!


Day 1.097(b): Shining


Scary huh?

Day 1.097(c): Anglicising


This evening, the girls had a pyjama party. While they watched Mary Poppins, the adults were sitting around the table in the kitchen sampling home-brew beer made with Maple sap (surprisingly nice!). Our hosts claimed not to realise that Dick Van Dyke's accent was not perfect cockney, nor had they ever heard of beer-mat flicking, even though, unusually for around here, they had a good collection of beer mats to use.
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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Day 1.096: Fire and Ice


We set off this morning for a family day out (the girls are on Spring Break and I have taken a couple of days off work). Although the sun was already shining, it was still cool, we packed coats as well as sun-cream into the car and needed the heater on as we drove into Massachusetts to visit a museum at a Shaker Village. The Shakers originated in Britain and made their first US home near Albany, New York, so we can claim some common-ground with them. We enjoyed finding out about their beliefs and lifestyle and were very impressed with their craftsmanship and ingenuity - a workshop with lathes and band-saws operated from a water-turbine was an engineering highlight, whilst the elegant simplicity of their distinctive oval boxes, flat brooms etc. appealed more widely.

It was quite moving at times to think of people living in community with shared purpose and making such beautiful and practical things. I suspect (along with Albaniana) that had they allowed their adherents to procreate, they might have lasted a little longer.

Our visit was marked by visiting baby animals in the beautiful circular barn, E5N1 breaking my sunglasses, 'milking' the plastic cow (in and out of costume), weaving and marvelling that although we were at times hot (temperatures were near 70 °F in the shade - and there wasn't much of that) there was still ice in the woods and piles of snow near the buildings. The picture above was taken at the end of a very nice walk through the edge of the forest you can see in the background. You can see some more pictures below (click on them to view them at a more leisurely pace).

On the way home we had the air conditioning on in the car. Tonight we may have a frost again. This is a strange time of year.



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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Day 1.095: Not without a fight

A short break from normal service.

Some time ago, I had the privilege of hearing The Cobalt Season play live, and their album 'In Search of a Unified Theory' was the soundtrack of the end of 2007. The first track on their new release 'Fragile Iconoclast', Coming of Age, ends with these words: Nothin' good ever comes without a fight.

Thanks to the CD/DVD format, we can both hear the good and see something of the fight that was needed to create it.

The stand-out track for me at the first listen was Water Rising with Ryan's familiar disquiet bubbling up: I was lookin' for salvation | not religion or a nation | where should I go? Elsewhere Ryan, Holly and friends bring us a different kind of angst. In Time Will Tell we taste the heartbreak of damaged relationship: You thought you knew me all along | but with a word I proved you wrong | with a word your silence fell... and concludes with the bitter-sweet observation: Time's a teacher never chosen.

As ever, this is not jolly feel-good music, but it is nevertheless curiously positive and uplifting. Over all, the seven songs of 'Fragile Iconoclast' form a beautiful piece of work and the accompanying DVD brings it to life in a wonderful and characteristically unaffected way.

If you have the time, why not watch, listen and, if you like, buy and let me know what you think.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Day 1.094: Where is she?

Yesterday afternoon, Exile #4 had a minor accident and decided she needed her towel to help her recover her composure. She duly marched upstairs. After about 15 minutes, I realised that she had probably gone to bed and fallen asleep. After a while I came up and talked to Exile #2, who had just come upstairs and was sitting at the computer, about whether we were still planning to go out for our walk and whether he had been asleep long enough for it to be OK to wake E5N1 up. She confirmed that we were and that it was, so I went in to the room he shares with Exile #4. I opened the curtains and, while I was waiting for him to come round, I noticed that Exile #4's bed was empty. Nor was she in Exile #3's room. Nor in the spare room.

Do you know where [Exile #3] is? I called through to Exile #2 as I walked back into our room.

No idea.

This was my view at that moment.


No idea indeed.
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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Day 1.093: Time (to) walk again

We returned to our most commonly walked trail at Five Rivers this afternoon and took a rather less dramatic group shot at the same point we took one last time. Compared with yesterday it was rather cold today, but not exactly wintry. It was a rather minor outing compared with what we had half-planned to do, but nice to be out and about. Our other plans were derailed by a combination of things - but predominantly weariness. After our walk we went straight from there to our church gathering - which was good, but now weariness is featuring strongly again.

Tomorrow is the first day of Spring Break for the girls, so Exile #2 will be working even harder than usual. I'm taking some time off later in the week and the weather looks like it will be nice again, so maybe we'll manage an outing or two - just to give me material for some interesting posts of course - not because we actually like doing things.

A nice easy pop pun 55 for title watchers: it's just a jump to the left.
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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Day 1.092: Worlds above and words below

More signs of Spring. I was never one to remark overly on the passing of the seasons until we came here, but the changes are fairly overwhelming. Two weeks ago we were sledding, today we had temperatures in the 70s. These are leaf buds opening in the trees in our 'yard' - below is a little time-lapse of the past six months - three pictures taken at almost exactly three month intervals. Much as I like the winter (especially fun in the snow), new life is very welcome.

This morning I seeded the bare patch in the front lawn - where the dead tree used to be - with a strange grass seed plus paper pulp product. It means that the patch is now sort of greenish-blue instead of brown and E5N1 has a new flavour-sensation to experience if he slides over there any time soon.

This afternoon we were at a baby-shower for a couple from church - it was closer to tradition than ours, but still included more mainly male activities such as Frisbee throwing and soccer ball kicking than the average 'shower' I suspect.

Although I'm short (not the first time that's been said, but in the sense of 3 out of 4 in this case) it's pop pun 54 for title watchers (and an accurate prediction for tomorrow): even when you're feeling warm, the temperature could drop away.



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Day 1.091: Smokin'

Our attention was first drawn to the window by some honking of horns - we then noticed a car stopped with his hazard warning lights flashing (OK - I don't think honking at him is going to help). I then noticed a tiny thread of smoke rising from the bonnet (hood). While we watched the driver inexplicably started the engine - then with smoke like this billowing from the car actually drove off at speed down the street (still, slightly redundantly, flashing his hazard warning).

Thanks to T who said "The blog!" when he realised I was missing a photo opportunity. He was also quite rude about the brevity of yesterday's post, so look - credit, a 'name' check and a few more words today.

This evening we left E5N1 in bed and the girls ready for stories with Johnathon (thank you!) and drove up North to visit friends from church. On the way we stopped to collect take-away curry (Indian take-out). While waiting in the restaurant, I was surprised to see the man in front of me introducing himself to someone sitting at one of the tables. Surprised because they did not seem to have met before, nor was anyone else paying any attention - eventually I realised it was because they were both British. When my turn came to say hello, we discussed the fact that it was probably not random, that the Indian restaurant probably caused a higher-than-normal concentration of Brits. He then said that in his experience, Indian restaurants were high quality here - no wonder though as the bad ones cannot expect the 11.30pm influx of inebriated drinkers that (at least until 24 hour drinking was introduced) were the staple table-filler at curry houses in the UK.
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