Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Day 3.080: Bubbles and squeaks

Two mystery videos. The first one - from yesterday is all about the visuals. Why was this tree weeping bubbles in the rain?

The second is from Day 3.069. On our way back from the Walkway Over The Hudson to our car, we heard the most amazing sound coming from a marsh area by the road. I went to get a closer look, but saw nothing. This one is all about the sounds.

Any ideas what either of these is about? - because I don't have a clue!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Day 3.079: Sealed with a Glasgow kiss?

In probably the most bizarre moment of our time in the US, we received this card in the mail today. It was posted in Washington State and has travelled 2300 miles instead of the intended 4300 miles to arrive 3000 miles away from its intended destination in Scotland in a house of British people.

How it came to be here is frankly a mystery. The handwriting is a little difficult to decipher and the address should really say "U.K." I'm sure, but on the other hand, it says "AIRMAIL" and that doesn't look so much like zip-code surely? The rest of the address bears a passing resemblance to this one - so marks for effort (and thanks for the blog material), but maybe a little more time on handwriting decoding and geography might be in order.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Day 3.078: E5N1 and other wildlife

Back to work and school for three of us today, and Exile #2 spent the day with E5N1 preparing for our trip and helping out a friend who's having a really rough time.

As you can see, we saw some wildlife on Saturday - on the ponds and at the bird-feeders. Some were definite signs of spring - returning birds and newly-active chipmunks.

Click on the collage for the Flickr set.

Of course, the wildest creature may have been one we took with us.

Exile #2 commented this evening that he seems to be the anti-Samson - having apparently grown in his powers (of naughtiness mostly) since having his hair cut.  How could she say such a thing?

There aren't many things that don't remind me of a song of some sort - but, not surprisingly, I'm singing this to myself now and contemplating a slice of Wonder Bread before bed.  Then again, maybe not.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Day 3.077: "Wow, really?" and then "Why?"

Wow, really?

That was the reaction when I last told someone about this blog and the fact that I had posted every day for the last three years. I can understand that reaction. In fact, my third anniversary of last missing a day passed 63 days ago (Day 14 being the one blot on my attendance record).

The other reaction - although it is rarely voiced but often implied is:


And the answer is I'm not sure really. It started as an experiment in keeping in touch with friends and family back in the UK - and it's been good for that. I enjoy the process of writing - most days anyway - and the discipline of posting every day keeps me from forgetting that. It's given me a way into a local community of bloggers and twitterers - very nice and slightly techie folk who I would have no other cause to have met.

Most of all, it has become a fantastic record of our time here in New York. Pretty much every outing, every visit, every big weather day has been recorded here - mostly with some photographic evidence. That is so cool - and something that there is no way I would have sustained without an audience - albeit small - to keep making it seem worthwhile. Thanks for reading - it changes lives!

Anyway, enough with the introspection. Here is a little example of how history enriches things. First, a picture of our walk yesterday...

and then one from the last time we walked that trail - less than a month ago on Day 3.049.

Things change fast here.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Day 3.076: Rivers charges

This afternoon, we went to Five Rivers for the Maple Sugar Open House (there are two more this year - March 28th and April 3rd). The event is a simple one - a short walk around an accessible board-walk/trail with a demonstration of how to tap a tree, a chance to taste the sap, a demonstration of boiling the sap to make syrup and a tasting.

There is also a small stall with locally produced Maple syrup and syrup products.

So, to put it another way, we found out how to get from this:

via this:

to this:

They were the most expensive lollypops ever - $2 each - but the kids say they were very good and maple-y.  As you can see in the top picture, they were still enjoying them half way around the longer trail hike to our regular group portrait location.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Day 3.075: Friday Haikus #8

Look - this morning's snow -
Just a dusting on the bush* -
Quite disappointing

Tonight was Rock Band
We played the Country Track Pack**
Yeehaw! So much fun.

* There was also a dusting on the grass - but nothing of any consequence.

** We borrowed it - and no, I have not managed to become a fan of country music by being here.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Day 3.074: "No balls today" and other thoughts

Ricky Gervais said of the success of "The Office", "They may tune in for comedy, but they stay for Tim and Dawn."

Of course in the US version it's "Jim and Pam", but I think I know what he means - the comedy needs to make you laugh, but you also need a bit of a story that you can connect with.

Yesterday's post about the falls, was featured here over at local super-blog All Over Albany. They also posted a link to the post about the bridge yesterday on their What's up in the Neighborhood blog-post digest. All this has brought quite a few new readers to these pages. Of course I have no idea whether any of them will come back to see what else I write about, and it doesn't much matter. What I do know is that many of you keep coming back for the daily joy that is E5N1, so with no further delay - here is a a video that Exile #2 filmed earlier.

Incidentally, the picture at the top, was taken, not to show E5N1 outside in his pyjamas (that's becoming a daily ritual), but to show that Exile #4 chose to wear jeans today (I couldn't make myself type either 'pants' or 'trousers') - quite a significant event in our lives.

You may come for the waterfalls - but you stay for the singing.  Hopefully.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Day 3.073: Water rush!

Cohoes Falls panorama

This morning, I left home as soon as the girls were on the bus and went up to see Cohoes Falls. With a flood warning in effect, I was fairly sure they would look quite different to our previous visits - including this most recent one - I was not disappointed. 

(I uploaded these pictures at full resolution to Flickr - you should be able to get a close look by clicking on them and then on 'all sizes' etc.)

Cohoes Falls triptych

Here is a short video for another impression:

And finally, a comparison of the water level just below the falls with the middle of November:

It was definitely worth the detour - and I still made it to work on time!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Day 3.072: They might be toilet rolls

Ealier today, E5N1 picked up two toilet rolls and declared that they were 'John and John'. This is the image he had in mind.

And this is what he and Exile #2 were able to produce:

Very cool indeed!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Day 3.071: Team work

Exile #2 had a migraine this morning and so was out of action for getting the girls off to school. Usually, I get ready while everyone else is having breakfast and then see the girls off while Exile #2 gets ready, but clearly that was not an option. Rather than change my schedule, I asked the girls if they could get themselves and their brother breakfast.

And they did.

The rest of the day was spent at work where I am very proud of the way my team is pulling together in difficult circumstances - just like our little team here, they are more resourceful and resilient than I have any right to expect.

And yes, I did let E5N1 go outside to see his sisters off wearing pajamas, wellies and a jumper. Well, it was hardly raining at all.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Day 3.070: Things we saw from the bridge

We had a nice quiet stay-at-home day today, well, Exile #2 has been paying for yesterday's exertions when she should probably have been sleeping off her cold, and E5N1's nose has continued to stream, but apart from that it was nice. In particular, we have been enjoying what was probably the last warm dry day for a while. The kids have all spent a good deal of time outside in the yard and I spent a pleasant half hour or so sitting in the sun with my book.

So in place of reports of our excitements today (there really weren't any), here are some more pictures from yesterday - a barge (apparently unladen) fighting its way down-stream, but up-tide towards NYC, the model town of Poughkeepsie (it was crying out for me to try out my fake miniature processing so I did) and a house staring potential disaster in the face - rather them than me.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Day 3.069: Something old, something new...

Although the dusk lighting-up ceremony for the new LED lighting system was postponed, we decided to head down-state as planned today to visit Walkway Over The Hudson - a very unusual State Park.  We arranged to meet a colleague who lives near the walkway and was involved as a volunteer in the project to turn this old disused railway bridge into a walking/cycling bridge and a hugely successful park.

We drove down to the western end of the bridge - about a 90 minute drive down the always-surprisingly-picturesque Thruway past the Catskill Mountains and parked at the end of a very long line of cars parked snaking down the hill towards the end of the neighbouring Mid-Hudson Bridge.  As you can see - there were quite a few people out to enjoy a sunny day with temperatures in the low-70s.

We were slightly nervous that, due to the crowds, we might miss our hosts who were walking over from the other side but we ran into them somewhere high above the western bank of the river.  Even though they ended up crossing the bridge (1.25 miles) four times in total - twice with us and twice on their own, it was significantly less adventurous than the last hike I did with them.  That said, no-one asked them to swing them along that day.

The bridge is an easy and fun walk - with dramatic views of the river and the nearby road bridge and interesting ones of Poughkeepsie and the railways on either side.  There are also signs with interesting facts and photographs of things related to the history of the bridge and the river.

The most surprising moments of the day were this one when two motorised vehicles met on the pedestrian/cycle bridge - it is the park rangers and the State Park police, so we'll have to let them off I suppose -
and seeing this at the point at the eastern end of the park where we turned back to return across the bridge:

We had dinner in a diner in New Paltz before returning up the highway through the darkening evening.  A great way to celebrate the official arrival of spring and the rebirth of an old New York State landmark.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Day 3.068: She ran away at midnight

It's the last working day of the winter and the girls' school was closed. Not because of snow - I think they only missed two days for snow this winter - a very low tally. No, it was student-guided parent-conferences. This is a chance for all the students K-8 to show their work and explain it to their parents.

Our first visit was in Exile #3's classroom, where she had picked out various pieces of work as examples, a book to read a passage from, her self-assessments for each subject (we've already had her teachers' ones) and it was time for the grand unveiling of a story project. Planned, written, then typed and mounted. The story tells of Olivia who runs away from home at midnight (just for fun it would seem). Maybe I will find a way to share it with you another time.

Exile #4 was also very proud to show us her work and demonstrate her reading.  There were two class-books they had made on black paper which were particularly arresting.  Here is her page from the book called "I am snow"

Now, its not quite 9pm, but the whole family is in the throes of a cold and I am planning a very early night but I'll keep an ear out for anyone absconding a three hours or so.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Day 3.067: Two signs of spring

Now that robins and bluebirds have started over-wintering here, we have to look for different signs of spring.

I encountered two today - these flowers on the boundary between our yard and our neighbour's (I know they're only snowdrops, but I'll take what I can get at this stage) and a lot of motorbikes on the road.

Now, I have no problem with people motorcycling and I hope I am a courteous and careful driver around them, but pulling wheelies at 65 mph on a busy highway at dusk can't be a great idea surely? Still, it's probably not as bad as standing up on your bike, squeezing your hand into your jeans pocket, pulling out your phone, sitting back down, sending a quick text, standing up and putting it back in your pocket - as I saw someone do on the same stretch of road going about 60 mph last summer.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Day 3.066: Mottephobia

I wonder if anyone has a morbid fear of raised earthworks holding 12th Century northern European castles. If they have, they may have acrophobia, but probably not mottephobia.

I don't claim to have it either (a morbid-fear of moths that is) by any token, but I certainly don't like having them buzzing around indoors - not much of a problem yet, but spring is certainly in the air and it may soon be time to get the bug-screens back up.  I was, however, interested enough to get a picture of this display case in the State Museum. At the top is the monarch butterfly - these are really big impressive butterflies - provided for scale.  Now just look at those silk moths.  Wow.  I wouldn't like to run into one of those on a dark night - and let's face it that is when you would run into one (slight uncomfortable shiver).

Sweet dreams!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Day 3.065: Snow end in sight

It has been a challenge I've set myself each year to try and catch the last snow in our yard. Of course, you can only be sure if you succeeded in retrospect.

Here is my current attempt (and I think I probably did well at catching the final moments). At the front, the last pile to melt has just revealed the rather sad looking remains of one of our Halloween pumpkins. At the back there is the merest smudge of icy snow sheltered by the house from any direct sunlight.

It marks the end of a season that started on December 5th 2009 - tomorrow will probably be the first snow-on-the-ground free day here since then - nearly three and a half months later - and that is after a season which seemed for the most part pathologically snow-falling-from-the-sky free.

Maybe it's time to get the 'Holiday' lights down from the front of the house now?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Day 3.064: Heigh-ho, heigh-ho!

E5N1 is full of surprises at the moment - mostly, I suspect, the surprise is that he is nearly three years old - how did that happen?

He has also gained a fascination and a fair deal of aptitude for doing jigsaws. This was how I found him after I had seen the girls onto the school bus and Exile #2 off for her annual check-up at the doctor's.

After persuading him he could leave the puzzle only nearly complete, I took him to Albaniana's house (thank you!) to wait for Exile #2's release. I let him out of the car and handed him his briefcase diaper-bag and he happily trotted off to the door. Except for his inability to reach the door-bell, I think he would happily have waved me off from there.  In fact, I did wait long enough to check that he was settled in.  Actually I'm not sure 'wait' is a term that applies - he had his coat and shoes off and was setting about finding interesting and possibly forbidden things to mess with before I had let myself in and closed the door behind myself.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Day 3.063: A handy vase of flowers

While I was planning the discussion for our church gathering this morning, the rest of the family were busy with a craft project making paper lilies. After lunch I was instructed that I needed to do mine. Exile #3 was my instructor, supervisor and assistant. She drew around my hand, watched as I cut out the hand-print, showed me how to curl the fingers around a pencil and then bend it around to make my own hand-lily.

Here's the whole family's bunch!

Much of the rest of the day has been spent planning the first stop on our up-coming road-trip. Unfortunately families of 5 are not well catered for by the meta-search engines such as Kayak. Expedia does OK. Too often, you have to get as far as selecting a hotel and a rate before it becomes clear that they cannot accommodate us.

Looks like we'd better be prepared to sleep in the car for the rest of the trip. I hope I'm joking.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Day 3.062: Land of ice and Goblet of Fire

After last weekend's gorgeous weather and our stay-at-home get-the-taxes-done squandering of it, I was determined for us to get out even if the weather was bad.

And believe me it was bad - wet, grey and just above freezing.

So, for better or worse, we headed up onto the Heldeberg Escarpment where - to our surprise - we found the world still in the grip of winter. Whereas here it is almost snow-less and had been raining most of the night. There, the ground was still thick with snow and the trees coated with the beautiful results of freezing rain.

Our first stop was the Emma Treadwell Thacher Nature Center. We discovered when we arrived that they were setting up for an art-show fund-raiser and most of their normal exhibits had been put away or hidden by the artwork. Frankly, it was pretty clear that our presence there was not really ideal for them as they were focussed whole-heartedly on setting up for their later guests - probably better dressed and hopefully (for the center) with deep pockets for the silent auction. Still, the staff did their best to hide their chagrin at our arrival and pointed out the things that were still accessible and kid-friendly and even got their hummingbird nest out of storage for Exile #4 who is studying our smallest avian visitors for a project at school.

We didn't stay too long, and went on to the Thacher Park Cliff Overlook, where we could see the high-ground snow giving way to the grey of the the lowland thaw.

This afternoon, we settled down to watch Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in front of our own fire. Exile #2 had just got to the end of the book in the bedtime reading slot. Although it warned us that it was PG-13 and parents were 'strongly cautioned' for the most part it was not too overwhelming for the girls and E5N1 did his own thing - in and out of watching as he saw fit. I'm not sure I would have been so confident if they had not read it first.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Day 3.061: Time travel - not reliable

For a variety of reasons, I have found myself looking back at some early posts on this blog over the last few days.

It is like travelling back in time - the kids are younger, I don't know any local bloggers, I'm posting my tweets in a pane on the right.

Hang on. I wasn't even registered for twitter then.

Then I remember, that I am still looking at today's blog, just the old posts - it feels like time-travel, but really I'm just turning back the pages of the book - it's still today and, now I think about it, I should definitely be in bed.
P.S. The sculpture is in a park in Cambridge, MA very near to the Boston Museum of Science.


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