Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Day 1.355: Happy New Year!

Not that it is a new year here at Exiles in New York. That's coming soon.

However, we did stay up to watch the traditional New Year celebrations (Time Square rather than Trafalgar). I'm quite tired, so here is our day in picture form:

Snow (I did a lot of shovelling too!) - it stopped at about 5pm and I measured our total at 9.5 inches:

Playdough cookies and other craftiness in the warm and dry:

At least 19 birds in this picture enjoying our hospitality:

And lots of party-fun including E5N1 joining in with Rock Band at 10.40pm (with a roll-over!):

(actually posted some time after midnight and I'm not used to having to change the year!!)
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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Day 1.354: Putting the art in party

We spent the middle of the day at Albany Art Room for a birthday party. It's a really nice place where adults and children can go for classes or just to get on with an art project ($5 per hour including materials). They also put on a great party.

We've pulled Rock Band night forward to tomorrow night to avoid having to either go out or stay in on our own and also to prevent us having to be up late two nights in one week. The result of this is we have somehow ended up effectively hosting a New Year's Eve party. Not quite what we thought we would be doing a week or so ago. Hopefully it will be fun for all and not too much work for any. We tidied the house this evening, but there is a whole day of three kids' rampage between now and then.

With the snow basically gone apart from where it was piled for driveway clearance or made into a snowman, it is time for the next storm to roll in tomorrow morning and bring us a few fresh inches. I'm not tired of it yet!
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Monday, December 29, 2008

Day 1.353: Summer dreams knit... the seams.

This was one of our Christmas presents - a 1000 piece jigsaw with pictures from my sister's family's visit in August (some seen here previously). We thoroughly enjoyed doing it and the kids all had moments of coming over and spotting themselves in it.

As I am recovering, Exile #2 is going down with one of our winter colds so we've taken it slightly easy today. While driving around (a rare trip to the mall today) we have been listening to They Might Be Giants - Here Come the 123s (one of E5N1's Christmas presents) and have all been left singing ridiculously catchy original songs about Triops ("Needles have an eye, tornadoes have an eye, potatoes have a lot of eyes but triops has three eyes..."), number sevens crashing a party ("We want cake, where's our cake?") and a traditional folk song:

On Mondays I never go to work
On Tuesdays I stay at home
On Wednesdays I never feel inclined -
work is the last thing on my mind
On Thursdays - it's a holiday!
And Fridays I detest
Oh it's much too late on a Saturday
And Sunday is the day of rest.

In fact I will be back at work on Friday, but until then it's pop pun 92 for title watchers 'cos he sounds like a drag!
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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Day 1.352: The truth about Rudolph

Why did Rudolph get such a hard time from Santa's reindeer?
Why did they laugh and call him names?
Why couldn't he 'join in the reindeer games'?
Why was he smaller than the others?
What's with the nose?

Well I can now reveal that the simple answer is that Rudolph was a goat. Once you know that everything else makes sense. Except the nose.

We kept it real with our Christmas cake this year (by the way, he's got over the reindeer phase and he now wants to be a sheep). Maybe next year you'll join us..? Altogether now! "Rudolph the red-nosed goat, had a very shiny nose..."
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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Day 1.351: Snowman - no man!

Another movie for you...a sad, sad story of love and jealousy and a violent end.

We had a very nice trip to the swimming pool this morning and spent part of the afternoon finishing craft projects and starting a Christmas jigsaw. Tomorrow the temperatures are expected to make it up into the 50's (US) or double figures (UK) so I doubt that much snow will survive into next week whatever its disposition.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Day 1.350: Cautionary tales

1) If you are a blogger who likes to post photos: don't go and do something interesting without your camera. We went to the pay-to-view Christmas lights in a park in Albany - including a kids funfair (the girls rode the carousel three times).

2) Before you go out at night in the winter to a kids' funfair - make sure they have picked up their gloves. Exile #4 ended up wearing E5N1's socks as mittens and Exile #2 had to donate one of hers to Exile #3 so that she could hold on the carousel horse.

3) Before you go out to make a snowman because the snow is melting check the temperature - if it's actually well below freezing the snow won't pack and someone will slip over on the ice. In this case it was E5N1 who is well used to falling over at this point and - cliché alert - doesn't have far to fall. Of course it also means that the snow is not melting (not today anyway).

4) Be careful driving in the snow. Here is an instructional video. You need the sound turned on (a knowledge of pop music is not necessary but may enhance your viewing pleasure):

5) Roller-skating on an icy driveway may be tricky. But at least the snow-banks limit the run-off danger. Here is another video. No sound this time, but something is wrong - can you tell what (and why)?

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Day 1.349: Snow? Shoes!

We had a very nice Christmas Day - I hope you did too. Ours included Skype conversations with our families in the UK, a fantastic Christmas Dinner (it's a British thing a bit like Thanksgiving Dinner but more alcoholic) cooked by Exile #2, presents, games, toys and fun.

Yesterday we went snow-shoeing at Five Rivers. Here is the evidence (the people in the office were worried about me shoeing with E5N1 on my back so they sent me out with the poles. In the end the girls' stamina was more of an issue, but we had fun for 40 minutes or so.

The day before, we were going out to play in the snow in our own yard, I supervised everyone getting dressed up in snow-pants, coats, hats gloves etc. I went outside. A minute or two later Exile #2 let E5N1 out of the front door. He stood on the top step and started looking a bit uncertain.

"Do you need me to help you down the steps?" offered Exile #2, a little surprised.

"He's lost a boot!" said Exile #3 approaching from the other side.

"No - he hasn't got his boots on!" realised Exile #2 - he was all dressed up for the cold but had bare feet. Ouch!
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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Day 1.348: We wish you a...

We've had a day of blocked toilets, snow-shoeing, cake-decorating and carol listening (from King's Cambridge - thanks to NPR and especially WAMC), but we really just wanted to wish you all Happy Holidays - thanks for reading and commenting and emailing and being our friends - locals and remotals alike.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Day 1.347: Snow-day sleep-over

I buried Exile #3 in the snow at the side of the driveway this morning. She was quite happy about it as you can see.
I may not have actually buried her exactly. The truth is in here along with a music pun (not exactly pop though - can anyone work it out?

This afternoon the girls decided that they wanted to have a sleep-over - just the two of them. So they are both sleeping on air mattresses on Exile #3's bedroom floor. At least it got them tidying-up! I forgot to ask them to pose for a picture at bedtime, but they are now both fast asleep:

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Day 1.346: Frosted!

This was the view from our bedroom window yesterday morning. The glass looks exactly like one of the effects for frosted glass - it was one of those moments - "IT'S FROSTED GLASS!"

The sweet stuff you put on cakes is called frosting here - although the UK readers will mostly call it icing. Once again - icing/frosting is something to do with ice/frost - who knew? Quite possibly everyone but me.

Areas exposed to the wind were bitterly cold today (wind-chill calculations suggest it felt like -15 °C) and the real temperatures will be around that value overnight. There are still warnings of blowing and drifting snow too - the weather forecast even had a symbol for it - a cloud with horizontally-moving snow under it. And they say the British are obsessed with the weather!

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Day 1.345: First day of winter

I've mentioned before how they love to point out the equinoxes and solstices and the 'official' passing of the seasons on the local weather forecast. The winter solstice occurred at seven this morning - and at almost exactly that moment it started to snow here.

For most of the day it was quite gentle, but for a while in the afternoon it was coming down very fast. The irony of us spending that hour making paper snowflakes was not lost on us.

Here are two videos of our experiences. The first is another shovelling time-lapse for fans of that kind of thing (or of watching the whole family scoot around on the driveway at high speed).

The second is a short slide-show set to some music from a former life.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Day 1.344: Ain't snow stopping?

Snow will taper in the evening...left-over showers in the morning...a break in the weather for clean-up before the next storm arrives.

That's what we were told.

It didn't stop snowing until about 4 pm today.

At that point the deck looked like this. You can roll-over to see it 24 hours earlier.

As well as spending some time playing in the snow and shovelling, we managed a short outing to the supermarket and the liquor store. The rest of the day was spent indoors - baking and decorating gingerbread men (and other shapes) was a popular activity (as was eating them).

As for the pop pun solvers (this is PP 91 for title watchers): ask them where they're going - they don't know.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Day 1.343: Significant

Well, I think it turned out to be significant. E5N1 did too - we had a lot of oohs and aahs, although he did then bring the sidewalk chalks out onto the drive. I had done a pretty good job of clearing it, but it was not up to chalkboard standards. In the end I shovelled it three times. This was the first:

Last time I checked we had had about 8 inches. It was still snowing.

The journey home from our work Christmas lunch was a little more exciting than I would have chosen, but at least I was home early and safely. Mostly I was afraid of Exile #2's ire if I got stuck or in an accident - she was wisely encouraging me to leave early and was accusing me of not taking the weather seriously. Me - not serious? Really!

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Day 1.342: Attack of the snow - man!

The warning came in earlier today, it was an "URGENT - WINTER WEATHER MESSAGE." Warning that it "WILL MAKE TRAVEL VERY HAZARDOUS OR IMPOSSIBLE." Snow of this kind can cause serious problems for car drivers.

I'm talking about tomorrow's storm of course. During the afternoon we expect the snow to be falling at rates of one to two inches an hour for up to six hours. Sounds like fun. Talking of fun. I found this snowman this morning. Below is a shot from a different angle. Maybe we'll be able to make a bigger one at the weekend.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Day 1.341: The snow must go on

As you can see, we had a nice covering of snow last night. Currently Friday looks like a similar-sized storm with another one on Sunday and another one coming through next Wednesday.

"An excellent chance of a white Christmas!" was the weather message for this evening.

The school bus was on a late schedule this morning so, Exile #3, E5N1 and the Albaniana's kids had some snow play-time this morning. E5N1 probably doesn't remember last winter so it's all novelty for him - although to be honest, the excitement of a fresh fall of snow hasn't really worn off for the rest of us either.

Pop pun 90 for title watchers: [It] may be flaking, but my smile stays on.
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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Day 1.340: Storm, storm - er - stormest?

With the next winter storm due to roll in tonight, I thought I would share a few more images of the last one. Tonight we are expecting three to six inches of snow. The weather forecast summed this up as, 'Not a big winter event by any means.' Depending on what happens in the next couple of days, Friday's storm may be a significant event even by local standards (though not as destructive as last week's we hope). They're coming in thick and fast at the moment.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Day 1.339: Limited elf life

It seems that this post will only be available in all its glory for a month or so. Apologies to anyone coming too late to this corner of the Internet - nothing to see here.

We are celebrating our household power reconnection still...
Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Thanks to Andy P for the inspiration!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Day 1.338: That's better!

After breakfast we said a very grateful farewell to our hosts from last night and headed home to investigate the situation. Summary: still no power, temperatures above freezing (inside at least), no sign of frozen pipes. From there we went on to the Albaniana house where I had a wonderful shower and shave. After lunch The Man and I went to buy a chainsaw for yard-clear-up duties at both properties. On the way back we stopped to pick up a few things at our house and discovered the power had been reconnected.

It had been off for at least 60 hours.

This evening we were with our church friends having a Christmas party - also celebrating all-but-one of our households now having power. When we got back here we lit up the partially decorated Christmas tree for the first time and found that the house was up to its normal temperature. Quite a relief.

Actually it's a huge relief - and that is quite chastening really. We had no electricity for two and a half days and we began to feel like refugees, social pariahs, homeless, squatters in our own home, you name it! All this when we actually had nearly infinite resources at our disposal: we could choose to eat out at every meal, even book into a hotel if we needed to and yet we were constantly exhausted and fazed by the whole experience. It casts the fate of people in real need (people displaced by war or natural disaster or made homeless by poverty for example) into a sharper relief. It also demonstrated to us what a difference real friendship can make - not just to offer help but to really convince those in need that you are not just willing to but actually want to help them.

Right now, we are grateful for all the help we have received and for all that we have - I hope that it is a lesson we do not have to relearn this way (or a harder way) any time soon.
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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Day 1.337: What shall we do now?

It's now 45 hours since we lost our electricity supply. The aftermath of this ice-storm is so attractive - but so many trees have been destroyed by the weight of the ice - pine trees doing particularly badly thanks to the extreme surface area of the needles. Everywhere we go, we see fallen branches, trees leaning on electricity cables and other less-than-encouraging signs.

Today has been the weirdest day - punctuated by asking ourselves (and each other) 'What shall we do now?' whenever our 'normal' activities were made impossible by the condition we find ourselves in:

6.30 - Woken by the girls coming into our room and dislodging the covers - wow it was cold.
7.30 Light a fire and have breakfast in the warm zone (within four feet of the fire-guard).
8.30 WSWDN?
9.30 Second breakfast at a cafe with free WiFi and hot coffee!
10.30 E5N1 becomes noisy
10.31 WSWDN?
11.30 Buy Christmas Tree - on what is probably the peak of the decorating season in the UK, the tree was already a 'clearance special' at 25% off and what was left in terms of decorations were half price.
12.30 Start decorating tree.
1.09 Take Exile #4 to a party in a penthouse apartment in downtown Albany.
1.10 Realise that we are in our warmest clothes and haven't had a shower or a shave in days.
3.10 Leave the party (with some of our dignity in tact)
3.11 WSWDN?
3.15 Take friends up on their facebook offer of a warm place to go.
6.00 Confirmation that our house is still powerless
7.00 WSWDN?
7.30 Decide to accept the offer to stay here - Exile #3 says quietly to Exile #2, "They are so kind letting us stay." Yes they are!

So we have beds and warmth. We'll deal with our cold shell of a house tomorrow.
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Friday, December 12, 2008

Day 1.336: Powerless

At 1.15 am I tired of being kicked and elbowed by a very wriggly Exile #4 and decided to take her back to her own bed. It was some time before I realised why it was so dark as I carried her to her room - we had lost our electricity supply. When the sun came up we were still in the same state. The ice that was coating everything was beautiful but deadly. We have lost at least one tree and several pieces of others.

I left the rest of the family huddled under a duvet reading stories to go to a warm and light office for a few hours. I watched the rain turn to snow and then to a few spells of sunshine but it is now turning cold and although it is expected to stay dry there could still be some more arboreal casualties and some more power-line collateral damage.

I am writing this on my phone while we play Scrabble by candle and firelight. The house will be very cold by morning if as we suspect the power is still off.

Apparently the storm has cut power to one million homes and businesses in the Northeast so we may have several days of cold dark wait ahead.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Day 1.335: Well soaked - anyone?

It is raining this evening as we await the results of the first winter storm of the year. The rain is far from benign though - it's freezing on contact and when I left work the car was covered in a blanket of ice as you can see. Fortunately it was not too thick and I have a good implement for ice removal. Some predictions suggest that overnight we will get another half an inch of accumulated ice. Other places nearby will end the storm with over a foot of snow.

The drive was slow but uneventful and I was home in time to go out the front of the house with the girls to find what was covered in a layer of ice (i.e. everything) - grass, leaves, stones, bushes, rocks, sticks.

This evening we watched an episode each of House and 30Rock while listening to the deck and everything else vaguely horizontal turn into an ice-rink with attractive icicles forming on anything vertical. Then I made a seasonal and appropriately local purchase on iTunes - based on our extensive survey (of two people) it seems that no-one knows the song here.

I won't tell you what it is because that would spoil pop pun 89 for title watchers. I could have been someone.
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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Day 1.334: We Wii? Oui!

Thanks to Johnathon we had our first no-kids night out in quite a while. We had a great evening with B-real and MC Bourbon Balls. We ate Japanese food, drank sake, talked about our kids (but not exclusively) - and then when we were stuffed and half-cut, out came the Wiimotes. After a so-so performance in the bowling we were soundly thrashed at tennis, I held my own in the baseball and then finally we let M and Exile #2 fight for hono(u)r in the boxing ring. Fantastic. We also decided that we need to introduce welly-wanging into this country - we can get some training in with WiiWellyWanging during the winter and then hit the real thing in the spring.

I think the return leg will have to include some Rock Band. Do ya wanna do a number wi' me?
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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Day 1.333: Flight plans

Unlike last year we are planning no major transatlantic travel this 'holiday season'. As a result, although we have been here nearly two full years, this will be our first Christmas in the USA. This is a mixed blessing. It will mean that we won't have to do a lot of packing and travelling and that we will get to spend time with our friends and community over here. This is an exciting time for our church as we make plans to move into a dedicated space and get stuck into a real geographical community. On the other hand, we will miss spending time with family and seeing friends back in the UK. One thing about writing this blog is that I spend some time each day thinking not just about what we've been doing, but also about the people who are (or could be) reading this back in the homeland.

The video is a flight of a different kind - a very cool little gift that Exile #3 won in a game at the birthday party on Saturday.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Day 1.332: Serve chilled

It was rather cold waiting for the school bus this morning. I know - it's December what do I expect, I also know that it's cold in the UK too but when the wind blows - it's really cold.

The local meteogram tells me it was about six degrees when I took this picture. It nearly made it up to twenty degrees this afternoon. That's -14 °C rising to -7 °C for the metric readers. No wonder the Hudson was frozen-over this morning. It doesn't quite look like it did 677 days ago but frozen nevertheless.

I remember sometimes when we had meals at my grandparents' house (including some Christmas dinners) they would have a bottle of wine for the adults and a bottle of Shloer for the children. I'm sure I was old enough to know better, but I knew it was for us (well one of us at least) because it said so on the bottle: SERVE CHILD (or something like that).

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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Day 1.331: E5N1X5

Exile #4 has been complaining of nightmares recently - now I can reveal why - the secret I've been keeping for months is that E5N1 is really quintuplets.

The reason for the secrecy? - I didn't realise it myself. But now that the truth is out it makes a whole lot of sense - it explains how he can manage to unpack drawers in one room at the same time as emptying boxes of toys in another and a cabinet full of pans in an another. It explains how he can be under my feet while I'm wrestling with putting up some roller-blind brackets (as I did this morning) while still being on hand to disrupt Exile #2 while she's getting lunch ready.

It also might explain why Exile #4 has a haunted expression so much of the time. Sleep well little one.
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Saturday, December 6, 2008

Day 1.330: If this blog is not amusing...

...feel free to take the appropriate action.

The morning passed almost unnoticed in a lack-of-sleep-induced daze. This afternoon we spent at a very nice birthday party - both Exile #2 and I managed to have conversations with other adults and all three of the kids enjoyed themselves. This evening was spent Christmas shopping on the Internet.

Just flip the switch - you can afford to let this one go - there'll be another one along tomorrow.

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