Friday, December 31, 2010

Day 3.355: Happy 2011!

We went to see the holiday lights in Albany yesterday evening. A simple pleasure as ever. E5N1 was much more taken with it than last year and we all enjoyed working out what was going on. The snow on the ground helped with the winter scenes.

We've been to the State Museum today which was a nice outing and spent the evening playing card games while E5N1 played Kinect Sports 'with just one guy - me!' At 7pm we had BBC Radio 2 on to welcome the new year in the UK. Now it's time to say hello to 2011 here and then fall asleep.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Day 3.354: Packing it (in)

This week of family time is flying by and Monday with its return to normality will be upon us very soon. This afternoon, we realised that the snow was melting and that might mean it would be amenable to packing. It was - in places - and this was what we created.

The kids had other ideas, but Exile #2 and I called them "Snowman and Garfunkel"!

We also had a big snowball fight.

Exile #3 proved quite capable of getting covered in snow whether anyone was on target or not.

Exile #4 had a good line in hitting them out of the air with a small snow shovel.

And E5N1, having enjoyed the snowballs, surprised us all by wriggling through this snow bridge/tunnel arrangement that the girls had made yesterday.

I was even more surprised when first Exile #4 and then Exile #3 repeated his feat.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Day 3.353: Laughing? All the way!

In a break from our normal social ineptitude, yesterday we planned ahead for a snow-shoeing adventure with S and family. So we met them at Five Rivers and headed onto the trails. Soon, it became clear that E5N1, although only younger than young J  by a few days was going to let his Rock Band Night tiredness and short legs set a rather slow and grumbling pace, so I decided to try the towing a sled technique for the sake of a quiet life and giving the relatively keen ones a decent chance to walk in the snow.  It worked out quite well.

When we got back to the cars, Exile #4 and I decided to join the visitors for a trip to the park for some sledding.  She was completely up for it - and even took the sled's spontaneous mid-slope 180 degree turn in her stride.  If you listen carefully you might be able to hear what she was singing...

I had fun too - but managed to resist the urge to sing!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Day 3.352: Little Rockers

I may have mentioned before that there are people who flee from the winter in this area and spend the coldest months in Florida or some other more temperate state.

We were seeing our friends off on a road-trip to Texas today. Eight of them are driving down there in two cars on a nearly-three-week trip for a basic-training graduation ceremony. So, naturally, we called a mid-week Rock Band night!

The kids were keen to be involved. Exile #3 joined in with the singing, Exile #4 tried out her real keyboard skills on the fake version and E5N1 brought his ambient dancing.

Have a good trip guys and we'll see you in the Spring - snowbirds!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Day 3.351: Snow had fallen...

Snow on snow.

My prediction of yesterday - both in terms of amount of snow and satisfaction with my late night shovelling - were accurate. By this morning we had had more than nine inches total, so the head-start with the clearing of the driveway was very welcome.

Apart from snow related chores, including getting the bins out - they made their regular collection day despite both the 'holidays' and the weather - we also had a lot of indoor and outdoor fun. We tried some more Kinect Sports - Exile #3 bowled a 245 game much to everyone's amazement and has been disappointed not to get a strike at every attempt since then. We also played beach volleyball and table tennis for the first time. We also played some non-digital board and card games whilst watching the sometimes-wild blowing snow outside.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Day 3.350: Boxing Day?

It's possible that, because December 26th falls on a Sunday this year, Boxing Day may be tomorrow, or even Tuesday - but for me it is always the day after Christmas Day and it has its own traditions.

One is a cold turkey dinner with mashed potatoes - so good today! Another is playing Kinect Sports and virtually knocking out my kids in the boxing ring. No - not really, but we did do that today.

We were over at Albaniana's for lunch which was very convivial - ending with the kids off doing their things while the adults sat around the dining table chatting.

This afternoon we had a Winter Storm Warning which is in effect until tomorrow afternoon. As a result we decided against going to our church gathering. Having decided that of course, the snow was slow to get going, but the kids were tired and getting a bit cranky so maybe it was just as well to have a quiet evening. I'm just in from shovelling the first three or four inches. If the predictions are accurate we will have as much again to deal with in the morning so I will be glad of this evening's efforts.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Day 3.349: Fun packed!

In many ways it seems like Christmas got started with our gathering at church last night. Before that there had been lots of stress - since then relatively little, including all day today happily.

We spent most of the morning working our way through opening presents - doing them batch by batch so we could all think about who had sent them since most are a long way away. Skype did not let us down when it counted and we had two short but successful video calls.

Lunch was a triumph thanks to Exile #2's planning and hard work and the afternoon was spent playing games and watching The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe on DVD. After the kids went to bed we watched the Dr Who Christmas special - so all is well in our little corner of the world.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Day 3.348: Happy Christmas #4!

This is the fourth Christmas since the start of The Exile - although only our third spent here in the US. We spent the day in what have become traditional Christmas Eve activities. We had a snowy walk in the sun (or a sunny walk in the snow) this morning, and this evening we had our small gathering at church in which we retold the Christmas story in song and readings from the Bible and elsewhere. The kids got all dressed up for the occasion as you can see.

Earlier we fulfilled another tradition by making our video greeting.  This year it is a recreation of the population of the Advent Calendar - and yes, although this was a recreation, there really was a cow lying in the manger for most of December.

Happy Christmas to all my readers, family, friends and strangers!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Day 3.347: Dark angels

Of course I could have called this post "Dark Angel" and talked about Jessica Alba - but I hardly watched that show (although I can see why some did).

No, this was inspired by this rather spectacular snow angel that Exile #4 made in the new coating of snow on the drive before school this morning. Exile #2 kindly photographed it.

Apart from Ms Alba, the other thing that 'dark angels' reminds me of is the video installation by Bill Viola that Exile #2 and I saw in about 2003 at Tate Modern in London.  It was so spell-binding that we went back the next day predominantly just to see it again.  It's called Five Angels for the Millennium and consists of a dark room in which a series of short films of people jumping into water, some played backwards, some upside-down, all (I think) slowed down significantly and all beautifully lit.  This video captures a little of it (the best clips start at 1.12 and 2.36) but I would love to see it for real again.

It was the last day of school for the girls (E5N1 finished yesterday), and of work for me. We have some chores for tomorrow, but I think we will be ready when Saturday comes around.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Day 3.346: The house that Grahams built

I took a half day off work today to start a photography assignment. I have responsibility for the two pages in the school yearbook for Exile #3's class. Today they were decorating their 'gingerbread' houses so it seemed like a good opportunity to get started.

The houses are actually made out of the ubiquitous 'Graham Crackers' - I remember when I first heard the name - probably in relation to the making of s'mores - I pictured it (as it sounded to me) spelled 'gram' and wondered what these mysterious crackers could be.  Decorating them was a messy job - but finger-cleaning was a simple matter as Exile #3 is demonstrating!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Day 3.345: E5N1 and the gloves of doom

It has been a great relief this winter that E5N1 seems to have finally embraced the need for cold-weather clothing and, in particular, the previously-eschewed gloves.

Sunday afternoon was no exception. He started off striding purposely in his red mittens and his sister's hat (chosen for its coordinating colour):

About half-way around the walk he dipped his hand in icy water and got his mitten soaking wet. Despite his protests we refused to let him wear it and he walked the next section with one hand in his pocket:

Until, by the time he had this thin-ice interaction with Exile #3, he had managed to borrow one of Exile #2's mittens.

And, when it was time to have our regular argument about whether the post between the one labelled '1' and the one labelled '3' has a '2' or a 'Z' on it, he had managed to swap his other mitten for one of Exile #3's gloves.

All that remained was to reunite gloves with their owners, investigate the supposedly-soggy mitten and count the cost of the adventure (make sure you have the sound on for this one):

No really - we had a great time!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Day 3.344: Seven of Five

Another seven pictures from our walk at Five Rivers yesterday.

I love the combination of ice and flowing water and the contrasts that the snow produce.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Day 3.343: Rivers discrimination

It's been a while since we did one of these shots. I think that this was the last and this was the last with everyone.  It's quite like the original one from Day 1.030.  It was great to get out of the house and use up some energy doing something other that being grumpy with each other ('tis the season...!)

The kids were very excited about spotting tracks in the snow.  Here are a few.  Having checked the ones I photographed, it seems that they were mostly dogs (there should not be any domestic ones there so some at least may well be coyotes).  The heron prints are quite nice too.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Day 3.342: Logs: on!

Today was a shopping day - I had an important gift to attend to and we thought we'd give the kids an opportunity to buy something for each other. One of these was successful - it took me most of the morning online, but eventually I did what I needed to do.

After lunch we headed out to Target, but although the girls chose something for E5N1, the attempt fell flat after that and we gave up with plans for another small online shopping attempt (perhaps). There was just enough daylight for a quick trip to the playground that the kids call 'The Wooden Park'. It was snowy and cold (as the tortoise can testify), but good to spend some time outside after all the traipsing up and down the aisles in the store.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Day 3.341: Thermal adjustment

Winter has always been problematic for E5N1. He's never been keen on wearing gloves or mittens and has even been known to shun his boots.

I was encouraged when we had our surprise fall of snow in November that he managed to play outside, keeping his mittens on for some time. Recently, he and Exile #4 have been sledding in the back yard fairly often. So it seems we may have turned the corner.

This morning came confirmation. He had spent a significant amount of time and effort to put on three pairs of socks - now that is embracing winter clothing!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Day 3.340: Riverside apartment

How would you like to live here:

With views like this:

And how would you like to build your house out of Subway wrappers?

Two out of three for me!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Day 3.339: Why Christians don't love dinosaurs...

No, it's nothing about fossil records and creation - it's because they caused havoc outside the stable at the first Christmas. Probably.

This scene was not the result of intelligent design, it evolved naturally and was captured by Exile #2.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Day 3.338: Winter photography

I've had in mind a project to produce some photo-books (just for ourselves) with a chronological telling of our time in the US as seen on the blog. For a variety of reasons this project has been stalled (mainly because I'm not happy with the level of control that either of the interfaces I've tried has given me). Recently, I have been trying to see if I can at least get the first one done and that means I've been looking back at photos from the early months of the Exile.

Looking at old photos is interesting - I'm aware that I wouldn't have taken it like that, or processed it like that, or that it would have come out better with my new camera or whatever. I wonder what I will make of my 2010 photography in another three or four years.

In any case, for now I'm quite happy with these. Two more from our walk by the Hudson on Sunday - one using my favorite misleading editing technique - I don't know why I like it, but I do!

And here's one taken this morning in the fresh snow we had yesterday evening and overnight.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Day 3.337: Drill bit

The other day, Exile #3 mentioned that they were having a 'bus-drill' at school. I mistakenly thought that this was the same as the early dismissal drill (which involves them all getting on the bus) but no - this was about evacuating the bus in an emergency.

Exile #2 observed, "They have a lot of drills!"

"Yes," continued Exile #3, "like the lock-down drill. We have to huddle down in the corner and stay very very quiet. The teacher has to lock the door...and draw the curtains."

"If there are curtains," chipped in Exile #4.

I was afraid to ask at the time, but I summoned up the courage yesterday to see if they knew under what circumstances these particular skills might be called upon but if Exile #3 knew she wasn't admitting it.

It's all a bit more dramatic than the annual fire-alarm test isn't it?