Sunday, January 31, 2010

Day 3.021: Fun? You Bet!

This may have been the the most fun exhibit at CMOST yesterday.

Several local museums have a room with a phosphorescent paint on the wall, a light on a timer and instructions allowing you to 'freeze' your shadow.  That is fun.

Standing still and moving your head around while the light is on so that your shadow ends up looking like a headless person is really fun.

CMOST does not have such a room, what they have is a tiny piece of this wall with a black curtain just in front of it and a couple of tiny LED flashlights.  Writing on the wall in phosphorescent trails is really really fun.  Pictured is Exile #3 getting into the swing of it.  CMOST may not have much space, but they have the coolest ideas!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Day 3.020: See nearly everything

I may have mentioned that it has turned quite cold. This morning, despite the nearly non-existent snow cover it was definitely winter outside. The nearest official temperature measurement as we were getting up was -2°F (-19°C). The girls managed to make it outside for a bit of a run around, but we felt the need to find an indoor activity, so after lunch we headed to CMOST (The Children's Museum of Science and Technology).

It had changed quite a bit since I was last there (certainly more than a year ago) and so had the kids. E5N1 wanted to do everything once he woke up having fallen asleep on the way and Exile #3 can now read well enough to tackle the weather forecast auto-cue. Of course, Exile #4 cannot yet but wanted to have a go. Her sister came up with a solution.

Here they are putting it into practice in front of the green-screen and you can see a clip of each of their performances below.

This evening we found a parcel containing Christmas presents from the UK posted on December 1st on our doorstep. Having ridden the crisis it caused on the day, we had given up any hope of seeing it, so its safe arrival so long after its sister parcels posted at the same time is an extraordinary (and delightful) surprise.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Day 3.019: Cold and spicy

Wow it was cold today! When I got in from seeing the girls onto the bus, I put the local weather on which was saying that the temperature was 8 degrees, feels-like -8 degrees (due to wind-chill). That's -13°C feels like -22°C for you those who like Celsius and flippin' cold for everyone.

Work was fine today, I got a fair amount done and we went out for very good Indian food at Karavalli in Latham at lunchtime. We've been a few times and it's always good, but their lunch buffet was particularly good today I thought. Nice range of dishes and all that I tried were at least good - some were great.

None of which has anything to do with this Red-bellied woodpecker which I photographed a few days ago, but I was quite pleased with this shot.

P.S. We were expecting a thirty degree swing in day-time high temperatures this week. It turns out that the swing from Monday to Friday was more than forty degrees!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Day 3.018: The Normanskill Mystery

Some pictures of an old piece of once-mobile machinery on the bank of Normanskill on the Normansville Farm Hiking Trail. Anyone know what it is? Don't expect a big reveal from me - I have a guess but no actual knowledge of what it is.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Day 3.017: Daddy time

I had the morning off work, but not - alas - to spend happy time with the kids, but to attend a funeral.  It was a very difficult occasion of course and my heart breaks for our friends, his wife and daughters (about the same age as Exile #4 and E5N1) and the rest of his family.

I read a blog post a few weeks ago about how motherhood transforms women completely.  The link I followed from facebook to find it suggested that this transformation was something that men do not 'get'.   Well, after today I think that in our own way, many if not most fathers undergo the same transformation.  It was impossible for me not to picture my own children, newly fatherless in place of our friends today.  Impossible not to wonder what our kids would understand looking into my open casket.  It was not a day when I dwelt on the nearness of death, but on the nearness of bereavement.

The service was a good one, with genuine positivity offered that does not deny the pain or loss.  I am not a person who thinks too much about heaven or about eternal-life.  It seems to me that whatever is in store for us when we die can wait.  If there is any real value in my faith, it has to be value for others while I'm here, not for me when I die.  For now that includes this lovely family with whom it was our privilege to stand to honour their husband and father's life and say goodbye.

Day 3.016: Music Lust

Almost every time we drive past this sign it has some interesting meeting or group name posted on it, but this was the first time I felt the need to stop and photograph it...
If you're wondering what it is - I have no idea!

Which all reminds me that I have been listening to some new music recently and loving it.  In the car, I have had Regina Spektor's curious but lovely works, Begin to Hope and Far on heavy rotation with Max├»mo Park's Quicken the Heart to liven things up from time to time. All three are great.

Far in particular is a fantastic work - Ms Spektor barely puts a foot wrong and has melodies and thoughts a-plenty to get under your skin. Exile #2 had been wanting to hear her stuff for some time, but we finally did when she was on Saturday Night Live. Not the most obvious place to hear new music perhaps - but it worked out this time - you can see her second performance 'The Calculation' here. Many of her fans seem to think that her earlier stuff is better, so maybe we'll find out in time. I certainly love the raw and slightly sinister feel of 'That time' on Begin to Hope, but I could listen to the more rounded (and maybe safer) Far all day and some days have come pretty close to doing just that!

I've also been listening to Pandora a little - it's one of a range of custom Internet radio sites that have been springing up over the last couple of years. It has been great for discovering new music - and remembering some that I've been meaning to have a proper listen to for some time. Highly recommended for any US readers who haven't discovered such joys yet.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Day 3.015: There! Snow! Snow!

It has been a fairly miserable day - the temperature peaked at an astounding 56 °F but it rained pretty much all day. By the end of the week, the daytime maximum is expected to be back to ten degrees below freezing, but that is of no comfort to the winter sports fans who have a bleak week ahead unless we get another decent fall of snow.

As you can probably make out, our yard is mostly snow-free (including the table on the deck - although it's very wet right now) The remaining snow being in the shovel-piles and the kids sculptures. Exile #4's snow-girl is more like a snow-cup or a snow-hand (depending on the angle) and Exile #3's snow-dog is coming over a bit Henry Moore.

The temperature is not expected to go back below freezing until tomorrow night, so the rest could potentially be gone by then but then by Thursday, snow is back in the forecast - not a lot, but maybe enough to brighten the place up again after this soggy interlude.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Day 3.014: Follow, follow, follow, follow

We found ourselves this morning with a bit of sunshine and a bit of time for a local walk but a little short on ideas (steady on with the short jokes...!) Exile #2 remembered this article and so, with our Wizard of Oz loving girls (and E5N1) in tow, we went in search of the Yellow Brick Road.

And we found it - or what is left of it.

From the parking lot next to this disused bridge where some of the yellow bricks are still visible, we took the Normansville Farm Hiking Trail along the bank of Normanskill.

The trail was a bit icy in places:

but gave some good views of the creek and its melting ice:

A section of the old yellow-brick road on the far side of the bridge has been restored, but somehow lacks the charm of the real thing:

Give it a hundred years or so to wear-in!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Day 3.013: Slip-over

Exile #3 had one of her friends here for a sleep-over last night. It went very well - they even got some sleep (both electing to sleep in sleeping bags on inflatable mattresses on Exile #3's bedroom floor). This morning, we took all four kids for a walk at Five Rivers. It was cold - despite the general warming trend which is set to cause problems with flooding when we get a load of rain tomorrow - and very slippery under-foot in places. All three of the girls slipped over at least once I think.

When we got back, we lit a fire and this evening we watched the third Harry Potter film on DVD beside it.  At times we wondered if it had been a bit too much for the kids as all three of them had scared moments, but in the end E5N1 was pointing a piece of K'Nex at the TV and confidently shouting "Expecto Patronum!"  As Exile #2 observed to me afterwards, he's having a much less cosseted upbringing than his sisters.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Day 3.012: Sorrow and bravery

We learned yesterday that one of the girls' school friends lost her Dad. He died very suddenly after having a heart attack at work. She was in school today and talking to her classmates (including Exile #4) about what had happened. The teachers have given space for that and for the others to respond and react. Based on the email we received, it has been handled fantastically by the school. Our thoughts and prayers are with the two wonderful little girls and their Mom as they try to come to terms and rebuild their life.

Not for the first time recently, I am reflecting on the fragility of life.  Four friends or close acquaintances have died in the last seven months - the oldest of them was 45.  Shocking one and all.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Day 3.011: Twist!

Today has been a slightly rough day, ending with news of the worst kind from local friends of ours. In the midst of all that, we had to laugh at a ten-second trailer for a five-minute cookery spot on Capital News 9 tonight. This is the full text:

Coming up on Cooking At Home, we'll be doing a twist on stuffed baked potatoes by using mashed potatoes instead.

So is the 'twist' that they're neither baked nor stuffed, or that they actually are potatoes?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Day 3.010: Two little guys

Exile #2 took this picture after E5N1 picked out these two little guys to sit at a table in the house that they had built together (E5N1 and Exile #2 that is). He declared them to be himself and his three-year-old friend V. In fact only one of these two Lego guys is a little boy - the other is a jockey - close enough!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Day 3.009: Snow creations

Exile #2 pointed out to me the things that the kids had made with the excellent packing-snow on Monday. So I went out in the falling snow (again) to photograph them.

A snow-girl and a snow-dog in case you were wondering.  I love the dog's tail.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Day 3.008: A sad tale...

...don't say I didn't warn you!

On December 5th 2009, I decided the time had come to weather-proof this picnic table ready for the winter. It was dry and ready to go - we just needed to move it onto the deck and find the spray-on waterproofing stuff. I came inside for a minute to get Exile #2 to come and help me carry it up the steps and when we went out E5N1 had spilled a bowl of rainwater from the previous day on the table.

Oh well, nevermind I thought - we lifted the table onto the deck and got on with another job. Then it started to snow. That was six weeks ago. The table has had snow on it ever since. As you can see this morning we had an inch and a half or so of snow to contend with - normally we would consider that a very small amount, but it was heavy wet snow - quite different from our 'normal' winter snow which is ultra-cold, light and powdery. I was completely exhausted by the time I had cleared the drive.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Day 3.007: 300 mm and snow

I took the opportunity to point the camera with my new lens at some birds on and around our feeder earlier today.The first is a goldfinch in his winter plumage (or possibly a female, but stay with me) and the other is a Dark-eyed Junko - or snow-bird as they are known. 

As you can see from the second picture, we are experiencing a let-up in the cold temperatures and for the last couple of days (and probably for most of the week ahead) our day-time highs have been above freezing.  This has resulted in a bit of a thaw and there were some large areas of grass visible in a few places in the yard.  Right on cue, winter is fighting back, and it has started to snow again this evening turning everything white again.  With temperatures around freezing overnight, we can expect whatever falls to be wet and heavy - but maybe it will not be enough to need shovelling before I go to work in the morning.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Day 3.006: Cat walk?

This evening we have been at a 7th birthday party for one of the girls' school friends. Her mother has something of a reputation for organising amazing theme parties and today was no exception. For the first half of the evening, after the initial phase of arriving, going out into the screened porch to see the amazing cake (or in E5N1's case to say hello to the cat), there was a very civilised adults and babies party going on on the ground floor whilst down in the basement all the girls were supervised into creating some amazing dresses out of over-sized white T-shirts (there were some boys somewhere upstairs playing video games). Some of the girls were brave enough to parade their creations in a little fashion show - most very briefly or timidly - others declined.

The party seemed overrun with Brits - someone said there were seventeen of us - quite a sizeable minority at least. It's a funny old world.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Day 3.005: Ski - sore

I took the day off work today and Exile #2 booked E5N1 into a day-care run by one of her fellow MOPS. With the girls at school, we were free to amuse ourselves. We went to Pineridge Cross-Country Ski Area. We were early, so after getting ourselves kitted out with rental equipment, we had a chance to try out our skis on a small flat area before our instructor arrived to give us a one hour lesson. The lesson was great - definitely time and money well spent - and equipped us well for a 4 km ski along some of the easy trails. After we came down the last big slope and headed back to the lodge I was on a complete high, wanting to go out and do some more but Exile #2 and, when I gave it a chance to get its point across, my body were ready to stop. So we did. The weather was kind to us in the end - it was getting warm, but the snow was still nice for us to ski on - I can't wait to go back and do some more, but in the mean time, I have to face up to what I expect to be a very sore morning tomorrow.

We were quite weary when this evening arrived. Exile #2 was out at the opening celebration for a shop some friends of ours are starting up nearby and I had Rock Band night to host. It is just possible we over-did it today, but hopefully a good night's sleep lies ahead and then some gentle weekend fun perhaps!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Day 3.004: I'm not fussy, but...

I'm not fussy, but...I do like my meat to taste meaty. Just one of the things I discovered on my visit to Five Guys Burgers and Fries after work today. They did not disappoint - I had a very tasty burger, but conversation turned to other burgers and in particular the burger-as-an-excuse-for-toppings. I like toppings, but fundamentally if I'm going to eat meat, I like it to be worthwhile.

I'm not fussy, but...I did get to meet Mr Fussy himself, the Profussor, Daniel B. In fact is was thanks to him and his FUSSYlittleBLOG that I was at Five Guys today.  You should read the post that explains the situation - it is the wonderfully entitled One Minute Per Guy - great stuff.  The meal was indeed, as the sign behind us reads, the "BEST BARGAIN" - being entirely free to us all. Daniel paid for it using a letter from the area manager in response to a complaint.  The letter was clearly intended for this very purpose, but did elicit a fair amount of discussion amongst the staff when he presented it.  Daniel's other guest was Sarah M., a regular commenter on several area blogs as well as arguably his biggest fan.  We had tasty burgers, a mountain of fries and good conversation - actually we had to bring our own conversation as that was not included with the complaint-resolution package.  Not surprisingly, the talk was much about food and drink in their many forms and also about quirks of the local area - as all three of us are fairly recent arrivals from distant places - albeit from very different ones.

I'm not fussy, but...if a four-leaf clover is lucky, how unlucky do you have to be to get a two-leaf clover?  As we were leaving, Sarah asked us how to get from A to B - well, from somewhere beyond A to somewhere beyond B in this case, I told her, "Just go down here and turn right onto I-90 West".  Wrong.  But seriously, you're driving on the right and you want to make a right turn onto the right-hand side of a road on your right.  You simply don't expect to have to turn left across oncoming traffic.

I missed the turn and had to do a U-turn a bit further on.  As I was doing it I spotted that she was making the same manoeuvre. Sorry Sarah!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Day 3.003: Haven't they grown?

One of the nice things about the annual rhythm of things here at Exiles in New York is the inducement to look back at past events. So, today I glanced back at the original Day 3 and found, once again I was astonished by how young the girls were. Here is a crop of the picture from Day 3 and a pair of shots from Sunday for comparison.

Of course Exile #4 was younger than E5N1 is now and Exile #3 was much younger than Exile #4 is now, but there's nothing like a pair of pictures to bring it home. Knowing something and seeing it are two very different things.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Day 3.002: No paddling

Another shot from my snow-shoe walk on Saturday. This was taken at the crossing we first visited back on Day 101. On that occasion, I ended up paddling across the stream with bare-feet. This time, I probably could have crossed safely on the ice, but elected to use the bridge instead. And I kept my shoes on.

Day 3.001: All new

Welcome to the fourth year of the Exile.  To celebrate, here is a new sighting - not the first time a Pileated Woodpecker has visited our yard, but definitely the best photo opportunity.  It's not going to win any wildlife photography awards, but it was made possible by my new lens, so I'm happy.  For those not in the know, this is a crow-sized woodpecker - quite an amazing sight and they make very loud knocking sounds when they peck at trees.

So, it is onward into a new year of blogging with 1097 posts behind and an unknown number ahead.  Wish me luck!