Sunday, February 28, 2010

Day 3.049: Snowshoe there

After lunch, we went down to Five Rivers to attempt a family snowshoe hike. Well, I say 'hike', after our previous rather short and sometimes grumpy attempt, we were cautious about what we would achieve.

Once again, I decided to carry E5N1 in the backpack. I was rather more confident in my own cleat-equipped snowshoes than I had been in borrowed ones last time which compensated for the additional weight that the last fourteen months have allowed him to develop. The rest of the party went off to pick up their own - the girls getting plastic ones, and Exile #2 a rather fetching traditional-style pair.

We set off on what we expected to be a small circuit on the flat and turned into a two hour hike on what is probably the most challenging trail as far as terrain goes. The girls did incredibly well, although they did need a bit of encouragement and a brief snowball fight to keep going towards the end.

Occasionally, the path was so flat and unchallenging that they found themselves unable to stay on their feet

But mostly, it was a happy outing.

E5N1 eventually persuaded me to let him 'walk in the snow' when we were within sight of the car.

He managed to fall over and get his bare hands buried in the snow within about twenty seconds and in the end I carried him - rather gingerly - back to the car on my shoulders.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Day 3.048: Day at the Museum

We decided to have a family outing to the State Museum today. There were a few exhibitions we were keen to see including two that are closing very soon. The exhibition entitled 1609 - celebrating the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's arrival up the river that would later bear his name - closes on March 7th, and the collection of photographs of the Great Depression, This Great Nation Will Endure - which was top of Exile #2's list of things to see - closes on March 14th. In fact it was the last Saturday to see both of these as the museum is closed on both March 6th and March 13th. Exile #4 is studying the local native birds at school this semester, so she was keen to see the Birds of New York exhibit as well as the permanent collection.  E5N1 wanted to ride the carousel and is always keen on a bit of dinosaur action. Exile #3 is interested in everything and voraciously reads her way around museums these days and wanted to visit Sesame Street and I was happy to chase E5N1 and take some pictures (except in 1609 where photography is not allowed).

We arrived within an hour of the opening time and we were still there to be thrown out at closing time.  We did have a walk out in the snow to get some lunch in the middle, but as you can see above - we had a lot to pack in to a long and very successful visit.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Day 3.047: Knight night

I arrived home to find it being defended by this fearsome knight.  He had started out earlier in the day defending his ruined 'castle' in the front yard and its princess (Exile #2) against various attackers including a dragon (also Exile #2) but later annexed this larger structure - making his final stand in the bathroom as you can see.

I am rather tired this evening - altogether too many late nights this week.  Having successfully battled the knight to his resting place it is time for me to retreat to mine.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Day 3.046: Two-year-old emergency!

After work today I was at a second birthday party.  Not for one of E5N1's little friends, but for a blog.  It was a great party - full of interesting local people - writers and readers, fashionistas and foodies.  It took a little while to get going for me - partly because getting out of work and driving into the city and parking took a while, and partly down to my social insecurities. 

After a while I got going and had lots of nice conversations including with all these people as well as some without their own internet locations.

 The birthday blog was All Over Albany - which in its two years has not only kept up with generating excellent content every day but has developed a really nice little community - as I saw first hand today.   I had a delightful chat with Mary - one of the editors - who asked me how I found them.  Unfortunately I don't remember how or when I discovered AOA for the first time, but I know I was reading and commenting a year and half ago and I know that Exile #2 and I were already advertising it by a couple of weeks later because we mentioned it during this conversation.  More recently, they have been kind enough to link to some of my posts in their weekly round up of local blogs.

I spoke to several people who claimed to be there because they were promised cupcakes.  They were present as you can see and were very good indeed.

This is AOA Mary doing her little birthday speech.

And there was very nice non-cake food too!

As I was leaving I remembered that Albany is in the middle of a 'snow emergency' which means that parking is only allowed on one side of the street (odd or even numbered) at certain times of the day. I hadn't given it a moment's thought when I parked. I was relieved to find the car where I left it and un-ticketed. I was even more relieved when I saw the snow plows out as I drove round the block and yet more relieved when I saw cars being towed a little further along.

So, thanks to AOA for a great party and to Albany's snow clearance teams for not turning the snow emergency emergency (for me).

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Day 3.045: Fort, tunes...

Before breakfast, I got dressed up in snow-gear picked up my shovel and went out to do a shift on the driveway. At that point we had had nearly eleven inches of snow and the drive had six that had fallen overnight.

Shovelling was very hard work - the snow was very heavy and packed together into solid blocks with a bit of pressure. I did about a quarter of it and then came in for breakfast. After a break I went back out to finish up. After a bit more shovelling, our neighbour offered to lend me his snow thrower. Oh yeah!  I was quite tired by this point and decided that the roads still looked ugly and I would stay at home and do the work I needed to get done and take the rest of the day off.

We have branches down and some very sad looking conifers again - the wet snow acted much like ice does - coating branches and weighing them down heavily. Later in the day these huge snow balls were falling from the trees in a quite dramatic fashion.

Since I had discovered that this was, unlike most previous major storms, good packing snow - I decided a project was in order. This is what we came up with.  By the time we finished it (after a couple of attempts to curve the walls in to make a roof had failed - dramatically) it was raining lightly and we used a tablecloth to make a partial roof.

It had a couple of windows.

Room for all of us, and a rather nice - if suspicion-inducing - doorway.

It didn't last long after we deserted it to come inside - it's now an indistinct pile of snow in the middle if the grass.

This afternoon, everyone watched The Sound of Music, I was surprised in reading about it afterwards to find out that it is based on a true story.  Most of the stuff written about it focusses on how inaccurate it is - but I was struck by how much is true.  Maria herself lived four hours drive from here until her death in 1987.

There's a chance we will get some more snow, rain and ice over the next few days.  Looks like the groundhog got it right this year.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Day 3.044: Storm envy no more

We woke this morning to falling snow, rising temperatures and a winter storm watch. The 'watch' means that a significant storm was likely but not yet certain. The falling snow was nice to see, the rising temperatures meant that nothing much was coming of it.

In typical fashion, this snow was coming just when the last lot was hanging on in places, but mostly gone:

Soon, the daytime warming turned the rain to snow and we wondered if this would be another missed storm opportunity for the snow-lovers.  At that point the storm watch was replaced by a storm warning - only the second one this winter (the last was back on Day 2.333).

Sure enough at lunch-time the rain was suddenly replaced by fairly heavy snow which quickly coated the ground.  After an earlier than usual, slow but steady drive home - I snapped this view in the dying daylight of the results of Exile #2's multiple shovelling outings.

We've had several more inches since then.  I shovelled once more, but will probably have a significant depth to deal with in the morning and once again it is heavy and wet and very tiring to move.

Our local cross-country ski place is celebrating the largest snowfall of the season (they've had 10 inches so far today) but lamenting that people may have trouble getting there.  We will have to see what the morning brings in terms of school closings and travel conditions.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Day 3.043: I want to be a ... like my father!

...student...* programmer...**


* Exile #4 was very keen to know where the law school was and to venture inside the buildings - one day maybe!

** Exile #3 and the others all loved sitting down to do simulations on the computers at the museum

*** E5N1 waved around this lightsaber (actually a fluorescent tube held in the vicinity of a Tesla coil).

N.B. I am not, nor have I ever been a Jedi except in the world of video games.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Day 3.042: Bangs and 'more bangs?'

We've been watching a TV show called Fringe recently - it's basically The X-Files for the 21st Century. I see it has been aired on Sky1 in the UK - where, presumably, not too many people were fooled into thinking it was about hairdressing.

Here, what we know as a fringe is called 'bangs' and thanks to a Christmas gift I have a copy of They Might Be Giants' hymn to that hairstyle-choice:
Bangs - are that on which the world hangs
I'm only holding your hand so I can look at your...bangs

Bangs were also in abundance at the Museum of Science on Friday. We were at the Theater of Electricity for one of their shows using the largest Van de Graaff generator in the world (it was built by Dr VdG himself). The show was preceded by repeated warnings about the noises and as a result of that and the general overcrowding, Exile #2 took E5N1 away to look at some other things in the same room, but further away from the action. Once the show started and the ever-increasing sparks were each preceded by further warnings about the noise, she tried to get him to cover his ears in case it was too frightening for him.

Indeed, on the other side of the room, Exile #4 declared the show 'scary' while Exile #3 considered it 'cool'. Here's a view of the generator with the presenter approaching it inside a (Faraday) cage. A shot of him touching the bars to prove his nerve (and his science!) and a shot of the finale when the generator is wound up to generate a million-volt lightning storm (real lightning can be one hundred million volts apparently).

Exile #2 needn't have worried - at the end when silence fell, E5N1 said wistfully, "More bangs?"

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Day 3.041: Boston by T (partly)

After our last minute return to the museum last night, we were slightly slow getting started this morning. We packed and checked out and headed off to get some breakfast - by which time it was becoming clear that the kids needed some running-around time.

So, we shelved our half-thoughts to take a tour or climb a tall building for the view and decided to see part of the city on foot. So, after a very leisurely walk through some pedestrian plazas to the T (subway) station and a short ride downtown, we hit the streets. Boston is full of wonderful sights - in particular I was quite taken with the juxtapositions of old and new.

We had a very nice lunch and then a walk through the Public Garden and Boston Common and after the kids played for a while at Tadpole Playground (it's right next to Frog Pond which is currently an ice-rink), we got back on the T (a very crowded train this time) to return to the hotel to collect the car. We were home at about 9pm, tired but very happy with our trip.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Day 3.040: Harry Potter and the Family of Fire

This morning we had tickets to visit Harry Potter - The Exhibition at the Museum of Science in Boston.  The picture of the dome is taken from outside our hotel - so as you can see we did not have far to go.  The exhibition allows no photography, so it was a relief that they had put this knight from the giant wizard-chess set in the foyer for photography-obsessives.  The exhibition was great - not strong on science of course, but very nicely put together.  Exile #4 was sorted - into Gryffindor of course and all three kids had a go at repotting a mandrake and scoring a goal with a quaffle. The real star of the show were the costumes, sets and props from the films though - beautiful and incredibly detailed when you see them up-close.

Afterwards, we ventured out into the real museum - this is just one wing of it:

The museum was very crowded despite its huge size (I dread to think what it will be like tomorrow when the weekend hits) so it was an extraordinary and delightful surprise to run into friends here - it was great for the kids to share the experience with a couple of their friends and nice for us to be able to shuffle the supervision permutations with another outnumbered Mom.

After a pause for lunch, we managed to keep going until about 3pm when we were all flagging, so we returned to the hotel for an hour or so of down-time, then had some dinner before returning to get the most out of our day's admission charges. By then the museum was slightly less insanely busy and we were able to spend a bit more time with some of the more complicated exhibits. We learned about nanoscale self-assembly with the help of a mini air-hockey table and some magnetic counters and experimented with levers and pendulums in a children's playground. We also discovered that we're quite hot stuff (well I had to get a group shot in somehow!)

What a packed day - we're quite tired now - in fact everyone else (including Exile #2) is asleep while I'm typing - I think I should join them.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Day 3.039: A frozen river and a shiny shoe

We arrived at our hotel soon after lunch and set off for a walk along the river.

Further along, it looked like we could probably have jay-walked our way to Boston in the middle of 'the block', but we were not planning a river crossing by bridge or ice today.

Instead we were aiming for here: see Cambridge MA's most famous resident and his very shiny left shoe.

You may have heard of him -one or two things round here are named after him - most notably the local subway station.

We managed a swim in the hotel pool after dinner...and the sounds of it...the kids have all fallen asleep at last.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Day 3.038: Snowbird day

It was a good day for snowbirds today (dark-eyed juncos to give them their proper name). They are here all year around, but they are our most common winter bird sighting at the feeders. Of course the bright red cardinals are the most striking to see against the backdrop of clean white snow, but I couldn't wait for them today - after stealing these couple of shots I was back to work for the second and last day of my working week.

Tomorrow we're heading east to Cambridge. Not a 4000 mile trip to the UK, just a 200 mile journey to Massachusetts. See you there!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Day 3.037: Wingardium Leviosa

It snowed today. When I measured it in the front yard a couple of hours ago it was five and a half inches. It shouldn't be a surprise for us to get a snowfall like this at this time of year, but after the missed-storms of the last month or so, we were beginning to wonder if we would get any more at all.

Today was Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras if you prefer. We undertook the traditional British levitation of the pancakes - the kids did some under Exile #2's supervision earlier and then, when I had battled through the snow to get home from work, it was my turn. Here are some pictures of my efforts (taken by Exile #2) accompanied by a little more music from my former life.

These were dairy-free, gluten-free pancakes (quite an achievement!). When we'd finished levitating them we ate them with lemon juice and sugar and they were very good. There were also raisins - but the kids had only left us two and I let Exile #2 have mine!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Day 3.036: Explore! Some more!

Today was Presidents Day which means no school this week for the girls and no work today for me. We went back to Explore! in Glens Falls where we first visited early last summer.

It's a great place with a family feel. There is an entrance-fee of course, but no additional fees for anything so you know where you are. There is a very nice adults-only room with free coffee and lots of comfy chairs and reading matter. There is lots to keep the kids entertained - we were there for about five hours and still had to persuade them to come away with promises of cookies in the car. In summary - we had a great day - but it has now got rather late (thanks to the Winter Olympics coverage finally getting its claws into me this evening), so I will offer this two-minute slideshow and three-minute video to give anyone who is interested a taste of our visit.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Day 3.035: Rivers polarity

It felt bitterly cold at Five Rivers this morning.  The wind was biting and, although the snow that has been falling all day couldn't have been lighter or of less consequence, it was enough to attack our faces and other exposed skin.  Despite these polar conditions, we had a very nice walk and I always feel happier on days when we manage some outdoor time.

Having said all that, we were all quite tired this afternoon.  We had one of those 'Where's E5N1?' moments when we realised he'd been quiet for more than five minutes.  This was our answer:

As for the rest of us, well we were tired too.