Friday, April 30, 2010

Day 3.110: The carnival's in her head

Exile #2 only gave me two instructions as I was leaving for this crazy trip away with our friend John.

  1. Don't go to Hooters.
  2. If you meet Kathy - tell her I love her!

This is Kathy.  I told her.

Her blog: the carnival in my head is one of the most inspiring ones I have come across in my online travels.  She is even more inspiring in real life and I was so happy to get the chance to meet her and pass on Exile #2's message.  The rest of the day was really cool too - you can get some kind of impression from my twitter feed.

We haven't been to Hooters either.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Day 3.109: Mad jaunt in progress

A few more pictures from our walk on Sunday afternoon because I'm a bit busy!

I am, all being well, on my way to the outskirts of Washington D.C. to attend a free conference. It's called the TransFORM: East Coast Gathering and has some excellent speakers I know of from their writing - on blogs and in books. I tried to describe to a colleague what it was last week and in a follow-up to his previous dubbing of our church as a "cult" he referred to it as CultCON 2010 - catchy!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Day 3.108: Birthdays

I received an email this morning it read simply:
Remember your Grandfather especially today, his 100th Birthday.

Here are a couple of pictures of the two of us.

He died when I was in my first year at college. He had been the typical much-loved grandfather I suppose - I have no recollections of him being grumpy or annoyed with us. In my memories he is kind and happy and quiet. I remember sitting up very late with a friend on the night I heard that he had died - very sad, but remembering happy times. The day of his funeral was a very hot sunny one. I travelled by train and got as close as I could manage easily and then called my Dad to come and collect me - he found me wearing my scruffiest jeans and t-shirt and was a little shocked I think. I had a suit with me though - but it was not a day to travel in a dark suit if it could be avoided.

When I told Exile #2 about the significance of today she reminded me that it is her Dad's birthday. I met her a year or so after Grandpa died, so this is the first time we've connected the dates. So, to my children's Granddad - Happy Birthday (I hope you had a great day!) and to my Grandpa - fond memories on this auspicious date.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Day 3.107: Breaking news...

If you haven't yet played the Breakfast Mystery challenge from a few days ago, this is your final chance, because here come the results!

Thanks to those who played - you were all right to some extent!  First the packet reveal:

And then the answers:
  • Five are organic - all but the bran flakes.
  • One contains 'high-fructose corn syrup' - that would be the bran flakes
  • One has 3 (Crispy Brown Rice), two have 4 (Weetabix and Cinnamon Harvest), two have 6 (Bran Flakes and Koala Crisp) and one has 12 (or more) ingredients listed - this was the only category in which the fruit-loop substitute (Fruitful O's) came out 'worst' and the least bad!
  • The most calorific has 180 calories per serving, the least has 90.  Cinnamon Harvest and Bran Flakes respectively
  • The saltiest contains 9% of the recommended daily intake of sodium in a serving, the least salty 0%. Bran Flakes and Cinnamon Harvest - the reverse of the calorie count - probably not a coincidence.
So there you go - a healthy breakfast? Not necessarily, but better than it could be I suppose. I tend to have the saltiest with a bit of the highest calorie option - which sounds like the worst of all.  But I alternate that with mouthfuls of the least calorific mixed with a bit of the least salty - so maybe I'm doing OK.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Day 3.106: "I'm a reindeer!"

E5N1 started our walk on Sunday afternoon full of energy - he charged ahead down the trails and was determined to be leading the way. It was quite a new experience for us. By the end he was getting a little tired, lagging behind and losing some of his enthusiasm.

In between he picked up a couple of sticks and declared...

...well, you can probably guess.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Day 3.105: Contents may vary

This is not a follow-up post to the Breakfast Mystery from yesterday, so there is still time to exercise your critical faculties on that little puzzle. Answers coming soon.

We spent most of the weekend, including the walk at Five Rivers where I got a few shots of this Eastern Bluebird at this nesting box as a family-of-four - or to be more precise two different ones.

Yesterday we did not see Exile #3 until about 4pm as she went straight from school on Friday to a sleep-over with one of her school friends.  The sleep-over led to a movie (they went to see Oceans which looks amazing!) and then a return to another friend's house.  Meanwhile, we spent the day at home, I cut the grass for the first time this year and gave the garage a partial clear-out and the remaining kids played with the neighbours kids and secured an invitation to an impromptu barbecue two-doors down.  When I went to check on why it had gone quiet, I found myself sitting down with a hotdog in one hand and a bottle of beer in the other before I knew what was happening!

Today, we were without Exile #4 for the afternoon as she was invited to go to Hancock Shaker Village to see the baby animals as we did as a family around this time two years ago.  Meanwhile, our walk was baby-animal-free but nevertheless quite eventful - we walked some trails we've never been down and saw lots of birds.  I'll post some more pictures one way or another in the next few days.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Day 3.104: The Breakfast Mystery

OK - these were the breakfast cereals on our table yesterday morning after the girls had gone to school. I was curious to see what was in them.  This is what I found:

  • Five proclaim themselves 'organic'.
  • Only one contains 'high-fructose corn syrup'.
  • One has 3, two have 4, two have 6 and one has 12 (or more) ingredients listed.
  • The most calorific has 180 calories per serving, the least has 90.
  • The saltiest contains 9% of the recommended daily intake of sodium in a serving, the least salty 0%.

All in all, I was fairly pleasantly surprised by the results of this little survey.  Now, can you hazard a guess at the best and the worst - answers please in the comments (and no cheating)!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Day 3.103: When will all the flowers be gone?

...long time no mowing.

Probably tomorrow will see the first cut of the season. In the meantime, the kids are enjoying picking flowers from in amongst the grass. They are not allowed to pick flowers from anywhere else.

Tonight was Rock Band and we had a good turn-out to welcome back our Airman 1st Class from basic training and tech-school. He was a hairy teenager when he left now he is definitely an adult and his hair is a lot shorter!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Day 3.102: Idiom addict

After a busy day at work, I dashed up to the school for the annual all-school Shakespeare performance. This was our fourth one.

Both the girls did Shakespearean-idiom-related performances. Exile #4's whole class did a piece entitled 'A feast fit for a king' and Exile #3's line in her class's multiple-idiom extravaganza was 'I think he's a little tongue-tied'. The older kids had a go at The Tempest and did a rather good ten-minute version of Romeo and Juliet. I know it was ten minutes because they told us it would be in the prologue - Willm.'s version professes to be two hours.

All in all very satisfactory. Shame I found myself camera-less apart from my phone, but maybe that allowed me to appreciate it more.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Day 3.101: Spring feeling

I've been feeling distinctly spring-like today. I don't know why, but I started out feeling positive about life and have felt that way all day. It was also my first allergy-medicated day of the season - a less positive sign of spring perhaps, but you have to take the rough with the smooth.

And now, to keep the happy mornings going - a reasonable bedtime is in order.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Day 3.100: Tumbling again

I mentioned the other day that we were out shopping for a tumble dryer. This is a picture from our outing. Well, today it was delivered and installed by the nice people at the independent store we bought it from. They also had some top tips about our tricky venting issues. Also today, a painter arrived to tend to our external woodwork. We'd contracted him in the fall, but the early arrival of the cold weather put paid to his intentions to do it before the arrival of winter.

Painters also played a big part in my work day today as they are decorating the area I have to walk through to get from my desk to the 'rest-rooms'. Currently there is plastic sheeting everywhere including covering a make-shift walkway that we have to walk through. Someone said it was like E.T. maybe E5N1 can come and play the staring role - in his hoody he almost looks the part.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Day 3.099: Did someone say 'volcano'?

Yes - in fact quite a few people have been talking about it, but only a few witnessed it up close as I did yesterday and fewer can claim a hand it its creation.

I'm talking about the papier-mâché volcano that Exile #2 and E5N1 spent a good part of last week creating and then decorating. My part (as a chemistry graduate) was to come in the eruption phase. Exile #2 found the design and instructions on a website, and we followed them for the first try - 4 tablespoons of baking soda in the bottle, then half a cup of vinegar with a bit of food-colouring added. It worked quite well, but after I added my mystery extra ingredient, things got even better.

And the colours got a bit crazy - but that was not my doing.

The added ingredient was a teaspoon of egg-white. I bet no-one has considered using that in Iceland.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Day 3.098: Rivers course

If Exile #4 looks a little unsure in this photo, it is because as we approached this point on our walk at Five Rivers this morning, she persuaded me to forgo our normal group shot. It was Exile #3 who eventually changed my mind again - determined to show you all her baton twirling I suppose.

We saw a lot of interesting stuff as usual.  A new dam - possibly beaver in origin close to what we assume is a new lodge on the other side of the lake from the old one.  The girls spotted something interesting lying apparently dead on the lake-bed near the floating platform - it turned out to be a crayfish.  We also saw some very pretty spring flowers and a new platform which gave a slightly precarious, but effective, location for another timer-operated group shot.

One other piece of excitement was that we finally got the ladder out to take our Christmas decorations (icicle lights) down from the outside of the house. Well, it's less than six months since they went up - what do you want from me?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Day 3.097: Cool - no trouble

The day started with a trip out to buy a replacement for our old and recently inoperative tumble dryer. While we were out I had a text to invite me out to lunch with a colleague and a mutual former colleague who was also one of the interviewers for my first software engineering job interview. We had a very nice lunch catching up on the last ten years or so and talking a bit of shop too.

The day was a bit dreary and wet and so we exercised a plan we'd had for some time to go and see How to Train Your Dragon. We had a great time - everyone enjoyed it and even E5N1 was able to sit still and keep his 3D glasses on.

Afterwards we realised that it was probably the first time we had been out to the cinema as a whole family since Exile #3 was born. If all our trips are like this, we should definitely go more often.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Day 3.096: No, not the last post...

After the flurry of dismayed emails and messages I didn't receive concerned that I was planning on stopping writing this blog because of yesterday's post title, I felt I needed to say that I meant the last mail collection!

Anyway, to lighten the mood a little, here is a video of the girls playing with E5N1's stomp rocket preceded by a note from me and a reaction from one of you out there in blog-reader land.

Happy weekend!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Day 3.095: Last post

It seems that for the British expat in the U.S., preparing taxes is like the proverbial painting of the Forth Bridge - no sooner have you got to the end than it is time to begin again.

Today was the deadline for submission of the tax returns. This morning I received the completed forms from my tax preparers and so I just had time to print them out, sign them and drive over to the special late-night opening party at one of the local post offices.  Well, I say party - there was little of the cheerful in-it-together spirit that I was half-expecting. Instead it was a civil, but tired and slightly grumpy atmosphere at 9pm - I dread to think what it will be like at 11.30pm.

Anyway, tax returns are away, certificates of posting are stamped and filed. Now, how long is it before we have to start the next ones?

Day 3.094: Wardrobe malfunction

After my first swim in the rather cold ocean back on Day 3.087 and an extended period of warming up again in the sunshine, I decided to brave the waves again.

Exile #2 encouraged me to sit down again rather quickly. I can't think why. She was kind enough to walk across the road and buy me some new shorts while I sat on the beach and I pulled them on over the top of these ones as if nothing had happened.

I'm just glad she noticed before I wandered down to the edge of the sea and flashed my backside to the whole of Virginia Beach.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Day 3.093: And we're back...

A while ago I was working on a software project for a very complicated piece of equipment which needed to be operated by unskilled operators. The normal term used for the software we were developing is 'turn-key', but the metaphor that was used in this particular project was 'big green button'. In the end the button was blue and we removed the only actual key as part of the project, but that is not really the point.

My replacement desktop PC arrived today and I have spent the evening (except for an hour watching Lost) copying data back onto it and installing various bits of software. It is an HP, and before Windows 7 launched for the first time, HP's own setup software ran. This was the opening screen.

The big green button at last - and it sparkled!

P.S. if you are reading this - the new PC works (for blogging purposes at least)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Day 3.092: Blossom girl

Exile #4 was very keen on the cherry blossom in Washington D.C. We were there during the festival and the trees were in full bloom. Very impressive they were too. By now, they are probably mostly over, but up here the cherry blossom is in full flower as she spotted while we were waiting for the bus this morning.

It was back to work and school today for me and the girls.  A bit of a shock to the system and a necessary but unwelcome return to the uncertainty of our current situation.

Meanwhile Exile #2 and E5N1 managed to get a load of items crossed off the to-do list and  still found time to get crafty - but more on that project another day when it is finished.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Day 3.091: Water feature

We had a great trip to the local park this morning. We didn't visit the playground or even the grassy areas - we just hung out in the car park. We took bikes - including the one without training wheels that was given to the girls by their neighbourhood friend. We also took badminton rackets, a Frisbee, a football (soccer ball) and the stomp-rocket. We had a lot of fun with all this - although we will need a few more visits before Exile #3 masters two-wheel cycling.

In the end though, it was a blocked storm-drain that attracted first E5N1's attention and then, eventually, his sisters too.

He was quite wet by the time it was time to go home.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Day 3.090: Easter summer trip

Our trip coincided with an extraordinary week of weather. The week before we left had seen daytime highs in the 40's (single digits Celsius) but, by the time we arrived in D.C., they were up in the upper 80's. Regular and long-term readers will remember that I coined the term 'Easter summer' to describe an early burst of summer weather in spring (the justification is geographical rather than calendar-based). Here is our trip route in detail:

View Larger Map

Nights were spent at C (3 nights), D, G, H and J (one each). Total mileage according to Google Maps was 1,359 miles.

Today was a quiet day. We had fun though - playing with E5N1's birthday presents - the pictured stomp-rocket, new chalks and T-ball amongst others and walking/cycling to the library.

It was a beautiful sunny day, but closer to seasonal temperature-wise peaking at 55°F. It seems that  Easter summer is over and spring is back for a while at least.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Day 3.089: Harry Poppins Birthday Part 2

We are home. We arrived in daylight to find spring springing, the house still standing, the fish still alive and the home PC dead. Could have been worse!

Today's drive was long and took us through Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The kids dealt well with the long drive once again, although our travel-weariness did lead to a bit of grumpiness. One of the reasons they have coped well with the driving on this trip is this survival kit comprising a mains-adapter to provide an AC power socket from a car power jack, a multi-way audio adapter, a bungee and a piece of picture-frame backing board with some wooden beading attached to it. Combined with a laptop, this provided DVD entertainment on the long stretches. Today's playlist was Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Mary Poppins.

When we got home, we had part two of E5N1's birthday - another slice of cake and the rest of his presents. He received all with great joy!

As for the computer, I think deciding what to do will have to wait until tomorrow.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Day 3.088: Three

Sometimes it's hard to tell just one story. Here are three!

1) It was a day at the ocean. We woke to this view, drove up the ever cooler and windier coast, stopping on the way at a beach with some dramatic looking waves and arrived early in the evening at our next ocean-side top-floor hotel room.

2) It was a wildlife day. After we had traversed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel we stopped at an overlook where we saw nesting Ospreys amongst other things. Our first destination was Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. There we saw great white egrets, several types of gulls, terns, lots of turkey vultures, black vultures and wild horses.

3) It was E5N1's third birthday. We started the day with a few presents and ended it with a cake. I think he had a good day and he will have another birthday when we get home as we couldn't bring more than a few of his presents.

But, whatever way you tell it, this day has come to an end and with a large line of storms just arriving outside, it's time for me to get to bed.


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