Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Day 3.171: A future President?

As a US citizen born in the USA, E5N1 is eligible to become the US President in 2042 when he is 35 years old. I think he might need a name with a greater letter-to-number ratio though.

Today I walked in on this moment - "Look Dada, I've got my favorite books," (I'm pretty sure he spells it the American way), "Harry [the Dirty Dog], [The Very] Hungry Caterpillar and Charlie and Lola!" As long as he remembers at least one or two of them and doesn't substitute one published in the year he graduates from college he's all set (as they say over here) for the childhood book section of his political career.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Day 3.170: Less photogenic

Since I previously posted the birds I photographed on Day 3.165, I thought I'd give this little chap a look-in.

Not that I am in any way suggesting that he was less photogenic than the birds. No. Not at all.

The title referred to our progress today. After our basement triumph, we started on our bedroom today. We got a lot done, but didn't quite get to the look/wow stage.

Day 3.169: Three happy campers

This morning I took all three kids up to the girls' (old) school for camp.  It seems they had a very good day and we are particularly pleased for E5N1 who has been in and out of the school since birth and is delighted to be able to attend (even if just for a week of camp).  He did really well by all accounts.  For the girls it's a bonus week with some of their friends - well stimulated and learning and having fun in a familiar environment - what's not to like?  The picture is from just after their happy return.

The reason for this off-loading of our parental responsibilities is that we are having an intensive few days of tidying the house ready to put it on the market.  The future is still uncertain for us, but we can wait no longer to get moving on the default plan which is to return to the UK in August.

Our first task was to tackle the basement - it needed a major tidy up and a clean so that it could be used as a temporary storage place to allow the de-cluttering of the rest of the house.

As well as reorganising and cleaning, we disposed of a few items at the local dump.  After putting the metal items in their allotted space, we were instructed to put the rest of the things 'on the conveyor belt'.

As we arrived, a large CRT TV was arriving at the top and then plummetted into the skip below with a gratifying crash.  None of our items were quite so dramatic, but that didn't stop me doing my best to capture some drama with my phone camera.

Anyway, the day was quite successful:

(The drawings predate us and the drums are E5N1 size)

We celebrated by watching Baz Luhrmann's adaptation of Romeo and Juliet this evening after the kids were in bed.  I really loved it all over again - it's so full of energy and raw emotions.  The guy who wrote the play is one to watch out for I think.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Day 3.168: It's just a game

Of course I'm talking about the baseball yesterday. We had a great night. The home team (who we root, root, rooted for) won and it didn't rain. As ever, the whole event was fun and the fireworks were great. Here's the slideshow - it was a lot of fun trying to get good shots of the action and the spectacle and the fireworks.

Of course, today brought another sporting event. Sadly.

But enough of that - If you are reading this before July 2nd, you might want to rush over to BBC Radio 2's page here and enjoy They Might Be Giants. They are on from 2.15 to 2.40 and do two songs, their own Meet The Elements at 2.28 and a wonderful cover of Squeeze's Up The Junction at 2.37 (they point out during the introduction that it contains everything that Americans don't understand about the British - a subject very near to my own heart!).

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Day 3.167: A sport-free morning

Exile #3 was out with one of her friends at a local theme-park for most of the day.

The rest of us made hummingbird nectar and saw a hummingbird (not at the feeder yet), visited a pick-your-own farm with no pickable fruit - but with cute animals to feed, a place to play and great views - and grilled pizza and corn.

The afternoon was spent watching USA in the World Cup on TV and a baseball game live. In both cases the home team won (well - Ghana and South Africa are on the same continent!). Maybe I'll post some of my many pictures from the ball game soon, but for now I need to collapse into bed.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Day 3.166: Episode 12b: How to recognise different birds from quite a long way away

No.1 The Blue Heron (top left) as it came into view at our final vantage point mouth open - looking hungry!

No.1 The Blue Heron (top right) the best of a bad lot of shots I got of it in flight.

No.2 The Eastern Kingbird (mid left) on a high branch.

No.1 The Blue Heron (centre) with a small fish in its beak.

No.1 The Blue Heron (mid right) in classic pose.

No.3 The Song Sparrow (mid right) is that a larch it's perched in?!

No.1 The Blue Heron (bottom right) a moment after the top left shot - probably the best photograph however.

No.2 The Eastern Kingbird (bottom left) and the reason for all this nonsense.  It would have been extremely difficult to get a positive identification of this bird without this photograph.  From where we were I couldn't have  picked out the white tips on the tail feathers - but with the 300mm lens and some diligent cropping, it can be seen quite clearly.

And now for something completely different.

Exile #3 spotted two hummingbirds on these, their favourite flowers, today  - no pictures of these birds yet, but I must get the feeder up tomorrow.  OK - it wasn't completely different, but you know that wasn't the point - right?  

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Day 3.165: Revolt!

Today started very badly with Exile #2's migraine entering a third day - she was sitting exhausted and in pain in the dark with an ice-pack held to her head. Happily, she did get gradually better from there on.

So, since I had another unplanned day off, we managed a short trip to Five Rivers. We saw a lot of cool stuff, some of which I photographed successfully, but for now I'll settle for sharing this moment - when we reached the site of our regular group shots, Exile #4 was willing to pose, but everyone else protested the heat and walked off.

For reference, I put together the other shots in a little slideshow.

At least one of the family has my back.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Day 3.164: 'Tis said they eat each other...!

Hours dreadful and things strange...

First there was the England football team, contending 'gainst obedience, remembering how to play and, what's more, actually winning a match.

Then as I dropped the girls off and headed into work, leaving still ailing Exile #2 with 'only' E5N1 to supervise, a building, towering in her pride of place in Albany was being evacuated due to a 5.5 earthquake with its epicentre near Ottawa, 250 miles away in Canada.

Then it turned out that a bear turn'd wild in nature, broke its stalls and led the local animal control team on a chase through suburban yards (actually as far as I know it was actually wild and never in a stall!)

Finally, back in the homeland at Wimbledon, two men refused to lose a tennis match and having played 118 games in one set lasting the whole day today, I suspect that this sore night hath trifled former knowings.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Day 3.163: Final Friday Flashback

I stayed home to help look after the kids today because Exile #2 was dealing with the double whammy of a migraine and a nasty cold.

This picture is from our penultimate stop on Friday's day out - a picnic in Saratoga Spa Park. It was warm and sunny and the girls waded in the shallow river together for some time while E5N1 made a friend and played in the stream moving rocks to redirect the water flow. Good muddy fun all round.

The last stop that day was at a sports bar to watch the second half of the England-Algeria match in the World Cup - but that's quite enough of that. Tomorrow is another day (and another match of course)!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Day 3.162: Grill'n the Beans

Before I get started, I need to say (because I'm taking their name in vain) that my review of my lunch at the great cafe/bistro in Troy NY called "Spill'n the Beans" can be found here.

I think it is safe to say that Exile #2 has fully embraced life with the grill. By which I mean that she is delighted that the merest suggestion that we could use it means that I will happily cook dinner. On the other hand, we are both nervous that increased grilling will mean increased meat intake.

So it was that on Saturday, she suggested that we try a vegetarian grilling experience. This was the recipe we decided upon. To be honest it was not a great success. I found the preparation to be excessive and it produced too much washing-up for my liking and the process of grilling on greased foil was not a great one. However, it did inspire a surprising success.

I made half the mixture without the hot ingredients in the vain hope that at least one of the kids would eat some. Exile #2 and I enjoyed our full-recipe versions and then we found ourself with some left-overs - mostly of the neutered version. So on Sunday night after our church gathering, Exile #2 heated them up (they held together rather better after a night in the fridge) and I gave them a NY twist by rustling up some Buffalo wing sauce. Traditional Buffalo wing sauce is not exactly complicated - it comprises Frank's Red Hot sauce and melted butter. It really gave a wonderful zing to the bean-burgers.

Just writing this is making me want to cook some wings - or maybe even some more bean burgers!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Day 3.161: Happy --- Day to us!

What could be more appropriate than celebrating Father's Day on the anniversary of the birth of my first-born child? Incidentally, since she has now learned to ignore me calling her middle name to attract her attention as she did some time before with her first name, I sometimes address her as 'First-born Daughter' - she isn't too keen on that.

Here we are at her birthday party - she chose to go with three friends (only two could make it) to Hoffman's Playland in place of a big invite-lots-of-friends get-together. It worked out quite nicely and since Dads rode for free because it was Father's Day - I had a few more rides than I would normally have done.

But I am getting ahead of myself. The day started with the kids waking me up to mark Father's Day with various grilling accessories. We moved from that into present-opening for Exile #3's 8th Birthday - Eight? Seriously??

Her friends arrived in the late morning and, after a quick lunch we headed out to find birthday cake - or to be more accurate, half a dozen birthday cakes - at 'Betties Double-decker Cupcake Stand'.  What a great selection of varieties, gluten-free and vegan and even dog-friendly cupcakes!  Everyone chose their own and we went up to the top deck to eat them - fantastic!  As a bonus, this bus has made nearly the same journey in life as me so far - having been made about 30 miles away from where I grew up.

From there it was off to Hoffman's where it seems like some fun was had.

More pictures on my Flickr account.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Day 3.160: A grand 'National' near our local track

When we were in Washington D.C. at Easter, pretty much everything was the 'National' whatever. Here in upstate New York, it is less common, but we do have the National Museum of Dance and that was where Exile #3 specially requested we go on our special day out yesterday.

It must be said that our first impressions having headed into the south wing of the building were not so great. It was not until we returned to the foyer that I was even tempted to take a first photo - of this little ballerina. The other side of the museum was a different matter altogether.

The first area contained an exhibition of dance-themed postage stamps from around the world. This might have been a bit dry for the kids except for the fun they had using the supplied magnifying glasses. Next, we visited the kids area where the girls put on several shows - helped out by E5N1 as announcer and drummer, undertook several costume changes and had an impromptu tap dance lesson (courtesy of a DVD).

When we eventually dragged them away from there we visited an exciting exhibition of photographs. You can see some of them (although I should warn, as the museum did, of "moderate, artistic nudity") here.

The final exhibit was a history of Ballets Russes with costumes warn by Anna Pavlova and Ida Rubinstein amongst others. It was a great trip - not harmed by the fact that we had the place completely to ourselves (most schools are still winding up their school year) except for a little maintenance work going on.

More pictures below.

Today was much less interesting - although I did get do some hedge-trimming this morning and get the grill going late in the afternoon.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Day 3.159: I may have promised you a rose garden...

Today was Exile #3's birthday treat family day out. Her small party will be on Sunday when it is her actual birthday. After we planned the day around her requests, it was almost an afterthought for us to pop back into the Yaddo gardens hoping to find the roses in bloom. We were not disappointed.

This is definitely the time of year to go for maximum impact. The sight and smell of the roses is quite amazing. Some of the fountains are operational and fairly lovely too - one even had ornamental fish swimming in it. There were a few parts of the gardens that were more impressive on our last visit in May, and some water features are still dry even now, but the roses are quite special at the moment.

Update: Flickr slideshow of the photos.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Day 3.158: Bigger than bees

Moving home is on our minds now as we await a final decision about the length of our remaining stay in the area. We are not the only ones considering a new home. Obviously should we move out we will be hoping that someone wants to move in here but not all potential new occupants are welcome.

A few days ago I reported that Exile #2 had exclaimed "Chipmunks are bigger than freakin' bees!" and yes - she really did say "freakin'" - apostrophe and all. This little corner of our garage was the unlikely cause of this outburst. Last year, some carpenter bees moved in caused a slight nuisance, stung E5N1, resisted my attempts to remove them (unlike the solitary one who demonstrated her woodworking skills on the deck) and finally took two visits from the exterminators to leave for good. Now we suspect that some chipmunks are considering it as their new home. Hopefully the spray deterrent I applied today will be enough to cause them to go elsewhere. If not I may have to bring some more deadly weapons to bear.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Day 3.157: Evolution & Bravery

The picture is from the end of the beam section of Exile #3's little show on Monday. Incidentally, the glory for identifying the pop pun is still available and A has done some of the work for you!

This evening, just after I got home, my latest Amazon delivery came to the door. I love Amazon - where else could I buy a 2007 album by The Bravery and a fairly obscure (so far at least) book by a Christian blogger "Evolving in Monkey Town (How a girl who knew all the answers learned to ask the questions)" by Rachel Held Evans?

The music is the second CD I've bought recently that I considered buying when it was new but didn't quite get round to it. In both cases I was reminded of it thanks to it having been played on my Pandora (Internet radio) station.  If it still sounds good after three or four years it probably is worth a little commitment.

Talking of commitment, the book is now going to cause me to put Brian McLaren on hold for a few days - I've been reading his latest book since finishing Audrey Niffenegger's Her Fearful Symmetry. All so good in different ways.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Day 3.156: Cars and stripes

I missed the chance to comment on Flag Day yesterday. Will this do?

E5N1 takes his driving very seriously - as you can see.

But that was 10 days ago. Let's get back up to date with a picture from two and a half months ago.

Bear with me...

Yesterday evening (there you go!) Exile #2 said (slightly out of character), "Chipmunks are bigger than freakin' bees!"

There's no denying the facts, but can anyone imagine what had got her so worked up?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Day 3.155: Take a look at my girl, friends!

She's not the only one I've got, but this evening was all about Exile #3 who's season of gymnastics classes came to an end with a little performance to which family members and their cameras were invited. The light in the place was terrible so it took my fastest lens, my widest aperture and my highest ISO setting to get some half-decent pictures. I'm sure I can improve on them with some post-processing, but this will do for today.

As you can see, the whole family was in attendance - although true-to-form, E5N1 decided that he could do better than hang out with the rest of us.

Exile #3 did a great job on floor, beam, bars and trampoline and made us very proud.  Proud enough for me to resurrect the long-neglected pop pun feature - if you're new to it there was a brief explanation back on Day (0.)112.

So, it's pop pun 112 for title watchers - and I know it's going to sound old.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Day 3.154: Chalk it up

After the excitement of yesterday, today has has been a fairly grey day. It has been cool, wet and dreary outside and kind of sleepy inside. One bright spot was a Skype conversation with the rest of my immediate family who are all together. Skype is difficult at the best of times and with big groups on both ends it is far from ideal, but it was nice to be part of the get-together.

The whole thing had a profound effect on E5N1 who, when we were leaving for church six hours later, was convinced we were going to see his nearly-ten year-old cousin. When we finally convinced him we were not getting on a plane, he just readjusted his expectations - we were picking up cousin A at church and he could sit next to Exile #3. We're all coping with the difficulties of distance from family and uncertainty about the future in our own ways it seems.

When he's not being unbearably cute, he is a bit of a menace at the moment, terrorising his sisters very effectively. I was amused by this image from the drive a week or so ago - Exile #2 has been drawing around him at his request while he lies on the driveway and he has been adding faces. This one looks to me like happy E5N1 has suspended his alter-ego by the ankle and is enjoying the process of torturing him. Now why would I think of that?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Day 3.153: Cake, crumbs

It was Exile #4's birthday party today. We'd planned to be at the local park, but the weather had other ideas so we had a busy morning preparing the house for an indoor variant on the original plan. By the start of the party, Exile #2 had an impressive selection of activities in reserve. Making and decorating these slices of 'cake' was very successful and the 'flip the kipper' game raised first some eyebrows then some laughter.

Because we were home we were able to segue straight into watching the England-USA World Cup match - I'll leave it to others to talk about the football/soccer, but we had a good mixed crowd, a ready supply of beer and plenty to shout about.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Day 3.152: Growing up

Whether Exile #4 became the first of us to celebrate four birthdays in the US depends on whether you're willing to say that three year-old E5N1 has had four birthdays! In my book she is the first - and I think it is worth pausing to remember how tiny she was three years ago on her third birthday: check it out!

I took the day off work to help her celebrate today and after present opening and indoor bouncing she chose for us to go swimming which was fun for all.  After a nice lunch at a new-to-us venue, we returned home for the all-important birthday cake moment.

The rest of the day was spent getting ready for the back-to-back events of Exile #4's birthday party and the England-USA match in the World Cup tomorrow - we've invited some USA supporters over to watch with us - which should be fun.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Day 3.151: Climbing, climbing thwarted

I arrived home to scenes of chaos - E5N1 had crushed his finger with a large stone and it had turned a lovely shade of purple. I used my professional judgement (I am a doctor you know - albeit not the kind you need at times like this) to decide against an inevitably long-winded trip to the ER but it was a close-run thing.  Not for the first time as a parent I find myself hoping that if I got it wrong the results will not be irreversible.

After he had largely recovered, Exile #2 took him off to bed and the girls stayed outside for a while.  Exile #3 is honing her tree-climbing skills and Exile #4 is doing her best to get some of her own.

I can only assume they were playing outside and enjoying the first day of the summer break when the UPS delivery man arrived with my new squirrel defenses - when I checked the tracking for the parcel just before I left work it said "DELIVERED - LEFT WITH GIRL".  As you can see I have installed it - time will tell if the squirrels find it as baffling as they are supposed to.