Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Day 3.233: A guy, a rock and two bunnies...

Exile #2 caught this wonderful moment earlier today - they are both being rabbits (although as Exile #4 mused, "I could only find cat ears for [E5N1]!" As for the tutus, the only sense I got was from E5N1 declaring, "I like wearing tutus" and his comment a few minutes after these pictures were taken, "Now I'm going back to being a guy."

Another guy made an important announcement today. This is how it was reported on our local news station:

The President addressed the American people on a rock in the Oval Office.

At least that's what I heard. He seemed to be sitting on a chair and talking about Iraq, but I am not one of the target audience - so what do I know?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Day 3.232: Live Free or Die

This is two views of the Connecticut River from the museum on Saturday. The trees in the distance are in New Hampshire. I took both pictures from the same place (approximately) with the same camera and lens.

One of the things that impressed me about the museum was the absence of nickel-and-diming around the place. For instance, they had one of those coin-rolling gravity well things - purely for the science - pennies were provided and having fallen into the base, were released to be used again. Normally these are 'donation' boxes - they certainly never fail to receive a donation from my pocket via my children's hands.  I don't even begrudge it - but I'm impressed that there was no question of that here.

The picture is another example - taken through the eyepiece of one of those binocular landscape viewers - and my quarters stayed in my pocket.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Day 3.231: Montshire Museum of Science

We said that if we went to Vermont we were almost bound to see a moose - how right we were!

We had a fantastic day - from 10 am to 4 pm (opening to an hour before closing) at the Montshire Museum of Science in Norwich Vermont.  The place had caught our eye some time ago, but it seems a long way from anywhere, so it took us a while to make the trip - I'm so glad we did!

The museum is relatively small (this is a good thing) and absolutely packed with well-designed and fully functional interactive exhibits - think better versions of the things you find in most science and children's museums - with plenty to hold the attention of kids and adults alike.  Then outside is a 'science park' with a few large exhibits and two huge water features along with several miles of trails on the site at the side of the Connecticut River (which forms the border with New Hampshire).

Inside, the girls did a colour-mixing class - starting with making secondary colours from primaries and ending with trying to match paint sample colours.  We all enjoyed the two George Rhoades Ball Machines and the humour of 'Visco City' and countless other scientific adventures:

Outside, there was plenty of getting wet - a popular activity on a hot sunny day and some walking on shady trails.

All in all this was by some way the best family museum we have visited - and we have been to such well known establishments as the Boston Children's Museum, the Boston Science Museum, the National Museum of Natural History (NYC).  It is a New England treasure and well worth consideration despite the 3+ hour drive to visit from Albany.

I also have some video clips to upload to YouTube in due course - watch this space.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Day 3.230: Murphy's lore

The main part of our day was a great success - but far too much fun to attempt to report on after driving home from New Hampshire. Although we spent most of our day in Vermont, just after four o'clock this afternoon - having basically skipped lunch - we went across the Connecticut River to Hanover NH in search of an early dinner.

Once again we fell on our feet with the largely random selection of Murphy's on the Green. We found the surroundings, the service and the food to be great. My fussy friend would have been delighted to see so many specific local food producers listed on the main menu (which was seasonal in itself - labelled 'Summer') and the daily specials menu - and thanks to him I took notice. The girls were intrigued by the kids' menu - written on a rugby ball:

And we all enjoyed the food.  The only downsides were the beer and wine list - not that there was anything wrong with them, but with more than a three-hour drive ahead, I had to shun them both.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Day 3.229: Green Mountain Getaway (Getaway)

I spent the afternoon playing touch football (US variety), soccer and volleyball at the company picnic. As ever it was a lot of fun and I even managed to learn how to throw a football with intermittent success. Afterwards, I went to meet the rest of the family at Exile #4's piano lesson and we set off for a little road-trip.

It took us northeast over the border into Vermont then north, skirting the Green Mountains towards Manchester. In the end hunger overtook us before we reached there and we dived off the main road into Arlington, where this place caught our eye - I'm so glad it did because we had a really lovely meal there.  All five of us thoroughly enjoyed the food we chose and the ambiance was friendly and local without being unwelcoming to us foreigners (from New York you understand!)

Afterwards we turned east again to traverse the mountains on State Route 11 which despite taking a pass through the range, feels like a mountain climb and descent.  On the other side, we turned north again along the Vermont side of the New Hampshire border to tonight's destination in the wonderfully named White River Junction.

And to celebrate our arrival here (in New England - not the deep south!), it's pop pun 115 for title watchers: only way to please me...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Day 3.228: Old mobile

Henry Ford is reported to have said, "If I asked my customers what they wanted they'd have said a faster horse." Mr Olds may have also demurred at such a request, but at least tried to give his customers a literal horseless carriage it would seem. We saw this wonderful Oldsmobile at the Altamont fairground on Saturday.

Such vehicles show the origin of the term dashboard for the control panel in a car - the term originally meant the board that prevented the horses hooves kicking up mud at the passengers - instead it was dashed against the board.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Day 3.227: Flying, Beetles and the Toymaker

Each of the kids took some spending money to the toy shop the other day. The girls chose some Playmobil: Exile #4's being a wedding set (complete with bride, groom and cake) and Exile #3's a NICU cot with baby and doctor. Meanwhile, E5N1 chose these frankly wonderful items - a pull-back action "New Beetle" and a replica 1940's tin friction-motored spy-plane.

What all this says about them I'm not sure - except that E5N1 is definitely a boy!

The girls got the spending bug however and a few days later they counted the combination of money from both their pocket money savings and decided they needed to go back to the shop for another Playmobil set. This piano player set  was what they chose. Unfortunately, although the whole thing was every bit as cute as it looks, the electrical element of the piano did not work. It therefore fell to me to return with the girls on a rather rainy Sunday morning to see what could be done. So off we went to The Toymaker at Stuyvesant Plaza in Albany where they first tried to succeed where we had failed, then got another from the shelf and opened it, found that did not work either.  After a lot of confused turning of it over and over looking for a switch or something that we had all missed, finally took down a third one and after a moment of battery-fitting we were regaled with a rendition of the wedding march. Cue cheers, happy kids, happy me and a plug for a place with exceptional customer service - even on a rainy Sunday morning.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Day 3.226: Sleep disturbance

Apart from my medical issue, my sleep is also disturbed fairly regularly by the children. Exile #3 very rarely, Exile #4 maybe once or twice a month and E5N1 sometimes several times a night.

Sometimes he is able to sneak in and get into bed with us without waking us enough to take him back to his own bed. On those nights, he usually ends up cross-ways on the bed pushing one of us out with his head and the other with his feet.

Amazingly, it turns out he even does this trick on the nights he manages to stay in his own little toddler bed:

In any case, after a bad night last night, I'm hoping he stays there tonight, whatever orientation he ends up in!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Day 3.225: Whittle does he know

Here's another thing I've never seen at a fair in the UK - wooden chains (and other whimsies). So cool.

He even had one he'd just started - you can see it just left of centre - a cross-shaped cross-section which becomes the interlocking links when appropriately whittled.  It makes me want to try!

Sorry (in retrospect) that I didn't speak to the whittler or get his name or anything - but we were all getting quite tired by then and I had a very tired E5N1 on my shoulders for some of the time.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Day 3.224: All the fun of the fair

First things first - yes indeed Mr A, it was a Frisbee Dog that I caught - albeit nowhere near a Frisbee - in yesterday's teaser photo from Altamont Fair. Here are some more favourable captures!

We had a great few hours there.  Here are some highlights - for the full effect you can also try the Flickr set slideshow:

1.  The funfair part was very similar to ones Exile #2 and I had grown up with on the other side of the Atlantic - although neither of us had seen a Freak Show in the UK!
2.  We used to ride these as kids though.
3.  And probably get this excited.
4.  The non-funfair element was great - we saw working steam powered farm machines, cows, rabbits, ducks, geese, chickens and horses.
5.  E5N1 loved the crazy mirrors!
6.  And the vehicles (with steering wheels in every seat - I wonder if anyone has considered that for real cars to turn the manufacturers' fortunes around?)
7.  Exile #3 and Exile #4 took me on the Pirate Ship - Exile #3 liked it, Exile #4 was brave!
8.  We went on one of these two rides - the other I remember from my youth!
9.  This is the view of the fairground from the top of the observation wheel (yep that one!)
10. And this was the view in the other direction.
11. Fried dough and Deep-fried Oreo cookies - just some of the healthy food on offer (both were quite good!)
12. This ride was much faster than we expected.
13. We missed out on trying most of these - but still had a very exciting day.

Also, the weather was perfect - dry and not too hot.  Today it has rained all day.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Day 3.223: One good quiz deserves another...

Thanks to those who played along and spotted this little chap in the tree yesterday. I saw them (there were two I think) walking across our neighbour's yard during dinner yesterday. When we got outside I was delighted to snag a picture of a stripy tail up in the tree, but I didn't have to settle for that as he obviously found me just as interesting and spent some time staring down at me giving me several chances to get a portrait.

I can't make up my mind which one I prefer - they both have major faults, but they are better than they have any right to be having been taken with a 300 mm lens hand-held at 1/8 s exposure time. I'm guessing that the built-in shake-compensation was doing its thing for me.

We had a busy day today at Altamont Fair. This was one of the spectacles we saw - anyone care to guess what is going on here?

You'll discover the truth tomorrow!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Day 3.222: A surprise sighting

I was delighted to get a picture of the male hummingbird this evening. Conditions were far from ideal, but the shot is still quite satisfying for me.

However, although I have been unable to bring the camera to bear until today, I can't claim that a sighting of a male hummingbird was a surprise. No, it was something else that surprised us. Our view (after we piled out of the house and into the undergrowth) was something like this:

I'll show you my best picture after you have the chance to play along!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Day 3.221: Sunset trip

Between sleep appointment and sleep yesterday, we went for an evening walk at Five Rivers. It was very great - the kids were on good walking form, we took in a variety of landscapes and it was fairly photogenic given the dying light and the absence of the hoped-for beaver sightings.

Tonight we had thunderstorms and Exile #2 read the end of the sixth Harry Potter book to the kids - to be met instantly by the requests to start the final book tomorrow and to see the movie of the one we've just finished. So predictable.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Day 3.220: Sleep working

I had an appointment at a sleep specialist today.  He confirmed our self-diagnosis that I suffer from night terrors.  It was a wonderful moment when the doctor stopped asking Exile #2 and me questions and started to talk about what was going on.  Finally someone was taking this seriously, talking scientifically and offering some degree of hope for controlling the situation.

I have two months of filling in sleep logs ahead. I've been told not to write these posts last thing at night (see it's all your fault) and to lose some weight.  It's not rocket science, but it is professional advice - time to start!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Day 3.219: Fancy a curry?

My title was inspired by this xkcd comic strip (not suitable for anyone likely to be offended by toilet words) and Ruby Murray who had seven top-ten hits in the UK in the 50's. It's about hummingbirds (obviously).

On Friday, Exile #4 told me when I got home from work that she had seen an adult male ruby-throated hummingbird (they have a ruby coloured throat!) at the feeder. A few minutes later I saw it. A few minutes after that I fetched the camera. I didn't see it again.

On Sunday, there were at least three hummingbirds visiting the feeder. I had my camera at the ready but there no sign of an adult male once again - maybe they're shy. I did get these nice pictures though, so that's OK.

Have I ever mentioned my love of Tarka Dahl - or that it makes me imagine a children's book called Fantastic Mr Otter?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Day 3.218: Swimmers

We may have been slightly disappointed not to have seen a beaver last Thursday, but we did see plenty of other wildlife at the lake.

I rejoined the ranks of swimmers this evening - managing my old standard 50 lengths in around 25 minutes that I was doing regularly a couple of years ago. It certainly felt better than my last try just before we left for the UK when I only managed 24 lengths and no more than 6 without taking a break. Now I just need to keep it up!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Day 3.217: Welcome home!?

So, a few days ago I wrote this:
Now, back to the household - by way of a quiz.

Which of the following did we not find?
  1. The fish feeder had long since stopped dispensing food.
  2. A mouse in the trap - its corpse alive with maggots.
  3. A praying mantis on the front door frame.
  4. A two-inch long beetle on the kitchen counter.
  5. A dead mole resembling a pile of fabric on the lawn.
All but one were waiting for us at our home - guess away about which one I made up!
It's results time.

First the entries. Including a couple of votes given in person, I had two votes for the fish, two for the mouse and one for the beaver (you'll have to read the post!).

No-one was correct.

The fish feeder had stopped working an unknown but probably significant time before we got back - the food had got wet and was no longer dispensing. I should have bought the one with a food-drying fan! The fish were alive, but quite ready for a meal I think.

The mousetrap in the basement had an unwelcome addition - when I tried to tip the ex-mouse into the trash, it was preceded by several wriggling maggots. I ended up disposing of the whole trap. I failed to take a picture - sorry - I know you expect better of me!

Here's the praying mantis:

Here's the beetle:

And here's the mole:

So which was the lie? Well, the beetle picture is from the day we left - I found it in the basement and put it in a plastic bag and left it on the kitchen counter. Not that one. No, the lie was about the mantis - we saw it on a door frame, but not at home. It was at the visitor center at Five Rivers.

Sorry about the mole picture - I wonder what caused its death.  We are mole-friendly as far as I know here at Exile Central.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Day 3.216: Polyphemus and the splash park

Regular readers may recall my horror over the size of certain moths in the State Museum. Well today, quite unexpectedly E5N1 and I had a close encounter with a live wild Polyphemus Moth (one of the largest of all). We had left the car having some new tires (!) fitted and were killing time by taking a walk. In the supermarket car-park was this beautiful and huge moth - damaged but still capable of strong flight as we discovered. Wonderful!

Since yesterday E5N1 has been determined to visit the local outdoor pool and splash park - talking about it to everyone at every opportunity - he calls it the "Splashing Pool".  After lunch today we went and we had a very nice time making the most of the sun to hopefully help to reset our body clocks back onto Eastern Time.

Talking of which, I should be getting to bed!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Day 3.215: Give the blog a bone!

It's always nice when fate delivers blog material to me on otherwise relatively uninteresting days.

I went back to work today and did a reasonable job of fighting off jet-lag for a few hours. It being Friday, we went out for lunch and, it being a warm-but-not-hot sunny day, we went to one of our favourite sit-outside venues - McGreivey's in Waterford.

Unfortunately, it wasn't their finest hour today - four out of eight plates were delivered to the wrong people and my spicy chicken sandwich contained a large piece of bone (well, I say 'piece', two sides of the breaded 'filet' were defined by the cut sides of a large bone). Oh well, at least it means it was made of a slice of chicken rather than re-formed I suppose.

To be fair, the dishes that were interchanged did look very similar and the waiter did offer me some recompense for my discomfort in biting into a chicken bone. Maybe I'll take him up on his offer to cash it in at a later date as today we were ready to get back to work and my brain was not fully in gear.

The fact that I did not take a picture of the bone is further evidence of my diminished state. Fortunately I am able to offer this reconstruction of the event:

With thanks to locals for his picture of me - in situ after the plates were cleared, Flickr user theimpulsivebuy for his sandwich and Flickr user unclefuz (Joey Yee) for his chicken bone.

I haven't forgotten about yesterday's gross-out pop-quiz.  Keep the guesses coming and I'll enlighten you soon!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Day 3.214: Busy beavers

As I suspected yesterday, there were quite a few things for us to deal with around the house, but more of that later.

We spent part of what seemed like a very long hungry morning having a walk at Five Rivers. We did not see a beaver - alas! However, there were many signs of its/their labours. Funnily enough just before we arrived at the weir that holds the water in the lake I was musing on the fact that the beaver(s) here do not need to build a dam - it seems that they decided to in any case and have increased the depth of the lake by several inches.

We also saw some very pretty wild flowers.

I even managed to get everyone to pose for our habitual group-shot.

We may not have been looking our best - but we were all standing up and at least tolerably conscious.

Now, back to the household - by way of a quiz.

Which of the following did we not find?
  1. The fish feeder had long since stopped dispensing food.
  2. A mouse in the trap - its corpse alive with maggots.
  3. A praying mantis on the front door frame.
  4. A two-inch long beetle on the kitchen counter.
  5. A dead mole resembling a pile of fabric on the lawn.
All but one were waiting for us at our home - guess away about which one I made up!

See below for the guesses then check the answers here.