Thursday, September 30, 2010

Day 3.263: Spidey sense

I took this picture of a rather appealing funnel web in a short metal post at Phillipinkill a few weeks ago. I thought (correctly) that I had a bit of camera shake so I took another. Mouse-over or click to see what happened.

It was gone as quickly as it came - only being out for a fraction of a second.

None of this is related in any way to the safe arrival of my in-laws or the crazy wind that is blowing outside right now - fortunately they arrived in that order.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Day 3.262: Fall begins at home

Last weekend we didn't go out of our way to see spectacular autumn colour. Then again - we didn't need to - this is in our own yard.

Below is another shot of the same tree.  It is also my new desktop wallpaper (replacing this one). Don't you wish you had a backdrop like that for your computing activities?  Well, feel free to join me if you like. Click for full-resolution and select it as your new wallpaper for a seasonal splash of colour (or color if you are so inclined!).   It's a  free gift from me to you!

Incidentally, it was a day like this again today, but we are predicted high winds and up to five inches of rain between now and Friday morning. A fine welcome for our visitors!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Day 3.261: Shore things

These are some of the things we saw on the shore of the lake on Sunday morning - tiny plants clinging to life on the stony beach including some delicate flowers, a double-crested cormorant that took flight as I pointed the camera at it, a 'sea-shell' - actually a freshwater clam and the remains of a crayfish.

I've had a couple of days feeling a bit off-colour - hopefully it will be behind me by Thursday when Exile #2's parents arrive. The kids have been counting down the days. This evening it was 'one-and-a-half' and excitement is still mounting.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Day 3.260: Spicy, spicy!

On a recent visit to a local farmer's market, I was tempted to buy some 'Maple Chipotle' goat cheese. The lady who gave me a taste warned, "It's more 'chipotle' than 'maple'". By the time we got back to the car, it was burning a hole in my shopping bag (not literally no!) and I was hatching an idea to make a spicy cheeseburger.

Here it is - hot pepper relish, a home-made patty, the cheese and some maple-caramelised onions.

Slightly excessive perhaps, but still not the cause of these split jeans - that was the result of sweeping the floor after I enjoyed the burger.  In fact, I am starting to lose a little weight thanks my new regime but possibly my buttocks are getting too firm!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Day 3.259: From field to felt

Eight days ago we were walking in woodland which had been, only a century or so ago, sheep farming country. Today we went back to the site of the felt mill which was the economic engine driving the sheep farming industry at the time.

Just like the farmland, the mill has been overtaken by nature and is now a few stones and a handful of old walls in the midst of woodland and this plaque - already forty years old - commemorating the hundredth anniversary of its opening.

At a time when many are rightly worried about climate change and the loss of biodiversity in the world, it is happy to remember that life itself is robust and dominant on this planet, and while humans may fight it back for a while to wrestle an area to our will, if left alone, it will soon take control again - maybe not with its ancient beauty, but strong nevertheless.

Our walk at the Huyck Preserve was great today.  The kids were on great hiking form - as was the weather.  The falls were pretty, the woodland was wonderfully light and airy, the lake was slightly brooding and there were plenty of finds to keep us interested.  In fact, this woodland is some of my favourite in the area - it seems in part to be very young in parts - with lots of narrow-trunked trees (probably 20 years old at most) as well as tiny babies growing in the leaf-litter.  Here are some photos.  The same ones are in this Flickr set.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Day 3.258: Craft, animals, trees and music

We had a great time at the Five Rivers Fall Festival this afternoon. Exile #4 was our keen hunter of passport-stamps this year - collecting her Twizzler prize with great joy. E5N1 was very proud of his two stamps too and Exile #3 was too busy hanging out with a friend to care too much.

We bumped into various school-friends from the old and the new school and friends and neighbours - it was a rather successful visit - good enough to nearly overcome my frustration at not getting out for a proper hike on this glorious day.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Day 3.257: Fall leaf, but not tree!

Summer ended on Wednesday, so it seemed appropriate to post this picture from last weekend of an autumnal leaf in a gloved hand. In fact today the temperature made it up into the mid-80's so gloves were quite unnecessary.

This evening, I was treated to a guided tour of our property.  Quite a few of our trees are showing off their Fall colours rather spectacularly at the moment so it was nice to have a look around.  Exile #2 was my guide, pointing out the things that the arborist who had visited earlier had pointed out to her. He had come because of a couple of things that were concerning us, but she asked him to have a look around the rest of the yard too. He suggested a number of things needing attention - all completely obvious once you see them, not too scarily expensive, and a lot less bother than the result of leaving them undone might be.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Day 3.256: Geno & me

A while ago one of my facebook friends posted an item where you were supposed to name the songs that had changed your life. Usually I ignore such things, but as regular readers may have picked up music is something that matters to me, so I immediately set to work.

For months, I've had a draft email which read simply:
I threw a brick through a window - U2

I was remembering the effect that borrowing the album October (on 12 inch vinyl of course) in about 1984 had had on me and the hours I had spent listening to it as loud as I could get away with (depending on who else was in the house).

The other day, I found the draft email and realised that, although that song belonged on my list, above it would have to be Geno by Dexys Midnight Runners. It was released in 1980 and it was probably the first time that I liked some music that my parents didn't 'get'. Here it is for those who need teaching/reminding:

By the time I realised that I could start buying records, it was 1982 and their new album Too-Rye-Ay was out and that was the next chapter in my pop music journey - it included Come On Eileen (and yes I can sing along - who'd blame me?) but also a fair amount of darker material. The result was I never owned a copy of Geno until yesterday when I downloaded it (along with a copy of Too-Rye-Ay).

Now I come to think of it I haven't got a copy of October any more either - but I definitely need to get some music made in the last year or so first to counter-act the nostalgia!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Day 3.255: Zing!

Both Exile #2 and Exile #3 were looking forward to my reaction on seeing Exile #3's new pajamas. They're certainly quite eye-catching.

And now, I am equally ready for bed and it's my curfew - and well past my stop-blogging-by time so I'll see y'all tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Day 3.254: Life comes at you fast!

The title is an advertising slogan. Here is an example of the adverts. Certainly it has felt like that for me recently - especially at work.

This evening was a welcome break from the frenetic pace of life as I had a quiet couple of hours at Albaniana's place with her kids while she and the Man were at the Open House. I say 'with', I barely saw them if I'm honest and they seemed quite content with that arrangement.

When Exile #4 and I came down from our summit-conquering on Labor Day, I was told I needed to film a video of Exile #3 coming down the slide at the playground. I had no idea why, but I obliged - here is the result:

Yeah - life comes at you fast. Sometimes.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Day 3.253: In tent - to leave

Apart from our walk at Wolf Creek Falls, Saturday took us to a leaving party for two of my colleagues (well technically one is already a former-colleague having retired a few weeks ago). They are returning to the UK after just over three years here.

When I first received the invitation to this party, I thought we would already have left by now. I think it's safe to say that if we had we wouldn't have arranged anything like as good a leaving do as they did. The tent was in their yard beside the house - in fact it was such a glorious day that we could have managed without it, but it was very congenial and the party spilled outside into the warm evening as the sun went down which was nice too.

Exile #3 found that it was a good place to enlarge her latest collection - beer bottle caps, and her younger siblings ran around and charmed at least as many as they annoyed I think. There were some former colleagues to catch up with and other-halves to meet and/or renew acquaintances with - all rather good. When we could finally stretch the children's day no further, we left wishing we could stay longer - just as it should be.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Day 3.252: Culture-shock

This evening we skipped church to attend the PTA picnic at the girls' school. It was a well-organised and grand event. The scale of it was fairly bewildering after social events at their previous school - this being a school of 350 K-5th grade instead of (maybe) 120 K-8th.

The highlights were bumping into another family making the same school shift as us, meeting Exile #3's 'recess friend' (and her mom) and winning a $25 gift card for the local supermarket in the raffle (for a $10 outlay). It's already spent as Exile #2 went grocery shopping this evening. Bargain!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Day 3.251: Wolf Creek

This morning we continued our occasional series of visits to the various preserves owned by the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy. Previously we had visited Bennett Hill and Phillipinkill, today it was the turn of Wolf Creek Falls Preserve.

As is the way with these properties, if you didn't know it was there you could drive right past it. In fact, even though we knew exactly where it was, we drove past the entrance to the small parking lot on Bozenkill Road in Altamont.  Fortunately, the road was sufficiently deserted for us to reverse enough to make the turn.

We did a circular walk taking in the length of the creek served by the trails. The creek itself was almost dry (much appreciated for fording it, less so for the impressiveness of the 'falls'), but the woodland was charming and full of interest.

Dry stone walls were evidence of the life of this land before the woodland reclaimed it -it was a sheep farm in the 19th century, providing wool to the felt mill at what is now the Huyck Preserve in Rensselaerville.

There were lots of things to catch our eyes along the way - a few flowers still in bloom in these dying days of summer, along with plenty of berries.  There were fungi in many shapes and sizes and these three interesting animals.  The frog is a wood frog and was so well camouflaged I still don't know how Exile #3 spotted it as we walked along the trail.  The spider is a marbled orb weaver - who knew spiders could be so brightly coloured?  Finally, the eastern newt (a kind of salamander) is something we've seen before but never this close to home.

The pictures are in a set in Flickr if you want a closer look.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Day 3.250: Home!

Exile #2 has been saying all week that the family have forgotten who I am. She's been saying it with more or less humour depending on the day. In all I have spent rather fewer waking hours with her and the kids than has been my intention.

Monday was gym class day, Tuesday we had a church meeting, Wednesday I was out with a colleague, Thursday was school open house but Friday I'm in love...bubububa-bububa.

In fact, I was home fairly late tonight - a crazy week ending as it had started with more to do than could sanely be fitted in, but I did see the kids and, once they were in bed, sat down for a nice dinner with my lovely wife of sixteen years and two weeks. And, with that the weekend begins!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Day 3.249: Back to pool, back to school

I managed to swim this morning - and to feel fairly human through the day, so we'll count that as a success. Work has been fairly crazy this week but I left a bit early today because this evening was my first chance to visit the girls' new school. It was 'Open House' and we spent a few minutes in each of their classrooms and heard from the principal in between. Exile #4's teacher astonished us by saying that she had been teaching at the school for 22 years (she's a very young 40-something) and Exile #3's astonished us by looking about 22 years old (but reassured us about her experience of teaching so she's probably not!)

We ran into a few neighbors and saw some familiar faces from local activities and (across the room) another parent making the same school-move as us.

Here are a couple of the things we had to welcome us - a self-portrait by Exile #4 for their how many girls/boys chart and a little word about herself along with a letter from Exile #3.

All in all it was a very positive experience. I'm sure the girls will do just fine there - as for us, it was a rather overwhelming social event - a big school is going to take some getting used to for their all-too British parents!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Day 3.248: Exercise fail - calorie fail

I had planned to go swimming this morning for the second time this week, but I had a lousy night's sleep and in the end was not sufficiently close to being ready to make it happen. No matter, I'm still on course for my normal target of going twice this week to do 50 lengths (approx 30 mins swimming) - but the chances of making three visits are now rather slim.

Unfortunately to compound the problem I was at P.F. Chang's for dinner tonight with a colleague visiting from California. We had a good meal and talked shop unashamedly. Thanks to the recent change to the law, I was able to make my choice from the menu with the knowledge of the calorie content - everything was fairly shocking, but it could have been worse without the information.

I've been tracking my calorie intake and exercise using an app on my phone and I dutifully entered my dinner once I got home. When I called it up, the main dish registered as '1 serving: 272 calories' and the rice added a further 190 calories. Sounds good, but I knew thanks to Albany County that it should have been a number in the 800's.

I assumed that the app had a fault in their data, so I logged onto the restaurant's website, found the nutritional information table and scrolled down - sure enough there was 283 calories (a little more than the app thought, but comparable).  I scrolled back up to check the column was really the correct one and applied to a full serving - yes it did.

I was confused, but reassured until something caused me to scan the rest of the columns in the table - and there it was: 'servings per dish'.  Sure enough, the dish I had had contained three servings - I'm sure three people share that dish all the time.  Not.

So score 1 for Albany County for forcing this place to print accurate information on their menu, and -1 for P.F. Chang's for their attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of people who attempt to find nutritional information via their directly-provided data.

In the end I'm calorie-neutral for the day and planning a swim tomorrow, but first, hopefully, a decent night's sleep.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Day 3.247: Bird Nest Museum

How cool is this? A 'Bird Nest Museum' in the backyard. This was a side-show at the birthday party we attended on Saturday. I didn't get chance to ask if it was assembled, relocated or populated especially for the party, but I suspect that it was not.

The Solo cup is a reminder that even though a small museum such as this may not require a curator, all museums needs a janitor.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Day 3.246: Unattended children

This morning E5N1 was in pre-school for the first time - and Exile #2 began a new chapter in her life where for a regular scheduled time she has no direct parental supervisory responsibility for the first time in over eight years. She celebrated by going shopping - grocery shopping. Oh well, she'll get the hang of it in the end I'm sure!

I marked the day by going for an early-morning swim. I've been doing fairly well with my two nights a week, but realised that I was unlikely to ever manage to go more than twice a week that way - so we'll see how mornings work out this week.

The sign is from Riverview Orchard yesterday - we were tempted to 'unattend' our children to see if they would be true to their word in point 5, but decided to go and see the donut robot instead. I'm pretty sure that E5N1 was expecting something more like an artificial human, but whether he was expecting it to be making or made-from donuts I do not know.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Day 3.245: Farming in the Park

This morning - pretty much out of the blue - Exile #2 remembered that Farm Fest 2010 was going on in Clifton Park this weekend.  The weather was looking unsettled but not like a wash-out so we decided to go an investigate.

We managed two stops before retreating to catch our breath.  First was the delightfully chaotic Riverview Orchards which were advertising that there was a viewing area for their Donut Robot - pretty much irresistible - as were the cider* donuts that it was producing of course!

The kids also decorated a pumpkin the safe way (with transfers rather than pointy knives).

Our second stop was the rather more serious Bowman Orchards.

We browsed the store, tasted apples, played in the playground, rode ponies, climbed piles of tires under lowering skies (but no more than a few drops of rain happily) and tried to catch blowing balloons inside a giant apple inflatable.  It was very well organised for maximum fun (with a few dollars changing hands at almost every turn).

By the time we got home, all of us including (apparently) the pumpkins - pictured here with the rather spectacular indian corn we acquired along the way - were feeling that we had snatched a rather good outing from what looked to be a stay-home and watch-the-rain kind of day.

* Cultural footnote: 'cider' means unprocessed squeezed apple juice here - in the UK it means an alcoholic drink made by brewing apple juice.  Plenty of room for confusion there!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Day 3.244: Nails and handstands

It was pretty much perfect weather to be out and about today - sunny and warm but not hot or humid.  We spent the afternoon thirty miles away at one of the girls' friend's birthday parties.  Apart from three younger brothers, it was an all girls affair and featured nail decorating.  Pictured are Exile #3's and E5N1's (he hates to miss out).  We all had a great time - and both the adults managed to have some conversations with other adults without constant interruptions from the kids - obviously very satisfactory all around.

When we got home I fought the desire to have a rest and got out to cut the grass (a much needed operation).  Once it was short,  Exile #4 decided to attempt some handstands - this is one of her fairly successful attempts.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Day 3.243: Freaks of nature

Exile #4 is our prime nature detective - often spotting interesting plants, bugs and animals when we are out and about. Exile #3 does pretty well at that too, but recently she has excelled at spotting things that aren't really there.

Not that she's hallucinating you understand - she just has a good imagination.

For instance, on the trails at the Montshire Museum back on Day 3.231, she noticed an octopus in the woods. We questioned the likelihood, but couldn't really deny the likeness:

However, we were slightly more confused at Phillipinkill when she suddenly stopped and said, "Look - a cat!"  It wasn't really out of the question, but it wasn't actually a cat...

Mouse-over (or click) to see what she was getting at.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Day 3.242: Loopy!

On our walk on Sunday, we spotted this tree and wondered what on earth could have caused it to form a loop like this. I checked that it was not an optical illusion, took a photo and left it at that. A mystery waiting to be solved.

Then, when I was wondering around looking for a trail map at Moreau Lake State Park on Monday (they are $2 at the park office near the entrance or print your own before you go) I saw this:

The sign suggests that they might not know either:

but there was a presentation going on and I had an overlook to hike to, so once again the mystery remains unsolved - unless you know?