Sunday, October 31, 2010

Day 3.294: Hallo wee-uns!

After our busy and long day yesterday, we had a quiet one today.  The kids were very excited to finally dress up in their costumes this afternoon.  They wore them to church and then we did a short trick-or-treat session around the neighbours' houses.  The spider-web pumpkin did not survive the week, but I made two new ones yesterday which looked quite good on the step tonight (if I do say so myself!).

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Day 3.293: Farewell to Brits

We were out (me for longer than everyone else) at a leaving do for a fellow-ex-pat-colleague and his family tonight. This was the survivors' photo. Goodnight all!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Day 3.292: Everyone is OK

That's about all I've got to say really. Exile #2 was on her way to collect E5N1 from preschool at lunchtime. She had an accident. It wasn't her fault. Everyone is OK.

As for the car, we'll find out more on Monday when they've investigated further, but the insurers' initial reckoning is that it is just worth repairing.  Only the front section (and the driver's airbag) were affected as far as we know - but it is bent quite badly.

Meanwhile we have a rental car (thanks to the insurance company) and some elevated stress - but everyone is OK.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Day 3.291: Counting crows...

I'm not sure why, but I rather like the look of this photo I took of a crow taking off from a tree in our neighbour's yard.

Would you like to take your last chance to play the first two parts of the zoo quiz I set back on Day 3.272? If so, go ahead and come back when you want to know the answers.

Did you guess that the rather pretty brown and grey parakeet was inside a walk-in bird enclosure? If so you are right.

Did you also guess that the crows were the animals not in an enclosure? If so, sorry I have totally misled you. No, the crows were in an enclosure and being studied for cognitive function - it's a crow-brainer. Sorry. The animal that was in the wild was the snake. Not the big green one, the garter snake in the top left corner.

For title watchers, today's answer is one or three (if you are really playing along).

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Day 3.290: Auto-incarceration

Just before lunchtime I had a call from Exile #2,
I've locked E5N1 in the car with the keys.

He's strapped into his car seat and can't wriggle out.

I'm at his pre-school. On a borrowed phone. Mine is in my bag. In the car.

So, I went home, got the spare key, drove to where they were and let him out (and her in).

Later, we wondered how it had happened since pressing the 'lock' button on the fob doesn't work if a door is open. It turned out that E5N1 had first climbed into the front, pressed the 'lock' switch on the driver's door which does work with the doors open and then climbed back into his seat. Exile #2 buckled him in, closed his door and...yep that was that.

So - he really locked himself in.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Day 3.289: Nearly missed...

On most mornings I would have been forced to speed on by the sight of the Hudson shrouded in mist as so many must have done this morning, but for a variety of reasons, I had the opportunity to pull into the Corning Preserve parking lot this morning and take some photos. I found it to be quite a magical experience.

Flawed though they undoubtedly are, I'm rather happy with the results.

Birds 1


Railroad bridge


The Flickr set (with a few more pictures) is here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Day 3.288: You take the high bed...

While Exile #2's parents were here, Exile #4 slept in Exile #3's room. It obviously made quite an impression.  This piece of work came home from school last week.

Apart from the mess, she also depicted how dark it was (she is used to a night-light, but didn't have one in her sister's room), and her low bed (air mattress) compared with her sister's extremely high one!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Day 3.287: Sunday Carvery

Since we bought pumpkins yesterday, it seemed only fair to do some carving today. In previous years I've taken a more supervisory role (i.e. watching) but this year I wanted to have a go and use someone else's artistic talent combined with my ability to follow instructions.

This is what I came up with (with some help and a lot of encouragement from the rest of the family):

Oh, and in case any US title-watchers are's a (mainly) British thing.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Day 3.286: At the pumpkin patch...

A friend of Exile #2's tipped us off about a local attraction. It sounded like it could be a fun way to spend an hour or so and do some essential seasonal shopping - so, after picking Exile #4 up from a lunchtime birthday party, we headed off to the wonderfully named Esperance NY to visit the Pumpkin Patch.

In the end we were there for nearly three hours and were driven away by the late hour and tiredness rather than boredom. There are a bunch of things to do - of the home-grown rather than slick variety - and almost all of them are free!

The maize maze, story-book pumpkin characters, playgrounds, hayrides and gorgeous views - all free.  We did pay a small amount for the pedal carts, and the apple cider and doughnuts.

An amazing three storey tree-house (+ basement) with stairs and alternative means of access to/from each floor, faces on trees, animals, a crawl-in hay maze and 'Through the Looking Glass' - a fun exhibit where you get to see yourself sticking your head through those ubiquitous pictures - except that these are constructed from costumes etc., not just paintings - all included in the entrance/parking fee of $0.

Oh yeah - there were pumpkins to pick too.  We did have to pay for those.  We took the large one in the middle of this picture home without paying though - since we'd taken him there with us.

It's not slick or fancy.  It's not an orchard (although they make very good cider doughnuts).  However, I couldn't be happier that we took the time to head over there (about 40 minutes from Albany) to visit it.

They are closed on Sundays and their fall season finishes next Saturday - so there are six more chances to "Pick a Pumpkin" this year.  Exile #4 was the only one who had anything bad to say about it - as she picked her way across the field - still in her party dress - she declared, "It's muddy!"  Dress for the farm if you go - Next time perhaps Exile #4 will go more appropriately dressed - and maybe I will leave my disco suit at home too.

Photos are here.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Day 3.285: We're such a musical family...

Personalize funny videos and birthday eCards at JibJab!

I know it's not Halloween yet, but I couldn't wait to share the joy!

Let me know which character(s) you like best in the comments. Happy weekend everyone!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Day 3.284: Stoned, Hemped and Magic Mushroomed

I took these pictures in Ithaca Commons back on Day 3.273.  It was Exile #2 who pointed out the name of Ithaca Hemp's neighbour and, as for these mushrooms,a touch of magic indeed to have made them out of strips of plastic bags.

No wonder Ithaca seems such a laid-back place.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Day 3.283: He wants to be a Jedi...

E5N1, through his 10 year-old buddy next door started to take an interest in Star Wars over the summer. Eventually I realised that it was probably time to introduce the kids to it, so they watched the movies in the obviously correct order: 4,5,6,1,2,3.

Exile #4 was pleased to discover there was a princess in it and so it wasn't just a 'boy-film'. In fact, for weeks after they first watched it she could be heard asking "Will someone get this big walking carpet out of my way?" at the slightest provocation.

In the end, they all enjoyed them all and I found the prequel trilogy a lot more compelling when I happened to see a bit of it over their shoulders than I had found it the first time round.

Soon after all this, I started to see adverts from Amazon for 'Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II', an Xbox 360 game that was about to be released - so naturally with my mind turned in that direction, I promptly ordered a copy of 'Star Wars: The Force Unleashed' which was by now several years old and less than $20. I've been rather enjoying it. his father.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Day 3.282: SONOSings

Some of you will remember that I wrote a rather gushing review of our night at The Linda seeing the a cappella group Sonos perform. After the concert was over, I managed to secure one of the four CDs they had brought with them and I think it is only fair that I write a quick review. The summary is as follows: it is great but flawed.

Let me start by saying that the song choice is wonderful - not obvious choices but a very varied collection of really lovely songs. The first track is a great example "Re: Stacks" by Bon Iver. I may have heard it (apparently it was used in House M.D.) but I definitely knew nothing about either the band or the track. The performance is close to classic a cappella - no beat-boxing or special effects just six vocals interlocking, providing accompaniment and harmony in turn weaving a tapestry.

The second song is the Radiohead track that was the reason we went to see them, "Everything in its Right Place" It is a good version, but reveals one of the problems with the recording project. Everyone knows that with a little technology voices can be made pitch-perfect and to sound like almost anything so the magic gets a little lost - it's like listening to drums and keyboards and knowing it isn't doesn't quite bring back the magic of seeing the six of them producing their music with just their voices on stage.

On the third track they were joined by its writer and original singer Sara Bareilles and they do a great job with her track - I start to feel some of the energy we saw in them live here. Although I have to say that wonderful though Sara's voice may be, Jessica gave just as compelling a rendition when they did this live.

Next comes "I want you back" - but this is nothing like the Jackson Five version of the song. Here they show their arrangement skills brewing something dark and desperate from the same ingredients that became sweet and smooth in the Jacksons' hands.  "I was blind to let you go..." Really good.

"Again and Again" (The Bird and The Bee) is probably my favourite - although along with the next track "Little Bird" it has some of the  issues with over processing and resulting coldness.

Imogen Heap's "Come Here Boy" turns up the sensuality - just as it did live and is followed by the only song that I prefer on the CD compared with the live experience, "Enjoy the Silence" by Depeche Mode.  Both lovely lovely lovely.

The next two tracks are compelling but are the point of greatest divergence from my usual musical taste a track by neo-soul composer Lewis Taylor and one by Rufus Wainwright.

Probably the track we wanted to hear again the most after the live experience is up next "Joga" which has no right to be as good as it is being sung by someone other than Björk.

The album ends as it started with a beautiful and simple and relatively traditional a cappella version of Fleet Foxes' "White Winter Hymnal" which seems to be a foreshadowing of their next CD - with a 'Holiday' theme which is out in a few weeks and will, I hope, join our rapidly expanding collection of good mid-winter festival music - joining Tori Amos and Sufjan Stevens and the iTunes download of "A Fairytale of New York"! I will let you know how it stacks up.

I would love you all to buy or download and listen and tell me what you think but if you have the chance to see them live - do not miss out  - that is where the magic really happens.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Day 3.281: Monte-story

Exile #3 was three years old - just a little older than E5N1 is now - when Exile #2 and I first came to Albany. One of our priorities in deciding whether to move here was to find a suitable way to continue her education. She was enrolled in a fantastic nursery school (state funded half-days) in the UK and we knew that state school would not be available until five here and probably then only half-days - so we went to visit some private schools with pre-school and elementary offerings to at least bridge the gap.

One of the schools we visited was a Montessori School. Montessori is an alternative education method used all over the world and we were open to loving it. In fact, we ran a mile - we foresaw in its 'work' and quiet and orderliness a stifling of our little girl's creativity and self-expression. We will never know if we were right as she went to a wonderful school which helped developed her self-confidence and love of learning in completely different ways.

After some time looking for pre-school for E5N1 however, we ended up enrolling him in Montessori. It is a small pre-school only programme and not much like the place we visited back in 2006. Also E5N1 is not much like his sister was at this age.

Today, I got the chance to visit his school with Exile #2 and Exile #4 while Exile #3 was at her gymnastics class. It was great!

Great to see him thriving and loving his 'work', great to see him putting stuff away carefully when he was done with it, great to see him interacting so wonderfully with his teacher.

So good that we only remembered about picking Exile #3 up when it was time for her class to finish a 15-20 minute drive away. Oops! Fortunately, she is becoming a very self-possessed and confident child and didn't really miss a beat as a result of my lateness.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Day 3.280: Some falls are bigger than others

After we all made it safely back from the 'Trail of Certain Death' yesterday, today E5N1 fell down the stairs. All the way down them - landing in an uncomfortable heap at the bottom. He's fine. Completely fine.

I'm reading a great book of short stories by Maile Meloy called 'Half in Love' at the moment. Last night I read one that features a father who suddenly has a brush with death and rushes to the place his children have gone to with a premonition of something terrible. It's funny how our brains work.

A little while after the stairs incident today, Exile #2 pointed this out - sometimes I'm sure E5N1 can secretly read and write! And while we're at it, you can have this as pop pun 116 for title watchers as Anthony said to Cleopatra as he opened a crate of ale.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Day 3.279: Water cuts both ways

With apologies to anyone who hoped that this post would be about water jet cutting.

Not for the first time we took a cue from All Over Albany and went out in search of a new waterfall or two to enjoy after the rain over the last few days. The Plotter Kill Nature Preserve just outside Schenectady won our attention and we had an exciting walk there.  In fact, Exile #2 found the combination of trails along the edge of precipices, erratic children, steep uneven climbs and descents and the stream fording a little too exciting and has been referring to it as the 'trail of certain death'. We are, however, all still alive and well at this end of the day.

Firstly, the waterfalls: they were on good form - this is two pictures of the upper falls and two of a small cascade below them.

On the other hand, the water also made the trails quite soggy and slippery when they got steep (to be fair in the top right picture here we had accidentally strayed from the trail!) and, when the trail crossed a stream (just at the bottom of the bottom-left picture here), we had to resort to taking off shoes and socks and paddling though!  Exile #2 and I waded over (I carried the others) and Exile #3 joined us in paddling on the way back over.

Click on either collage for the Flickr slideshow of the same photos.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Day 3.278: My grainy day...

I couldn't resist another photo from this series today - it kind of summed things up. Exile #2's migraine which was annoying yesterday was debilitating today and unfortunately she has been advised off her drugs (which work) because of side-effects, so it was a day of darkened rooms and misery for her - and another day at home for me. The school run, followed by a quiet morning, then shopping at the hardware store with E5N1.

On the way back he picked up the saw I'd bought (it was safely encased I might add):
Daddy, I've got your big knife.
It's not a knife - it's a saw.
Oh - a sword!  What's it for?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Day 3.277: I must be kidding!

Exile #2 had an appointment this morning, so I hung out at home long enough to see the girls onto their bus and then took E5N1 to 'school' down the road before heading off to work.

It was fun. And a little strange.

Caption suggestions anyone?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Day 3.276: Look what's falling now!

It's not even the middle of Autumn/Fall. This is what should be falling about now:

(This was in the Penguin enclosure at the zoo in Binghampton - I rather like it.  I caused some confusion I think as everyone assumed I'd spotted something a bit more full of life in the water when I was taking it!)

However, this is today's forecast for a town about 50 miles away from here:

Do you see that? SNOW!  Seriously?  Give it until November at least!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Day 3.275: Fall, falls

On Sunday, after driving from Binghampton to Ithaca, we visited Buttermilk Falls site of one of my favourite blog post title puns. There was a lot more water coming down them (something of a theme recently huh?) during this autumnal visit than was the case two years and 40 days ago, and I think you can see how they got their name.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Day 3.274: Sciencenter

After our urgent-care visit in Ithaca last night, we were all feeling relatively well this morning, so we were at Sciencenter waiting for it to open at 10 am and had a great couple of hours there.  We could easily have stayed much longer!

It is very much in the same mould as the Montshire Museum.  In summary, if you're in the Ithaca area with an excuse (probably in the form of a child or two) go and have fun discovering!

Here is a little montage of clips about sound from our time in the outdoor section of the Sciencenter this morning:

We had a rather nice three hour drive home. The first section was spectacular thanks to the Fall colours and we are happy to be back and relatively well (for now at least!)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Day 3.273: An urgent discovery

I took this photo this morning because Exile #4 and her Nan looked like two peas in a pod.  However, it turns out that our middle child has been centre-stage today.

If you were watching my twitter feed yesterday, you would know that we were in two-minds about even leaving on this trip because E5N1 was unwell.  Well, just when we thought we had gambled and won, last night Exile #4 woke twice complaining of earache.  She seemed better this morning and spent most of the day doing OK - if a little floppier than usual.

However, late this afternoon she started getting worse and developed a fever.  So - we were wondering what to do.  We are away from home and have a child with a fever at 6pm on a Sunday night.  So, we called the insurance company - who told us to go to the Emergency Room.

We ignored their advice and searched for urgent care centers in this town instead.  I'm glad we did - she was in and out in about an hour and a half with syringed ears, a  diagnosis, a dose of antibiotic and a prescription to pick up tomorrow.  We had a late dinner, and now she is in bed - hopefully we can manage one more visit to make the most of the travelling hours before we have to repeat them on the way home.

If you are puzzling over yesterday's clue to our location - we have moved now, but the title was a clue - and relates to longevity. I'll give you another chance. Here's a picture of us all from outside the hotel there this morning - it was quite cold!