Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Day 3.324: Leaving it late

It's three weeks since we had our first snow. That's not particularly unusual or noteworthy really, but the last time the town made it round to collect our leaves was before that.

Since then we have raked the majority of our leaves (maybe as much as 1/3 had gone in previous collections) and at one point I had the grass almost perfectly leaf-free. Then came the wind and blew them right back over the front yard! On Sunday, Exile #2 raked again, then on Monday they didn't come again. Today we had high winds forecast again, so it was with much joy that we saw the collection truck coming along this morning before I left for work. With lots of rain as well as the wind on the way, we are very pleased to be saying goodbye to these leaves. It's like an early Christmas present!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Day 3.323:"Wrens sell 'ere!" "No, wrens slur!"

Sunday morning found us in need of some run-around-outdoors time, so we braved the cold to visit a small park in in Rensselaer, just across the Hudson from downtown Albany.

The park is right where the highway would be if the bridge to nowhere didn't stop abruptly on this side of the river and is surrounded completely by the ramps up onto the bridge. The kids played on the structure and the even braved the see-saws or 'teeter-totters of terror' as Exile #2 dubbed them, and then we had a fairly epic game of tag on the basketball courts.

The park also offers some different views of some of Albany's downtown sights including the USS Slater which is about to leave for its winter home elsewhere.

After spotting yesterday's litter notice, we walked around the park. Each side of every concrete bridge support has been painted, presumably by an army of local artists. I'm sure they all looked stunning when they were new, but for me their worn and faded looks make them even more appealing.

All these photos and more in the Flickr set.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Day 3.322: "Don't litter" litter!

We went to the Riverfront Park in Rensselaer this morning. It was cold, but we had a great time. I'll post more pictures later in the week when I've had a chance to spend some time on it, but Exile #3 was particularly excited about my sharing this...

The kids spotted an icy puddle (I'm sure the novelty will wear off soon) - then Exile #3 noticed a piece of paper in the mud under the ice.  It reads, "Keep your city clean".  She was delighted by the irony - that's my girl!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Day 3.321: Junior bowling

The kids had identified going bowling as one of the activities they wanted to fit into this long weekend, so this morning we headed off to Spare Time in East Greenbush. The parking lot had several cars in it - unlike our last visit. Nevertheless, it was something of a surprise to be told that we were getting the 'last available lane' since the place seemed far from full. It turned out that after we had been there for a few minutes, the place came alive with a youth bowling event of some sort. This had little effect on us - except for our bowling skills being shown up by people less than a quarter of our age.

Despite the name of the place, bowling is seen as a sport rather than a recreational activity here. People take it very seriously and obviously get their kids in training as soon as they can pick up a ball - and sometimes before. In this, as in many other things we are failing the young Exiles - although they did have a good time which was our purpose for the trip!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Day 3.320: Fire and Ice

We had another fire this evening following from the success of yesterday's. It certainly turns the bedtime story experience (currently The Tales of Beedle the Bard and The Magician's Nephew) into a more magical and memorable one.

However, that is not the fire I was thinking of. After a bit of Black Friday shopping (albeit rather non-traditional - at the Fair Trade Market in Delmar) this morning, we braved the cold to have a short hike at Thacher State Park this afternoon.

These photos and more in the Flickr set

When we arrived we were rather surprised to find a large group gathering for a picnic - and less surprised that their first act was to start a fire. It was cold. Well, I should say it felt cold as I'm sure that in real terms there is much much colder to come.

Even though we were feeling the chill in the air, we were still surprised to come across a patch of ice on the trail - the days of it being a novelty are surely numbered at this time of year.

The top of the ridge was warmer - surprisingly. Presumably it was due to getting a bit more of the fading afternoon sun's warmth. Also, our path was mainly downhill once we made it that far - which probably helped the positive feelings. By the time we passed the picnic again, there were sausages cooking on the fire - all very appetising, but we were more than content to go home to eat!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Day 3.319: Thanksgiving: dinner, dance!

We had as close to a traditional Thanksgiving as a bunch of British ex-pats could muster. Our guests were T & S and family - they were the first friends to get a 'name'-check on the blog back on Day 17 - nearly 1400 posts/days ago.

This is how our day went:

Preparation - including Exile #2 making it clear she wanted me to stay-out-of-the-kitchen, dinner (not pictured) - which was excellent featuring Turkey, lots of vegetables, pies (pumpkin and key-lime), and then Kinect dancing (and other games) by adults and children alike followed by a very chilly group photograph on the deck.  For comparison, here is a group shot from three and a half years ago.

We had a great day. This evening we lit the fire and had a little picnic, a game of Uno and then bedtime stories in front of it.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Day 3.318: E5N1isms

Here are E5N1 and Exile #4 with their...well about half the time he'd say 'lightsabers' but the the other half he still calls them 'life-savers'.

He also says a lot of words as if he has read them, but has simplistic rules of pronunciation.  So, for instance he would say that last weekend I rake-ed the leave-es.

Most of these things we have got fairly used to, but that doesn't mean he has lost the ability to make us laugh with his unique approach to life.

The other day he was playing with a ball that rolled underneath the TV stand.  He went to collect it but turned to Exile #2 looking a little worried, "There's a spider there."

"That's OK," she replied, "the spider won't hurt you."

He processed this and turned back to the task in hand, "Excuse me spider, can I please get my ball?"  As he approached it, it ran away.  "Oh, thank you spider," he said and retrieved his ball and went back to what he was doing.

Day 3.317: Two birds, too bad

Birds 1
Originally uploaded by theexileinny
So, this week is right up there with my worst work weeks ever. Maybe not top, but close. Quite something considering it was only two days long.

On a brighter note, this photo was voted as the winner in the K200D challenge on Flickr. Even this silver lining has a cloud however - I became responsible for setting and running the next challenge. So far so good.

By the way, if you want to see some of my photos that Flickr has decided are 'interesting' this is a nice way to do so,

Monday, November 22, 2010

Day 3.316: The one in Mexico!

I had a lousy day at work today, so let's think about happier times...

E5N1 and I had a crafty day on Sunday. First we spent some time playing with play dough after breakfast. We made snakes and baskets and spaghetti and meatballs and finally, I made this:

He decided it was Exile #2, but I must confess that I set my sights only on just making it recognisably a face.

Later, I made a small model of the Eiffel Tower out of a few Duplo blocks that had previously been a sword. E5N1 said, "No, make the other tower - the one in Mexico!" After he rejected several of the suggestions my Google image search found, he finally declared, "Yes that one!"

And so we made it.  I think we did quite well - given the medium.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Day 3.315: Stir-up Sunday

Late this morning, Exile #2 sent me to the liquor store in search of cognac and rum. This was neither related to the girls' absence at their respective sleep-overs nor was it the cause of the family's extreme lack of energy during the afternoon and evening. Rather, as I told the person who served me, we were preparing to celebrate 'Stir-up Sunday'. She looked slightly blank. I explained and then admitted that the bottles of ginger wine and limoncello were for drinking (but not today).

So, while today Anglicans were praying, "Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; ..." households across the UK were stirring-up their Christmas pudding mixture to give the puddings time to mature before they are needed - and so were we.

Gluten-free, dairy-free, calorie-packed goodness!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Day 3.314: Flying downwind

We had a packed day. In the morning I ran the lawnmower around the yard to pick up the straggling leaves and add them to the huge piles at the roadside. It was gratifyingly successful - dealing with pine needles and small seeds much better than the rake does - and using significantly less effort.

After lunch both Exile #3 and Exile #4 headed off to separate sleep-overs and the remainder of the family went off on a fruitless shopping trip looking for a reasonably priced wardrobe - it turns out that wardrobes are an exotic item of furniture here (presumably because everyone has built-in closets) and hard to find at any price.

When we got back it was time to get ready for Rock Band night - much quieter than last week and not just because of the absence of the girls - but good nevertheless. We ended the evening by introducing J & T to the Kinect sensor. They played several of the Kinect Adventures mini-games - this was weightless bubble popping in space:

As we said goodbye to them, I saw my handiwork in the front yard. Or rather I didn't. We have had a very windy afternoon and a huge number of leaves have blown from our side-of-the-road piles back onto my briefly-cleared lawn. Ah well, tomorrow is another day.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Day 3.313: Some spice, only a little Blue

We have a visitor at work at the moment - a colleague recently returned from here to the UK and now doing some contract work for the company.  To celebrate his visit, three of us went out for dinner this evening.  He is staying in the Wolf Road area and it was about 8pm by the time we were ready to eat.

We ended up at the Blue Spice Thai Restaurant on Central Ave.  When we got there I immediately had deja vu - only realising a little later that I had been there before - when it was still a Mexican restaurant called Garcia's.  The ambiance has changed a lot since then - I rather like the open feel with its unusual patio-furniture styling, but there was not much in the way of atmosphere except for frustrated customers.

My frustration started with the no-alcohol situation.  I was ready for a beer by then, after that it wasn't that the service was bad - it was just a bit chaotic.  Two soups came out long before the spring rolls (which looked almost too good to eat and tasted equally good), the Shrimp Tom Yum soup was rather good too.

As we ate I watched several other tables having problems with their orders or some food coming out with others waiting.  So, when our main courses arrived all together I was relieved.  But too soon.  The vegetarian in the group definitely did not have the tofu he had ordered in his red curry.  So - for the second time he watched us eat until his food arrived.  The food was good.  I had the Gaanploo Duck which was excellent and the others reported satisfaction with theirs too.  In all, with a generous-in-the-circumstances tip it was $28 a head.  Nice - but not for those obsessed about attentive and accurate logistics or for anyone who's in need of a drink!

After visiting a couple of places with too-loud-for-us music, we ended up having a beer at the Recovery Room off Wolf Road - all's well that ends with watching seven different sporting events at once!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Day 3.312: Black and Blue (and White)

Thanks to All Over Albany, I read this story today about there still being a lot of leaves in the trees with November drawing to a close. Most of ours are down now, although I could certainly do one more raking session - we have quite impressive piles at the roadside waiting for our collection.

By March I will be longing to see some leaves on the trees, but at this end of the winter, the starkness of bare branches against the sky is still doing it for me. This was at Five Rivers a couple of weeks ago - the more I look at it the more I realise how lucky I was to catch some of the branches in sunlight and some in shade.  Well, I like it anyway!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Day 3.311: Fall's not just for leaves

...or even leaves and snow - sometimes it's for whole trees.

When the tree people came back in October to cut down some of our trees and do some other arboreal maintenance, Exile #2 decided to document it for me. Unfortunately her attempt to get a sequel to our classic first YouTube video failed when the muncher got jammed and she decided that discretion should win out and stopped the camera rather than risk capturing an industrial unblocking accident unfold. No such event happened of course - I'm sure they were very careful and professional.

In any case, as a result of that disappointment, I missed this completely. It was E5N1 who found it while playing back random video clips in Picasa yesterday -

- so you can thank him. Probably more than his colleagues were thanking the guy with the chainsaw for his shouted warning in the clip.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Day 3.310: Gingerbread love

The kids made gingerbread men this afternoon. In addition to these, they made some more straightforward ones with smiles and less added sugar. There were just enough for them all to have one with their lunch tomorrow and leave one more each, but when she realised that I was going to miss out, Exile #3 said that I had to have one and I could have one of hers!

And now to show-and-tell.

Exile #3's reflected her personality: sweet and orderly:

Exile #4's reflected hers: surprised and blinged-up:

And E5N1's...

Was half-eaten sugary chaos.

Enough said.

P.S. This is not an accurate assessment of any of my children's characters - it is their handiwork though.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Day 3.309: Talking trash?

I may have mentioned it before, but the trash collection is done by one man in a truck here. He doesn't have to get out of the cab. This is how he does it.

Talking of videos - I just noticed that the audio-swap finally completed on the last one I posted. Feel free to enjoy the leaf-pile removal all over again!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Day 3.308: Signs of life?

It's just over two months since our first visit to Phillipinkill Preserve. Technically it was still summer then, but the intervening seventy days have seen this piece of woodland shut down for winter.

Apart from a few rather dessicated berries and some rustling leaves still clinging to the otherwise bare branches, there were no signs of life except ourselves. Which is not to say we had a disappointing trip - we wanted to get out for a short walk and enjoy the glorious weather - and that is what we did. The openness of the woodland at this time of year provides views that are obscured in more lively seasons and, in preparation for the arrival of lasting snow, the thick leaf cover obscures the trails and forced us to look for trail markers on the trees (and required the smallest member of the party to pick up his feet) to prevent the trip becoming too free-form.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Day 3.307: Early adopter

I've never been a particularly early adopter of technology - at least, not for a while. I did queue up to buy my ZX Spectrum pretty much as soon as it became available in 1982 (it was the 48K version too - no messing around with 16K), but after that things went downhill. I got my first mobile (cell) phone in 2000 and my first (and only to-date) digital music player in 2006.

However, we obtained Kinect - the motion-gaming controller for Xbox 360 - a week after its US launch and are thoroughly enjoying this technology. We have been throwing ourselves around to the mini-games that make up Kinect Adventures for a couple of evenings in a row, and today we introduced the kids to Kinectimals and they have been loving adopting their cuddly big-cat cubs. Here is Exile #3 with her lion cub Leo. The other new members of the family are a leopard cub called Sunshine and Fluffy, a young black panther. So now, we are all early adopters.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Day 3.306: British and PROUD!

At the beginning of the week, I found myself doing a quick family grocery-shop at a different supermarket than usual: the Price Chopper on Central Ave in Albany.

Unlike our local Price Chopper, this one proudly labels its 'British' food section.  The foods are much the same as in the apologetically unlabeled section closer to home, but it's nice to see such elements of national pride as salad cream, wine gums and Robinson's barley water getting the international recognition they deserve.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Day 3.305: Last of the first snow of the season

Snowmen are great!  They are fun to make, fun to decorate, fun to look out at and...they keep the snow around for a little longer.  This was this morning.  This evening there is a little smudge on the ground.  Tomorrow it will probably be gone.

Veterans' Day is one of the days I feel most like a foreigner here.  Although, the UK will have been marking Remembrance Day today, here the focus is very much on those who have served or are serving in the US Military - it brings out the best of pride and nationalism and little (that I have seen) of the worst of those things.  Still, I am not an American and on days like today I feel it more than on others.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Day 3.304: The ultimate tie-in toy?

Exile #2 spotted these when we were in Target on Monday morning (during the snow), this is a Lego Toy Story set featuring Lego versions of the little plastic soldiers from the Toy Story films.

So, these are toy-styled toy versions of toy characters in a film.

Now all we need is for Toy Story 4 to feature these Lego plastic soldiers and then for some other toy brand to license them in their own style...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Day 3.303: The day before the snow...

...we got a fair deal of raking done and - thanks to a neighbour's tarpaulin and some help from the kids - the leaves were beside the road before the snow came.

The front yard is another matter alas...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Day 3.302: Bowling, buying, building and balling

I took the day off work today so that we could pick up a car that we bought on Saturday. Nothing to do with our van which is at the body-shop being fixed and will be for another week or so at least - this was a replacement for my Jetta - which had an eventful final journey today.

We'd decided to go with E5N1 to pick up the new car after picking him up from school at lunchtime, so we had the morning to occupy by ourselves. A hike was the plan, but the threat of almost constant rain put us off. It's probably just as well. Instead we went bowling:

The rain was actually some light sleet (ice pellets) when we arrived there.  By the time we had proved our lack of skills to ourselves in the otherwise deserted establishment it had changed...to snow.

The snow continued to fall as we picked E5N1 up, went to the car dealership and then went to get a late lunch.

We got home a few minutes before it was time for the girls to get off the bus.  It had turned into a quite convincingly snowy day and it was still falling.

Instead of sitting them down to do some homework when they got home, I dragged them out to build a snowman.  We were joined by their two-doors-down friend who was celebrating an unusually wintry birthday.

We followed up with a snowball fight that E5N1 got into - not something that he would have had much tolerance of last winter.    Quite good all round.