Saturday, December 31, 2011

Day 4.355: Numbers...

The Exile New Year is still ten days away, but we have been celebrating the Gregorian one today. We celebrated at midnight GMT with BBC Radio 2 streaming over the Internet.

It looked like this:

and this:

Afterwards we had a thoroughly British dinner of roast beef, Yorkshire pudding etc, and followed it with apple crumble.  Smashing.

Happy New Year to all!

Of course, The Exile calendar means that there are thirteen months in the year, January appearing as the first twenty-two days and the last nine.  So, if I was to think in months as well as years and days, today would be 12.31 - which would make tomorrow...

Friday, December 30, 2011

Day 4.354: Five Rivers minus one

We were 'minus two' at Five Rivers today - as only three of us went during the overlap between a late-morning cinema trip for Exile #3 and an early afternoon play-date for Exile #4.

Winter finally has its grip on the place - there really is "THIN ICE" to justify the sign and it was suitably cold despite the lack of snow.

The 'minus one' refers to water courses though.  The icy stream in the top center is the newly engineered consolidated path of a stream that used to largely take a different course into the main pond.  It was dammed rather effectively by beavers this year unfortunately making it rather difficult to keep the trails around the pond passable.  Now it has been redirected spoiling the previous engineering work of the beavers and emptying their elevated water section beside the pond.

I'm glad to be able to walk these trails again but I hope that the beavers are alive and well - by the recent tree-felling I suspect they recently were - and planning their next engineering project.  Perhaps they will wait for some better building weather though.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Day 4.353: Bennett Hill Revisited

We first visited Bennett Hill Preserve about a year and a half ago on Day 3.188. Last spring I went back for a brief visit with Exile #3 on Day 4.090.  This morning we took the opportunity of a dry, sunny and snow-free winter's day to attempt the hike again.

I say attempt because this is quite challenging for us - it's a nearly three mile round-trip the way we did it (taking the short route at the summit and looping down the red trail having ascended the green):

it's about at the limit with the kids the ages they are of what we want to attempt as a pre-lunch outing.

Here are some of the wintery things we saw, frozen streams, hardy fungi, cows in brown fields eating feed, a sink-hole (I suppose) and, for good measure, a picture of Exile #3 looking curiously at an apparently chainsawed-then-deserted stump:

and I know people say that icing sugar looks like snow, but I'd never seen snow looking so much like icing sugar:

Here are the kid enjoying the walk through the varied landscapes, including passing through the eye of the tree, some sunshine at the summit and the steep bit of the red trail:

OK - yes - E5N1 was not really enjoying it at that point, but he perked up when we found the bath tub, when we got to the top and he will probably smile when he sees this picture of Exile #2.

He was also quite happy to be pretending to be my new hat.

Pictures are here.

We came home to have hot chocolate, light a fire, play some games and read some books and generally feel good about the world.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Day 4.352: Toxophily

Regular readers may recall that while Hurricane Irene was approaching New York, we were in England enjoying garden fetes and archery practice. The archery was such a hit - especially with Exile #4 - that it was sad we had to leave it behind as we continued our trip.

So, we suggested that someone might like to get her a set for Christmas - and my parents did just that.  We took it out yesterday.  The set is rather good, by which I mean I find it easier to get the arrows to fly than I did with the other one.   We all had a turn, but Exile #4 continued for quite some time until it started to rain.

The box has a couple of rather cryptic captions.  "Laser Not Included" as well as the downright obscure "Super Toxophily Set".  I guessed what it meant, but I checked so as to be sure: it means that there is no laser in the box.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Day 4.351: Ice palaces

On Christmas Eve, we had a walk at Five Rivers. We walked the Turkey Trail, unfortunately I have inexplicably lost the pictures I took with my compact camera including a modern-day recreation of this shot from our first walking of that trail back on Day 18 - suffice it to say the girls are quite a lot older and taller and E5N1 is...well, is.

There were sheets of ice to pick up, look through and drop:

But Exile #2 made the most startling discovery in the woods.  Underneath the fallen leaves were needle-like ice crystals apparently lifting them off the muddy ground.  Exile #4 dubbed them ice palaces - they look a bit like miniature Fortresses of Solitude to me.

They were hard to photograph so I found something easier.

I'm finding this so-far-almost-snowless winter surprisingly photogenic.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Day 4.350: RamsHorn-Livingston I presume?

With temperatures in the 40's - well above average for this time of year - and the promise of some dry weather, we decided to get out an about.  We took another trip down the Hudson to a Scenic Hudson/Audubon property we thought we'd been to before - but hadn't!

The RamsHorn-Livingston Sanctuary has a strange name, a strange claim-to-fame and a little under two miles of trails.  The claim-to-fame is that it is a rare freshwater tidal swamp - yes really!

Anyway, we had a very nice visit - the bleakness of the season suited the landscape and it was bug-free - I can only imagine what it might be like in the summer.

E5N1 seemed to be trying his hand at planking - I don't think he's got it quite down yet.

His puddle-splashing was much more convincing:

We climbed the large and sturdy observation tower.

The views were probably not the most exciting today:

The close-ups were more to my taste.

We walked maybe a mile and a half of the trails - a mixture of swamp and woodland with a view over to the Catskills from the far edge of the woods (top left of collage). Photos are here.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Day 4.349: Best day ever!

I might not have gone that far - but E5N1 did and it's true that we had a a lovely day.

It included happy chaos:

Harry Potter Lego:

hammering things:

and dancing:

As well as eating, drinking, talking to family in the UK, playing new games, doing jigsaw puzzles and flying a helicopter (RC).  The day ended, just like last Christmas with the kids in bed and the grown-ups* watching Doctor Who.

I hope your day was as good as ours, and if not, I hope that tomorrow will be, or the day after that...

* a dubious epithet in this household admittedly.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Day 4.347: Party dissolves into...

...well, actually, quiet reading!

I visited Exile #4's class today for her holiday party for the last school day of 2011.

Towards the end I caught her reading a book to her best friend's little sister.

Now that's a wild party right there.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Day 4.346: XPF

I went for a six mile run this morning. Just as well really, because I seem to have spent the rest of the day eating.

Because we are 'observing' the 'holiday' of Christmas Eve tomorrow, today was virtual-Friday at lunchtime, so we had a group of nine at Sushi X where we - true to the concept - had as much as we could eat.

Then, this evening we capitalised on having a babysitting offer to go out for a date-night.

When Exile #2 explained why she wasn't eating with the kids, they tried to imagine where we might go:

E5N1: McDonalds?
Exile #3: Chili's is nice?!
E5N1: Wendy's?
Exile #4: No...that other to L.L.Bean...

She was right as it turned out, although whether she influenced the decision is moot. We went to PF Chang where the gluten free options are good. We shared GF Mongolian Beef, GF Buddha's Feast and the flourless chocolate dome. The Buddha's Feast is really just a pile of steamed vegetables - but it was a nice counterpoint to the sticky salty sweet deliciousness of the beef.

All very good and I promise to run some more miles soon.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Day 4.345: Stencils out

As you may recall, we were talking a few days ago about E5N1 having his stencils out.  Well here is photographic evidence that it happened today.

"I love shapes!" he declared to Exile #2.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Day 4.344: The Candy-cane Destroyer

E5N1 finished school in the middle of last week, but the girls are still in until the end of this week. So, Exile #2 and E5N1 had the day together today - it sounds like they had fun.

They managed to fit in a successful trip to the supermarket and some football (soccer) and baseball but the activity that really caught my ear was the making of these cookies.

They are based on this recipe for Chocolate Peppermint Bark given a gluten-free twist with the help of Gluten-Free Girl and The Chef.  Exile #2 made the shortbread and the dark chocolate layer, but it was E5N1 who drizzled the white chocolate and crushed and sprinkled the candy-canes.  Somehow it's not hard to imagine the enthusiasm he had for those activities.

Having sampled them at dinner time, I can report their efforts were definitely successful (in both form and function)!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Day 4.343: Crazy days

I'm a little tired. This week is looking crazy at work and there are a load of things that have to be done at home before the weekend. Combined with that, I'm training and hoping to be up to running a half marathon (weather and health permitting) on New Year's Day.

And of course that's on top of the rocking...

Personalize funny videos and birthday eCards at JibJab!

Hopefully I'll muster up some at least vaguely interesting content this week, but as the header says, "You get what we get and you don't get upset!" or words to that effect.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Day 4.342: First and third

I took these about a week ago.  For E5N1, it was a continuation of a tradition I started last year to do a school-portrait style photo to send out with the girls' actual school portraits.  This year Exile #3 was added to the session because we'd rejected her first school photo and the retaken ones didn't arrive in time (we've got them now and they are pretty good).

Sadly, with her school smile in the bank, I couldn't persuade Exile #4 to have an extra one done at the same time, but I'm quite happy with how these two came out.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Day 4.341: Cold walk, warm fire

Our friends are on a flying visit from New York city today. They were coming upstate to visit a possible wedding venue and came the extra hour to see us - hooray!

They arrived after lunch and after plying them with tea and demands to play from the kids, we suggested a short walk at Five Rivers.

It was quite cold:

so we were ready for this:

and hot cocoa and mulled wine.