Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Day 5.050: Snow place - like, home!

So, it snowed at last!

We had a few inches this afternoon - Exile #2 shovelled the driveway twice.

We're due some more overnight and the kids are, well, sleeping - but somehow still anticipating the possibility of a snow-day tomorrow. We'll see.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Day 5.049: Go through the side...

...when you go into the kitchen.

That was E5N1's warning to me after Exile #2 hung this creation of his over the kitchen threshold.

In fact, as long as I don't take it at speed, it barely brushes the top of my head even if I take the central route.

He made the hanging items while the girls were making models for a school project and then took his time to paint them.  Exile #2 was so impressed it had to take pride of place - and it's just a bonus that it continues our plan to punish tall people*.

* that is a joke of course - we love tall people - even if they can reach the top shelf in the supermarket without assistance.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Day 5.048: Water, water, water...

When I was young I made something of a habit of falling in water.  On at least one occasion this happened on a cold day several miles from the car.

So I had some concerns when I found out that the girls were having a conversation as we walked on Saturday about what we would do if E5N1 fell in the pond.  Maybe it was this that caused me to divert up the new, long and dry trail into the woods away from the pond.  Of course, if it was that, I must have forgotten that the trail ends at (or crosses) a stream at a shallow (and rather attractive) bend.

I should have had further concerns when I saw the look of glee on his face and watched him attempting the stepping stones.

He didn't fall.  Not until a few minutes later anyway.  Fortunately the shallow water only managed to get him wet and not soak him to the skin.

Water does hold a fascination though.  For instance, this that we saw when we were at the side of the thinly iced-over pond.


I thought it was fairly eerie before I added the music.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Day 5.047: Firefly's lit up our world

I move in pretty geeky circles both in real life and online so it is something of a surprise that it was only a few weeks ago that Exile #2 and I watched our first episode of Firefly.

This TV series was broadcast in 2002 and was cancelled after 14 episodes.  Honestly, having watched the first six episodes, I can see both why it has such a faithful following and why it was cancelled.

It's a strange wild-west-meets-space concept, but like all good sci-fi and fantasy it's not actually about that - it's about relationships and human nature and good stories.

Episode 6, which we watched tonight, was one of the finest pieces of TV I've ever seen - funny, sexy, dramatic and suspenseful.  We'll be watching the rest of the series over the next few weeks thanks to Roku and Amazon Prime.  When we're done, we'll probably watch the 2005 movie follow-up Serenity again - we watched in 2006 when it came out on DVD but we'll probably appreciate more now.

Of course, our perceptions as life-long watchers of British TV of what 'a few episodes mean' may be different from our American friends.  Fawlty Towers for example - which ran for two full series - has fewer episodes than the prematurely-cancelled Firefly.  But that won't stop us joining the crowds of fans wondering why this sci-fi gem (or should I say Jewel?) burned so briefly.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Day 5.046: Five Rivers but no trees?

With a high wind warning in the weather forecast and a chill in the air, we decided to stay close to home.  The morning was rather snowy - amazingly, but although the wind got up as expected, during the afternoon the sun was trying to come out so we managed a visit to Five Rivers where we walked the Beaver Tree Trail and discovered, once again, that things had changed...

It was engineering work again - but this time neither performed or precipitated by the beavers.

The first sign were the deep ruts in the trail.

Then, the new bark chippings.

And finally, the newly tree-less vista at the lower end of the pond.

Exile #2 had overheard an explanation when she was here a few days ago - apparently there was a concern that the tree roots might undermine what is effectively a dam.

As we walked, the bright, occasionally sunny and windy conditions gave way to a few snow flurries again.

So we hurried on and made our way back to the car to retreat once again inside to listen to the wind in the trees.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Day 5.045: Can you can-can?

We were surprised at breakfast time today to hear E5N1 singing the can-can music.

At dinner time it was revealed that fresh from that triumph, his sisters had taught him the dance too.

Well, sort-of.

To be fair, Exile #3's rendition was a little closer to the real one, but nowhere near as funny as his.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Day 5.044: Fast food! Good toy?!

We are not immune to the call of fast food, although we try to eat in those places as little as possible.  On Monday evening, however, we found ourselves rather late in the day without any food prepared or in mind and decided to pack ourselves off to Wendy's.

I expect Wendy's food to be a little better than McDonalds and it works out a bit better for Exile #2 for GF stuff. However, I never hold out much hope for the toys that the kids inevitably get in their kid's meals.  Admittedly they almost never break and any that make noise will continue without hint of battery expiration for countless years, but in terms of actual play-value, most score close to zero.

This was an exception.  E5N1 got this excellent tracing machine.  The picture goes in the left side and then, looking at the reflection in the half-mirrored centre window, you can trace a mirror image of the drawing on the the other side.  Here he is in action:

He did several pictures as did Exile #4. Presumably Exile #3 is too cool for this now, but I'm not - when's my turn?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Day 5.043: Eau-lana

All Over Albany were kind enough to link to my report on our visit to Olana at the weekend.  Here are a couple of out-take shots.  We were surprised as we climbed back up the hill towards the path to see a new stream working its way down the hillside.

It was coming from the overflow from the water tower.  In fact, we discovered when we reached the top that the tower was also overflowing from the top, so I'm guessing that the overflow pipe is a little under-rated.  I don't know if it was an intentional flushing or a problem with the shut-off, but it made us notice the tank which might have otherwise, despite its size, been unremarkable.  Having noticed it, I have to say that it is one big water reservoir - and I am at a loss as to why it needs to be so huge!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Day 5.042: House of international pancakes

Today is Shrove Tuesday. Some know it as Mardi Gras or the rather prosaic translation Fat Tuesday, but for us Brits, it is above all Pancake Day.

Of course, the kids (if not all of us) have been more than slightly culturally contaminated by the last five years and forty-two days, but we knew today was about pancakes.

Alas, our first effort - at breakfast time - looked like this:

which may obey the letter of the law, but hardly captures the spirit of it.

At dinner time we tried again - and this time we got it about right I think - lemon juice, sugar and rolled up flat pancakes:

flipping fantastic!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Day 5.041: A dose of UV

It was a beautiful sunny day today (if a little cold) for the Presidents Day holiday, but the only UV light we sought out was the black-lights in the bowling alley.*

Exile #2 and Exile #3 had some good form.

Exile #4  also had some excellent moments and E5N1, well, he just did things his own way:

Most importantly, everybody declared it a good time - and this is how the scores ended up:

* Actually, the kids did have some outdoor time and presumably a minor UV top-up later in the afternoon.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Day 5.040: Things I learned at the park

Sometimes it's good to put 'treasure' in piles sorted by colour - especially if it's made of primary coloured plastic:

E5N1 also pointed out that this was (obviously) a truck:

when I'd been convinced for the last five years that it was a railway engine - because trucks aren't that shape back where we had been when we first saw it.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Day 5.039: Olana

In some ways, the places we haven't been in the last five years tell a story of their own. Today, two of those places - notable by our neglect - were suggested.  We decided on the nearer of the two and visited Olana - the extraordinary 19th century home of the painter Frederic Edwin Church. Hyde Park will wait for another day.

It's fair to say the fact that we no longer have really young children has an impact on what we think we can do successfully.

The house, and its location are stunning - even on a rather grey and flat day in the middle of winter.

And the views it has down the Hudson and over it to the Catskills are amazing.

But we spent most of our time walking (and skipping) a two mile circuit in the grounds - mostly very sheltered and not feeling much like February at all.  We saw a stand-off between a red-bellied and a downy woodpecker and allowed ourselves a peer in through the window of the house having decided that we weren't quite ready to inflict our not-really-young children on a guided tour of the inside.

It was altogether a very successful outing.  The photos are here.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Day 5.038: A losing battle

I was fighting off a cold last night. I didn't succeed.

I woke up feeling pretty terrible this morning, but managed to make it through the day.  I was tired and easily irritated, but I don't think any harm came of it.

Anyway - Exile #3 looks a bit like how I've been feeling in this photo from before we left for their starring moment yesterday.  In fact, she was just fighting to keep the red nose on.

She also lost that battle a moment later.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Day 5.037: It's time to meet the Muppets

I had the pleasure of attending the girls' school 'Lip Sync' tonight.  They were performing together in a group of their friends doing the Muppet Show Theme (it was an edit of the OK Go version).  They had a blast and did rather well.

There were a lot of other nice moments in the evening - with songs split fairly evenly between modern day songs and songs from their parents' generation (Grease, Saturday Night Fever, Walk This Way, Our Lips Are Sealed).

Several of the songs were edited judiciously for content and many for length, but the evening still ran a full two hours and at the end I think I was nearly as tired as - and a whole lot less hyped up than - the two performers I was driving home.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Day 5.036: Who's arting whose heart?

Yesterday Exile #2 and E5N1 made GF sugar cookies. Exile #2's were heart-shaped. E5N1's less so. They also decorated them.  We ate them yesterday without recording their existence so you'll have to trust me. Or not.

However, a few heart-shaped ones survived undecorated until this evening and we each had one after dinner. But first we decorated, and I recorded.

Your challenge, should you care to accept it, is to deduce (or just, you know, guess) who decorated each one.

E5N1 had some help from Exile #2 with his - just for full disclosure.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Day 5.035: My Curry Valentine

Curry (n) a general term for Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi cuisine (mainly British English).

It was actually Exile #2's choice of romantic Valentine's take-out before anyone complains... and we ate it sitting at the table all civilised-like.

It was very nice.  If not overly romantic.

Afterwards we had the last gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free (not that either of us needed to avoid those) cupcake from X's and O's Vegan Bakery in Troy and a piece of their GF Blondie.  Both of which were very good indeed - and suffered not a bit for all the things that weren't in them that usually would be.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Day 5.034: Aaargh! Who's that?

Kaya, Exile #3's American Girl doll spent the evening hanging around the house in her contemporary clothes.  Several times I walked into a room to find her sitting in some natural position looking at me.

Later, she did some art work as you can see.  She even did a rather convincing portrait of E5N1's Argyle sock monkey.  She's a talented girl!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Day 5.033: Bright-eyed and red-tailed

Maybe he had heard about our new friend from yesterday and wanted to invite them to join him for dinner?

This Red-tailed Hawk paid us an extended visit this afternoon.  Perching for several minutes on the swing-set before flying up into the tree (giving us a flash of its red tail) and then flying away.

When Exile #2 first spotted it I looked out in the direction she pointed in and couldn't see it all - she couldn't believe it since it looked so huge on our diminutive swing-set and, to be fair, once I saw it I wasn't sure how I'd missed it.  It was very obliging to stay still long enough for me to fetch the camera.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Day 5.032: Tamiasciurus Hudsonicus

For the second Saturday in a row, Exile #3 was away at a birthday party outing and the rest of us ventured out without her.  Five Rivers was our destination this time.   We walked the Vlomanskill Trail and even saw some birds.

Exile #2 pointed out this spectacular fungus:

I had another go at the perfect winter bullrushes photo:

We were pleased to see that work has started on replacing the bridge that was lost to flooding following Hurricane Irene.

And we saw a lot of downed trees - including this one swimming in the pond above the beaver pond.

But the highlight was undoubtedly a close and prolonged encounter with this American Red Squirrel who was eating above a pile that seems to be both larder and a place to dispose of the 'empties'.  Later he/she became suspicious of us and having first gone a little higher up the tree, then came down to lay claim to the larder pile before disappearing underneath it.

Even E5N1, hungry though he was, decided pine cones weren't his thing and we left it in peace.

Incidentally, the species is named after Hudson Bay rather than the river, but they are named for the same Henry Hudson, so we can claim some local connection (as well as an English one) to the little chickaree.  Apart from, you know, their actual being local.