Saturday, March 31, 2012

Day 5.081: A tale of three injuries

We've spent the day in some fairly intensive DIY efforts in the kitchen but I'm happy to say that despite wielding some power-tools, none of the injuries occurred there.

No - this is a running update. As you may recall, my last update covered some rather good running in December and January including my half-marathon on New Year's Day.

Things have not gone quite so well in February and March.

 At a glance, February might look OK, but the distances dipped in the middle of the month when I had a problem with runner's knee.  Several of those short runs involved limping home.  I started doing some resistance work to build up my thigh muscles and that seemed to be going well until March 7th when I overextended doing some lunges.

I didn't feel anything particularly at the time, but by the time I started my run on the 8th I realised that my right calf was not right.  Of course, looking back the week and a half it took to get back to running doesn't look too bad.  It was by far the longest break since I started running in September.

So it was that I started ramping up my miles - hoping for a happy ending to March, but that was stopped short by some severe arch-pain in my right foot.  It's still too early to be sure, but I ran yesterday and aim to run again tomorrow and hopefully, with some shoe-inserts and caution I can get back onto a steadier footing.  Sorry.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Day 5.080: Well, "all" might be a stretch

After a busy day of work (me), organising of contractors etc (Exile #2) and school etc. We had a very nice evening - having been invited by some friends a few days ago to escape our kitchen devastation in favour of their delicious cooking in their fully-functioning one.

A few days ago, we (apart from Exile #2) were about to eat this rather less wholesome product when the girls asked if E5N1 (who is, like me, on a broadly dairy-free diet) should be allowed any.

"It says it's ALL butter."
"It doesn't mean that!"
"Why does it say it then?"
"It means that all the fat in it is butter."

But as I said it I glanced down the ingredients and began to lose confidence as I scanned down the list past soybean and cottonseed oils long before I saw the word "butter" after "contains 2% or less of each of the following".

The ingredients list is disturbingly long and it's a bit hard to read, so I'll reformat it for you but keeping the largest constituent first order.  Things are not as bad as they first appear.

Pound cake mix*, water, butter*****

So, as long as you ignore all the footnotes (and don't ask why the footnotes appear to be numbered 1 and 5), you could believe that butter is a major constituent - despite being last on the list.

But I could paraphrase further:
  • Ingredients (largest first): A mix of the ingredients in the cheapest possible cake, butter
There you go - apart from that first thing it's all butter!

It was actually OK - but definitely not terribly buttery.

Here are those footnotes in full.

* Enriched bleached flour**, sugar, vegetable shortening***, eggs, nonfat milk solids,
contains 2% or less of each of the following: dextrose, salt, natural and artificial flavor (contains milk), sodium bicarbonate, acidic sodium aluminum phosphate, xanthan gum, yellow color blend****, sodium diacetate.

** Wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid.

*** Partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oils, mono- and diglycerides, propylene glycol mono- and diesters of fats, polysorbate 60.

**** Wheat starch, soybean oil, annatto and turmeric extract.

***** Cream (milk), salt.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Day 5.079: Walking on broken glass

I was just about to leave work when Exile #2 called me, "Have you seen facebook?"  I hadn't.  It was news from our friends that their apartment building was on fire.

So, I went over there to see what I could do to help.

The sidewalk and the inside of the front of their apartment were scattered with broken glass.  The fire department had smashed the windows and broken in their door to gain access so the place was a mess, but everyone in the building was fine.

Our friends are staying with us tonight - in our own partially dismantled house. Suddenly the inconvenience of being without a kitchen seems a small matter.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Day 5.078: WALL-E, E5N1 and the dishwashers

When we started to destroy our kitchen, we discovered that there had been a small water leak under the dishwasher for some time and so we've been dealing with the consequences of that over the last few days.

Yesterday Exile #2 sent me this email about E5N1 (here pictured with their WALL-E creation):
...while loading his plastic dishwasher:
"Well, MY dishwasher's not dripping."
Followed by a cheeky grin.
Funnily enough, I didn't have any difficulty imagining that!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Day 5.077: Downward mobility

We have no kitchen at the moment. I'm not quite ready to write about that. So, here's a picture of the basement.

My tools have been scattered on the floor in and around my tool box since we moved here, but now I have them scattered on an elevated surface - a big improvement as you can probably imagine.

Does it seem like I'm desperately looking for a bright-side?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Day 5.076: Triffids

Here's a curiosity from our walk at Five Rivers on Saturday.

We passed by here:

which apart from looking rather nice, sounded...well...a bit like a triffid invasion really. You can hear a snippet by listening to this video:

I'm assuming - since we probably would have seen deadly eight feet tall walking plants - that they were really frogs of some sort.  All we saw was a goose and a painted turtle, and I don't think either of them was responsible.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Day 5.075: ...and a kettle

Today was spent, as yesterday, predominantly ripping our kitchen apart ready for various bits of work that need to be done before we can start to reassemble it.  We have a temporary kitchen - basically a toaster, microwave and a means of heating water staged outside the kitchen along with cups and paper plates.  Hopefully it won't be for too long.

Today, we paused from our labours for a while to go to our church gathering.  Yesterday our break was a quick walk around a trail at Five Rivers.

Below are some of my pictures.  Can you spot:
  • Some very green grass
  • A hat
  • A funny face
  • An alarm going off
  • A red breast
  • A webbed foot
  • An audience

  • ...and a kettle?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Day 5.074: Fire time!

It certainly felt much cooler today - although still well above the historical average I'm sure.  We didn't resort to lighting a fire in the fireplace - although it's not impossible we will want one before the week ahead is over.  Rather, I uncovered the grill and barbecued some pork.

The process of adding a few coals every half an hour or so and swapping out the hickory chips in the smoke-box was a good foil for our kitchen activities today.  It also made for a very tasty dinner of pulled pork sandwiches.

I'm not sure it was the best pulled-pork ever - but it was the best of 2012 so far and E5N1 in particular was a big fan of the type of meal he calls 'fire-food'!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Day 5.073: Summer's over...

I took these this morning - it's been another glorious day - warm and low-humidity.  I joked to Exile #4 that it was the last day of summer today.  She said, "No...No...I don't want it to be fall!"

But it is not time for autumn - not in the northern hemisphere anyway, but just for a return to spring - there are frosts and even a chance of snow in the forecast for the week ahead - March is going to be March after-all I suppose.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Day 5.072: All Over Albany is 4!

This evening I delayed my journey home from work to spend a few very pleasant hours in the company of local Internet royalty at the All Over Albany 4th Birthday Party.

The location was perfect for a extremely summery early-spring evening.  The City Beer Hall's patio, surrounded by the towering presence of downtown Albany was singularly appropriate and the food, beer and company were all excellent.

Photos are here

I spent time chatting with Mary and Greg (the AOA editors and our hosts), Jake from Chatham Brewing - brewer of the wonderful guest ale, Daniel from FUSSYlittleBLOG, Jerry, Kristi, a group from YNN including Innae Park, Matt Hunter and Kate Welshofer, AlbanianaAkum and her husband, MarcieAbe, Mike (briefly) and Jen (talked about dog walking but not chickens) and a bunch of other very nice people.

Happy Birthday AOA - heart and soul of the online region - and thanks for a lovely evening!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Day 5.071: March. Really.

At 6.30 pm, we were sitting in the shade on our deck having dinner. It's March. What is going on?

Well fortunately, thanks to a nearly four year-old post, I know one name for it - it's an Easter summer - just a whole month earlier than even that term was coined for.

Easter summer is usually the trigger to debasement but, as I was moving the step-ladder earlier, I had to first displace the snow shovels which were leaning against it in the garage.  Maybe it's time to move those down into the basement ready for presumably heavier service next winter, but then again maybe this Easter summer will give way to a Blackberry winter and we'll need them again before too long?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Day 5.070: Big guy, little chair

I had the day off work today, largely so that we could pick up the kids from their half-days at school (normal for E5N1, conferences day for the girls) and drive down to New Jersey to visit IKEA.  Yes really.

After much to-ing and fro-ing, we've finally settled on a kitchen we like - so as long as the last few pieces fall in to place over the next week or two, we'll be ripping our old one out soon!

The chair was in the showroom at IKEA.  We're not including it in our kitchen remodelling plans.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Day 5.069: Science!

Exile #3 and Exile #4 have been working on a project for the school science night which happened this evening.

Exile #3 did most of the research, while Exile #4 created the diorama and wrote-up the 'fun-facts' - it was excellent team-work and the result was rather good:

Sadly, Exile #4 was sick and could not make it this evening, so I went with Exile #3. Here she is discussing her project with one of the 'judges' - a real scientist as the event advertised.

She did a really good job and it was nice to see her talking so knowledgeably and confidently about her research.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Day 5.068: Oh the place that we went!

Well, the picture of the Lorax in yesterday's post was taken, not at any kind of movie tie-in event, but at the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden.

It's a very cool place where the kids did bunny-ears behind the Lorax, looked over Dr. Seuss's shoulder, acted shocked with Sally, caused chaos with Thing One and Thing Two and discovered that the couch wasn't as comfortable as it looked.

My favourite sculpture is Yertle the Turtle - the king of all he can see -on his nine turtle stack with a very disgruntled turtle named Mack at the bottom.

It was all part of our day-trip to the Springfield Museums.

Apart from the garden, we spent the most time in the science museum where there was much to be wowed by.  Africa:

A nice live-animal demonstration:

A turtle with a head that looks like dead-leaves as bait for its prey - nibble me and I'll...

We also visited the fine art museum, and - very briefly at the end - discovered the excellent Hasbro game room at the history museum.

I guess we'll just have to go back!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Day 5.067: Encounters with little people

Well, the trap failed to capture a wish-granting leprechaun, but the evidence suggests we were visited by one who got hold of the cobbling kit and turned it into a cheeky message:

More importantly, there was chocolate 'gold'.

But that wasn't the end of the day's excitement - or our encounters with the little folk.  We saw these for instance:

(no camera trickery involved - just smoke and mirrors.)

And this one:

But more tales of our day out will have to wait until I have more time and my computer is being more cooperative than it is right now.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Day 5.066: Beware Irish cobblers!

Exile #2 had to collect Exile #3 from school around lunchtime but early reports of fevers etc. seemed to have given way to a nasty headache (possibly migraine-like) which responded well to drugs.

I don't suspect any ulterior motive, but the early departure from school did give her longer to devote to the all-important leprechaun trap. It was all new to us last year, but we are old-hands now.

This year's model features a cunning hat-disguise, a rather attractive ladder, bait in the form of shoe-making supplies (since it seems that they are cobblers like their German cousins).

All in all, I would say that if this trap doesn't catch a leprechaun tonight then nothing will, but in any case I suspect that secretly the kids are hoping for another failed attempt with a chocolate coin consolation!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Day 5.065: Immigrants

In August 2006, Exile #2 and I visited the US Embassy in London to apply for non-immigrant visas for ourselves and our daughters.  Twice since then we have been  back to renew them - the first of those times was just after we very nearly found ourselves forced to leave the country at short notice because of the end of my qualifying employment.

Now we are Lawful Permanent Residents (except E5N1 of course - he is a fully-fledged US Citizen) and holders of actual Green Cards (they became actually-green again after more than 40 years of only being notionally-green in 2010).

What this means: no need to visit the US Embassy again, we won't be thrown out of the country just because I lose my job, Exile #2 and I can work for any company in the US who will have us.

What this doesn't mean: that we'll necessarily stay here forever, that I am leaving my job, that we won't visit the UK any more.

It's a relief, but also a strange feeling for this at times all-consuming element of our life to be at an end.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Day 5.064: The Pi-day Pi-ku challenge

For Pi-day
From Exile #2.

A Pi-ku
Then one, then four.

My challenge:
Guess whose is whose:*


A circle -
Not one corner.

Pumpkin pie
Whipped cream - so good!

[E5N1] me!

Not just three -
Magic number

I love pie
I love apple.

Three point one
One five nine, ...what?

I want pie
Pie is so good.

Ev'ning sun -
It's here at last!

* Not including the introductory ones, three are mine, one each from the kids and two from Exile #2

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Day 5.063: Root beer and puppies

Today has been about as much like a spring day as you could imagine. A warm start, showers in the early-afternoon and a warm sunny dry late-afternoon and early-evening. When I got home to find all three of the kids playing in the front yard, E5N1 was rather confused - why are you here so early? Well I wasn't of course, but the sun was significantly higher in the sky than it was at dinner time last week.

"Come and see the rhubarb!" was his surprise follow-up.  It turned out that he had helped Exile #2 plant some and all there was to see was some dug-over earth.

I found out later that he had been referring to the rhubarb as 'root beer' all day, so it was impressive that he got it right for me - it would have been somewhat confusing if he'd summoned me to see the root beer and showed me a slightly damp patch of ground.

At dinner time we played the 'Who am I?' game - does anyone actually know a name for it? Exile #2 had come up with a lot of names to challenge us and it fell to me to select something for her.

Tonight, in a fit of extreme laziness, I emailed this photo to myself from my phone.  I tried to make the email subject "Pippi" but auto-correct had other you might have worked out.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Day 5.062: Tunnels, trains, typewriters and telephones

Yesterday, we took a drive in the sunshine to North Adams, MA where we shunned the wonderful MASS MoCA to explore some history just across the river. An old rail yard has been converted into the rather understated but extravagantly-named, Western Gateway Heritage State Park.

Our first stop was at the Freight Yard Pub where we had a rather nice lunch and our first train encounter - E5N1 in particular happily watched the model train circle above the bar both while waiting for and eating his food.

Then we tackled the Visitor's Museum.  This was a very interesting history of the area including a large section on the digging of the nearby Hoosac Tunnel.  It also included the second model railway and an opportunity to teach Exile #4 and E5N1 about clocking-in and the size of radios.

It was in danger of being a bit dry for the kids, so we were pleased to get out without incident - not that there was anyone else there apart from the man at the desk.  He told us that the 'other museum' was just opening in the building across the yard so we wandered over.

The 'other museum' is run by the North Adams Historical Society and is called the North Adams Museum of History and Science.  It is as wide-ranging as its name suggests.

There are such historical novelties as a Super 8 projector (most of my youth was recorded on Super 8, so it's a slight shock to realise that it really is a museum-piece now) and, amongst many other things, a collection of typewriters revealing the many and varied twists that existed on the basic QWERTY layout.

Importantly, there were two excellent areas of hand-on activities, loosely speaking a historical one and a scientific one.  The popular items in the former were two typewriters and a collection of rotary-dial telephones.  Here is Exile #3 getting to grips with dialing:

The 'science' area upstairs contained some electrical construction toys as well as some novel glove puppets:

It was next to this major model railway layout based on an early 20th century map of the rail yard:

It's still a work-in-progress but clearly a labor of love to the friendly man who showed it to us and already quite impressive even if, as Exile #3 suggested, the unpainted river looks like strawberry ice-cream.

From there we went up again (preceded by the railway enthusiast who needed to switch on the lights for us) to the third floor where there is a bird's eye view of the railway layout (and the larger gauge train doing a circuit above it):

And in a side-room, a blacklight area where Copernicus and Einstein watched while we learned about the planets of the solar system and discovered the UV-revealed security features in our drivers licenses:

It's a fair way to travel over or around the mountains to get there, but we thoroughly enjoyed our visit - and since both these museums are free it would definitely be worth a side-trip if MASS MoCA or some other local attraction has already taken you to the area.