Thursday, May 31, 2012

Day 5.142: Cottonwood, park

First some unfinished business. I asked you what you thought was going on here:

The answer is that the white tide is cottonwood seeds.

Here are a couple of photos of the amazingly prolific tree in question:

This evening, after work, I met the family at the park where we ate pizza, the kids played (and two out of three injured themselves) and then we came home.

Our visitors had the day in NYC today and tomorrow we're heading off on a little adventure.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Day 5.141: X.U.V.I.

We went for an evening walk at Five Rivers one day over the weekend.

Much of what we saw were the usual suspects (muskrat, snappers and green frogs):

But Exile #3 also spotted this - we think it's the remains of a hatched dragonfly.  We only saw one. but collectively they are known as exuviae (but you probably knew that!)

And I spotted this:

which I thought was rather pretty.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Day 5.140: Some overdue Whedon

Exile #2 and I had an evening out thanks to her parents.  We started it off with a trip to the cinema to see The Avengers.  As I mentioned, we have been on a bit of a Joss Whedon adventure recently and so we were expecting good things when we went to see his latest project.

It was every bit as good as we hoped - funny, dramatic, full of action, scary, not too serious... it was comic books and Joss Whedon shaken together with some Holywood magic (including Scarlett Johansson in a catsuit).  Great stuff.

Afterwards, we had a quick meal at P.F. Changs where we discovered some new items on the GF menu including the fried rice (pictured).  An excellent evening all round.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Day 5.139: Why Memorial Day is for me

First let me say that as a citizen of the United Kingdom and a resident of the United States I am grateful for all those who have fought in wars on behalf of those countries and their allies.

Most British people (of my generation at least) have an issue with patriotism - it doesn't come naturally to us like it does to most Americans. We don't feel comfortable saying how wonderful our country is, or its armed forces or its history. So an event like Memorial Day comes as little of a shock. Our version - Remembrance Day - falls in November and tends to be marked by a solemn laying of wreaths on war memorials while wearing overcoats and a minute or two of silence. Memorial Day is not really the same.

I live in the suburbs and I love our community - it's a bit spaced out and affluent to be called tight-knit, but it is friendly and diverse and well-intentioned. Memorial Day is one of those times when we get closer to our neighbours. The streets line with lawn chairs and Radio Flyer wagons and blankets and - most importantly - people and we cheer on our neighbours and friends and applaud the veterans and the fire departments. Today, we chatted with an acquaintance of Exile #2's about kitchen renovations and kid's sports and working mothers.

Funnily enough, our first Memorial Day parade was exactly five years ago and we were the same group of seven - Exile #2's parents were making their first visit, the girls were not quite five and three and E5N1 was only about seven weeks old.

Here's a picture of the group on that day:

And this was us today:

I may not be able to fully embrace the patriotism and I had to hold my tongue when a political candidate came around to introduce himself before the parade started, but I can applaud with the best for the volunteer firefighters that are willing to protect my home and family and for my neighbours who take the time to march to play in a band or show their allegiance to their sports team or scout troup or even just shine up a classic car.

This evening, we got a taste of another community using the holiday as an excuse to get together, when we had a wander in Washington Park.  The area around the playground was packed (well packed for Washington Park).  The drum circle and the cooking smells were just a small taste of someone else's Memorial Day community celebration.

We didn't stay long - the smell of food reminded us that we needed to be getting back for our own dinner.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Day 5.138: The lake with a hole

We had our first visit to Six Mile Park in Albany today - also known as Six Mile Waterworks. We went to have a short walk around the reservoir there - the grandly named Rensselaer Lake, to eat a picnic and to let the kids play on the playground. Score three to us!

I think we may have been the only people at the lake without fishing gear, but we had enough to entertain us - other people fishing, some fish, a cedar waxwing, elderflower and a great big hole in the lake.

After an early-lunch picnic, the kids did indeed play on the playground for a while before E5N1 switched his allegiance to this big rock - soon it became the play-item of choice for all!

All in all a very nice (brief) visit -

then we retreated home to avoid the heat of the day.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Day 5.137: Feeding time at the museum

My day started with a seventeen mile run. My heels were a bit sore afterwards so I was trying to work out if there was something wrong inside my shoes. Exile #2 said, "Maybe you should just not be surprised that you're a bit sore after running seventeen miles?!" Maybe she has a point.

Anyway, Exile #2's parents suggested we should visit one of the kids' favourite places, so we drove over to Pittsfield to the Berkshire Museum.

Before going to the museum (even though it was open this time), we decided to have an early lunch at our newly favourite Pittsfield cafe. Once again there was live music, once again both food and music were rather good. Today's artist was fifteen year-old Katherine Winston accompanied by her Dad on the guitar (kids these days..!). Seriously though, she has a lovely voice - although her youtube channel doesn't really do it justice.

After that, we arrived at the museum in time for feeding time in the aquarium.

I'm sorry I didn't have my good camera to hand - especially for the chameleon - his tongue was something else!

We spent quite a bit of time in the rest of the museum too. E5N1 has been studying Egypt at preschool, so he was excited to see the real mummy on display and the kids liked dressing up and making an approved racket - as ever!

And now it's time for me to give my slightly sore feet the rest they deserve!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Day 5.136: The Trojan course

Exile #2's parents have arrived and we took the opportunity to visit Troy today. We downloaded a Kindle e-book walking tour from and did a part of it.

The tour itself was well worth the $0.99 we paid for it for sure - we learned some interesting facts about the buildings along the way, but to be honest in a place like Troy you can have a pretty fantastic time just walking around, taking your time and keeping your eyes open.

We started our tour at the statue of Uncle Sam, where Exile #3 was moved to do the Cotton Eye Joe dance (something to do with the baseball).

We took in monument square - and had a sit down on the multicoloured Adirondack chairs.

After admiring the frontage of Proctor's, we headed to Brown's for lunch - which was altogether very satisfactory.  They earned extra points for serving an excellent gluten-free risotto/tuna/wasabi creation for Exile #2 and for (without prompting) not putting a bread-roll on her salad.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Day 5.135: Bring on the dancing sticks!

Exile #3 made the 'girl dancer' the one on the right, then made the 'boy dancer' with the impressive flares.

They were even more ephemeral than things made out of flower petals usually are - thanks to E5N1, but at least I got a photograph first.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Day 5.134: Singing, in the...?

Exile #3's choir were performing at school this evening.  So she got dressed up...

She even smiled!

Afterwards, the girls walked home and E5N1 and I took the car back and then walked part way to meet them.  On the way this happened....

I might have to declare this to be the Week of What?  Do you know what is going on there?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Day 5.133: Is it a beaver, is it a muskrat...?

At Five Rivers the other day, I saw a large animal surface in the middle of the lake and was sure it was a beaver. It wasn't:

Then I saw an animal swimming rapidly underwater with a long rat-like tail out behind it and was sure it was a muskrat. It wasn't:

Three turtles in all - two fighting (again) and one swimming.

This from a week earlier however (thanks for your guesses), was in fact a muskrat, churning up the mud near the side of the lake for reasons unknown:

At least these animals were all alive when I photographed them!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Day 5.132: Something you don't see every day!

I pulled out behind a concrete truck this morning. It still makes me smile that they are built the other way round in this country than they were in my youth, but not enough to write a blog post about it.

If you are of a squeamish disposition, you might like to pretend I did and look away now.

No, it took a few minutes, but I eventually realised that there was a leg hanging down from the back of the right of the truck. An animal leg thankfully. Maybe a deer?

But, but...what, where, when, why, how?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Day 5.131: Rivers trend

I mentioned that we were out for an evening (if you can call it that at 6.30pm at this time of year) walk.  We were at our easy standby of Five Rivers - the fact that it is also a beautiful place is sometimes clouded by familiarity and locality, but it was particularly lovely yesterday.

We even managed a group picture in our regular spot (well, I say regular - the last two times were well over a year ago).  Exile #3 was the one who suggested it today.

Other sights included a female red-winged blackbird - I think I have trouble identifying these every year at this time and a very photogenic snapping turtle:

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Day 5.130: Sprinklers and "Bedtime?"

It's been a glorious day today - warm enough for this:

My day started with a fifteen mile run - which was quite lovely, but quite long! Exile #3 spent a big chunk of the day at a playdate which involved cycling and a lot of trampoline time. Exile #2 decided I needed jobs to keep me moving so set me to mowing the lawn (much needed) and collecting mulch. After that, she did a lot of yardwork (while I set the sprinkler up and then sat down for a few minutes to watch her working!

All of which is to say that when we went for a short walk after dinner, most of us were feeling the same way as E5N1 who said as we were making our way back to the car, "When can we go to bed?"

And the answer for me is - as soon as I hit "Publish" - good night!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Day 5.129: Pig Pit and Manama

It was a meal-out blow-out day today!

Finding ourselves vegetarian-less at lunch time, a reduced Friday-lunch group went to the Pig Pit BBQ. In fact it would have been fine if we'd had the vegetarian with us, but in any case, we got to eat piles of smoked meat without guilt.

Here's my pulled pork sandwich (nice smoke ring, tasty and not too smothered in sauce - there was more at the table) with fried okra and coleslaw:

It was a big pile of tasty food served quickly and inexpensively in a friendly little place in the middle of nowhere. Excellent.

Then, this evening, some friends of ours were involved in a charity baby-sitting event at Shaker High School. So, we dropped the kids off there and went out for dinner! Since we were dropping the kids in Latham, we naturally decided to eat in Bethlehem.

Actually, it is restaurant week in Bethlehem so it wasn't as mad as it sounds. We visited Manama Grille (recommended - as was Pig Pit now I think about it - by friend and local blogging celebrity derryX).

Restaurant week means they were offering a reduced menu at three courses for $20.12.

Here's what we had:

Along the top, Exile #2's choices: Hummus (with cucumber since Exile #2 couldn't have the rather excellent bread - in fact she says she could happily have eaten it with a spoon!), Badenjan Nagrani (roasted eggplant/aubergine - amazing smoky flavour - yum!) and Firnee (a rice pudding with rose water, almonds and pistachios).

At the bottom, my choices: Falafel - crunchy and delicious, Filet Kebab - herb-tastic and Baklava - so good I started eating it before I remembered to take a picture and then finished it even though I had really eaten a lot by then!

We drank Sulemani tea (iced) which was deliciously spiced and refreshing and generally had a very nice time indeed.

Then we went and collected the kids.  It seemed the right thing to do.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Day 5.128: Auction Pictures

Albaniana asked me if I'd be willing to bring my camera to the auction she has been helping with this evening.  I'm not completely comfortable taking on photography commissions, but she assured me it was to give some of the young artists a feel of the event they had donated their artwork to, so of course I was happy to help.

I took lots of pictures and at a first glance I seem to have a few nice shots and a reasonable overview of the event, so hopefully everyone will be happy with them.

I joked early in the evening that it was just as well I was occupied with the camera, because otherwise I'd probably end up spending much too much on buying artwork.  "I'm a sucker for this sort of thing," were my exact words I think.  Towards the end, I shuffled over to the desk to pay my $2 for a bidding number and ended up buying three lots.

So, here are two groups of small paintings from the Dominican Republic and a lovely painting from Russia which were sold in America to a British guy in aid of building a school in Uganda:

Now that is about as international as it comes!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Day 5.127: It went that way!

I saw this while I was running at the weekend and went back to get this picture.

Fortunately, it wasn't a moving sale sign and I found it right where I'd left it. I never did catch up with the sale however.

Later I went to Staples where they had a stationery sale! Probably.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Day 5.126: Botany, Ornithology, Herpetology and what?

We had a short walk on Sunday at Five Rivers. It felt oppressively hot, but the car temperature sensor informed us it was 74°F - wow is summer ever going to be a shock.

For once, I took very few pictures of family members walking on the trails, but I did attempt a bit of amateur naturalism.

First, some botany:

Pretty flowers and baby trees - not bad.

Then some ornithology:

No prizes for photography, but we can at least identify a spotted sandpiper, some bank swallows and a red-winged blackbird.

Some herpetology:

The two large snapping turtles had a brief but dramatic fight after this and one of them shot off across the lake at an astonishing pace.

Finally, I captured this:

I think I know what it is - do you?


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