Friday, November 30, 2012

Day 5.325: Taking (up) the seasonal mantel

Exile #2 has been decorating the mantelpiece.

Here are the autumnal decorations from just before Halloween and this week's new ones:

E5N1 reacted to the new ones by saying - "Look! there are lemons...and little glasses of milk."  Ready for Santa perhaps?

They are actually candles.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Day 5.324: It's bigger on the inside!

Can you tell we've been watching Doctor Who recently? This weekend took us to the second episode in Season 4. So good - so glad the kids are enjoying it!

But this post is not about the TARDIS, it's about the Swift Wetland in Delmar. We visited it once before, but recently went back for a second visit. It looks tiny from the outside and it's hard to believe that it could be worthwhile, but its hidden 21 acres are really surprisingly engaging!

Here are a few of my pictures from our second visit.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Day 5.322: Anatomically correct

I stumbled upon this photo just now (it's from about a month ago).

My first thought was that it was pretty cute.

Then I realised that he'd tucked his arms inside the costume to ensure his spider only had 8 legs!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Day 5.321: In the holiday spirit?

Our outdoor Christmas lights are up. Of course, because I didn't get around to taking them down after last winter (I think I was waiting for winter to come so that I could wait for it to go again), that just means that I've turned them on.

Not that I should play that down too much - it did involve finding the timer switch I bought for the purpose of lighting these last year.  I bought it last year because I couldn't find our previous timer switch.  To continue a long story, I didn't find it.  I did, however, find the older timer switch which I couldn't find last year, so that's doing the job just fine.

Now the question is, when will we get a tree?  The last two years we've gone on the first weekend in December (usually a week after Thanksgiving) to get one.  This year, after the earliest possible Thanksgiving date, that would be this coming weekend December 1st/2nd - Christmas really is coming early this year!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Day 5.320: Food with friends

We had some friends over for lunch today. There were eleven seats around our table and we were still sitting around it at 3 pm. Well, except the kids obviously - they disappeared to do their own things (including playing Angry Birds in bed and acting out an attack of a giant baby horseback rider on a medieval castle.)

We had such a good time I didn't take a single picture, so here is a little mystery photograph for you from earlier in the day.

Do you know what they are? Even better - if you don't, would you like to guess?!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Day 5.319: American Girls by British girls.

A bit of yard-work, a couple of home maintenance jobs, some family Rock Band, the last two episodes of Doctor Who Series 3...yes we had a pretty quiet day watching the snow fall (but not settle) outside.

I started the day with a 13.1 mile run but the really industrious ones were Exile #3 and Exile #4 who spent the morning working together (wonders will never cease!) on a secret project which was only revealed in the middle of the afternoon after another couple of hours of quiet work.

The poster sized project is made out of lots of sheets of letter-sized printer paper.  The pictures are from the American Girl catalog.  Right now I applaud their industry, creativity and teamwork.  Tomorrow the applause may give way to the whys and what-nows!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Day 5.318: Tyringham Cobble

With a free day in the middle of a four-day weekend and sunny and warm (for the time of year) weather, we decided to visit Tyringham Cobble, another of the properties of the Trustees of Reservations in Massachusetts.  We've been working our way around their sites in the Berkshires - this one is about an hour away from Albany near Lee.

Our hike was a two mile loop the main part being a section of the Appalachian trail which goes up to the summit of the Cobble and down the other side.  But the very first (and last) section involved crossing a cow field - something I did many times in my childhood, but is not a familiar experience for the young Exiles.

I enjoyed the Appalachian trail sign signposted GA and ME (Georgia and Maine)!

Unlike some good hiking areas nearby, this one had several good views over the surrounding landscape - looking a little stark at this time of year.  One of the views here includes a distant view of the kids as they ran on ahead on the last leg of the walk.

We weren't sure where we might see the 'Rabbit Rock' mentioned in the website blurb.  We needn't have worried that we'd miss it as it turns out (although if we'd approached from the other direction we probably could have done so).

Although far from crowded, the trails and parking lot were quite busy today. One person on the trail said that the site had had a write-up in a local newspaper, so that could have affected it - but all the Trustees locations we've visited have been busier than most of the equivalent sites that we've been to in New York.  That's not saying much - we're generally surprised if we see anyone else!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Day 5.317: Thanksgiving #6

Despite apparently being confused by my own numbering system this time last year, this was our sixth Thanksgiving since we came to the US.

It was the third time I'd delivered meals courtesy of the massive operation that is the Equinox Thanksgiving Day Community Dinner.

Like last year, the girls and I dragged ourselves down to the Empire State Plaza for about 6 am.  I managed to get some pictures of the food packaging and address-packet pick-up areas this year:

We had eleven meals to deliver, split among three addresses.  We made the acquaintance of some of our fairly-close neighbors in the line - even the most shy people can get into a conversation when hanging around with the same strangers for four hours!

We were quite hungry when we got home - which is good because Exile #2 had cooked a feast.  This year's surprise - activity place-mats for the kids!

And yes, we had turkey and pies (pumpkin and chocolate).  And no, we didn't have creamed corn, anything involving canned soup or marshmallows (although we did have some popcorn as an appetizer!)

We have a lot to be thankful for.  Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Day 5.316: E5N1's Thanksgiving Book

We had pizza for dinner tonight. It seems that this is something of a day-before-Thanksgiving tradition in some families, although I think cooking your own pizza removes the main point which is to get take-out before the big cooking festival of the year.

Anyway, someone noticed that we'd eaten our pizza with our fingers and I commented that that was very American of us - yes British people really do eat pizza with a knife and fork (sometimes at least). This led to a comment about E5N1 being American - which in turn led to him saying, "Did I come with the Pilgrims?"

It turns out that he has been learning about the first Thanksgiving*.  When you read it to yourself (or out-loud - who am I to judge?), say each of the words that E5N1 has written in as if you are revealing a great mystery - that's how he read it to me!

* Please note that this traditional telling is not necessarily entirely true.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Day 5.315: Missing lunch

I had a long lunch break today - one that very nearly didn't include eating any lunch.

We had our three parent-teacher conferences virtually back-to-back so it was a rush to get to school, a rush around three classrooms to have very nice chats with three teachers about our three kids and then I rushed back to work.

I did stop briefly for something to eat on the way back.

This isn't it:

That was my lunch at the vegan cafe in Delmar (Loving Cafe) a few weeks ago. For me, a meat-eater-but-happy-not-to with a cow-dairy allergy it was a pretty special treat to be able to order anything on the menu without fear that milk or cheese would have crept in somewhere.

It all tasted very good too (this was from the specials board - a tofu and grilled vegetable sandwich with sweet potato fries).  Exile #2 had some rather good gluten-free spring rolls if I remember correctly.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Day 5.314: Fifty down

E5N1's Kindergarten class celebrated the 50th day of school with a 50's themed party today.

Here he is ready to go!

They had root beer floats with retro paper straws. The float was obviously a revelation to our American five year-old.  Not sure he'll convince his (British) sisters that root beer is desirable but he may succeed in persuading them to try putting a scoop of ice cream in some soda I suppose.

I know it's got me thinking!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Day 5.313: Things I see when running

Lots of roadkill. But this isn't about that!

These (quite often, usually still alive):

How many do you count?  They turned (white) tail just as I turned to run away from them.

I've seen a few of these:

but that was the first time I was held up by one (last weekend).

And sometimes, I see things as beautiful as this:

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Day 5.312: Keleher Preserve

We visited the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy's newest preserve today. It's called the Keleher Preserve after its former owner but it is a large area at the top of Wolf Hill near Clarksville.

We nearly turned back on arrival when we were greeted by the taped handwritten sign visible in the bottom right corner of this photo:

It reads, "Please be advised that from 11/17 to 12/16 it is deer hunting season.  For your safety please wear blaze orange and keep all pets on a leash. Thank you."

Great.  Opening day of deer season.  At least we'd left it until 11 am to get there and happened to have worn some fairly bright colours even if we were blaze-free.  We trusted that the hunters were either elsewhere or gone for the morning or capable of telling the difference between us and a six-point buck.

We decided to press on and no-one got shot.

Here are some pictures along the trail.  We walked about 2.25 miles I think including some steep sections.  There was both ice snow on the ground in areas where the sun hadn't got to it.

This is some of what we saw along the way:

Top left: these mossy mounds were dubbed "monkey heads" by someone.
Bottom left: this tree is just a survivor I guess.
Bottom right: the girls called this impressive ice-crystal arrangement near a stream "ice city"
Top right: ice city was all gone by the time we returned around lunchtime.

This is the view from the "small overlook".  Not the most impressive, but we worked hard to see it so appreciated it nonetheless.

It's a nice preserve - and a good fairly challenging hike for us - I imagine we'll be back to see it again as the seasons change.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Day 5.311: Where Exile #3 is from...

Exile #3 gave us this at the 5th Grade Thanksgiving Feast this afternoon:

I guess that counts as fan mail for this blog!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Day 5.310: Goofy

E5N1 chose to buy a book of "Goofy Jokes" from the school book fair yesterday.

Thanks to his recently-developed reading skills he can now regale us with these at all possible opportunities.  Some are old classics, some are pretty terrible but there are some that genuinely made us laugh.

What's the difference between a teacher and a train?
One says, "Spit out your gum!", the other says, "Choo choo!".

And then there are some that were made funny by his encountering of an unfamiliar word.

What is a blacksmith's favorite style of music?
Heeeveee Meeetal!

Goofy indeed.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Day 5.309: Who's Who?

A couple of weeks ago, I asked who could recognise the Doctor Who episodes that we recreated out of Playmobil. I think the answer is 'at least two people'. Here are the best screen-shots I could get to mimic our from-memory recreations:

I think we did rather well!

Things to note:
1) Rose in period costume, dead people, Charles Dickens in a top hat.
2) Exile #3's excellent improvised Dalek, guy in hazmat suit (not pictured but around somewhere).
3) The crashed spaceship (another of Exile #3's improvisations), child with gas-mask requiring double-sided sticky-tape assistance.
4) Period costume, period sonic-screwdriver, fireplace!

And the episodes:
1) Season 1 Episode 3: The Unquiet Dead
2) Season 1 Episode 6: Dalek
3) Season 1 Episode 10: The Doctor Dances (it's from part two, part one was The Empty Child)
4) Season 2 Episode 4: The Girl in the Fireplace

And that's which Who was which.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Day 5.308: Brave, bowling and bleugh!

The kids persuaded me to take them to school for family movie night tonight. I was not keen, but in the end decided that taking them would be less effort than staying in with them (Exile #2 was at a meeting) especially if they were going to be grumpy because I didn't take them!

On a brighter note, this is what E5N1 was doing while we walked at Normans Kill West Preserve on Sunday:

As for me, I've got a sore throat, extreme tiredness and a grumpy attitude of my own so I'm signing off and hoping for the best but fearing worse for tomorrow.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Day 5.307: E5N1's work page

It seems to me that the main ambitions for Kindergarten are teaching the kids to be good classroom citizens and achieving some basic reading ability.

We have our doubts about E5N1's classroom citizenship achievements (but maybe we'll be surprised). His reading is well ahead of requirements. So, it's a good thing to encourage him to write.

He doesn't need much encouragement if I'm honest, but he can use the practice. The other day he grabbed a sheet of scrap paper and wrote:

Work PAGE:

But what kind of work page was it?  It's OK he made that quite clear:


Of course - what else would be on a five year-old's mind?!*

* The scrap paper was a one-sided print of a page of notes from a UK tax return.  Weird coincidence huh?**

** Yes I'm aware that it almost certainly isn't a coincidence.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Day 5.306: Slimming down

Thanks to a bit of dieting (not any more) and a lot of running, I've been losing weight.  A few of you have been kind enough to notice.  Here's the data:
I had to drill a new hole in my belt today.  A nice problem to have.

But that's not what I had in mind when I started writing this post.  Several years ago, a new admin assistant started at my work, she used association to remember people's names when first introduced to us all.  I found out a few of them much later.  One person was "Joe Bloggs* - sensible shoes".  My association was bulging pockets.  The reason was, perhaps disappointingly, that I always had a fat wallet.  Not generally because of having much money in it (often none due to poor ATM visit management), but due to a complete lack of weeding of cards, receipts, foreign currency and the like.

Anyway, I finally did something about it with a little help from a Groupon offer.

Wallets empty (left) and fully loaded with all the same important stuff (right). Before swapping (top) and afterwards (bottom)

I don't want to sound like an advert for Big Skinny, but this is life-changing stuff.  Now I can worry that I've lost my wallet instead of worrying about the structural integrity of my pockets!

* Not his actual name.  Another disappointment to add to the tally in this post.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Day 5.305: Normanskill (any 4 of 5)

The first time we visited the Normans Kill West Preserve and learned about its violent history (it doesn't involve any killing - just a landslide), Exile #3 was not with us (although some of us doubted her memory earlier). This time E5N1 was elsewhere. Maybe one day we'll all make it there together.

It was quite beautiful today. Sunny and warm (for the time of year), dry underfoot unlike last time and the short walk was just right for today. It was all new to Exile #3 of course - even the flip-flop/tube musical bridge!