Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Very Merry Christmas

Happy Christmas to all from pine Bush NY - Most of you will already be part of the way through your Christmas morning, I do hope Santa brought you everything you wanted. Except for you Ruth, I hope Jesse has not given birth yet this morning.

We are planning a very lazy day, pancakes for breakfast with bucks fizz followed by a light lunch and then we are off to the movies with our good friends Gil and Sara. We will round the day off with that traditional Christmas treat .......... meal at the local Chinese.

I have had a lot of fun this week trying to find tins to cook my mince pies in - the US does not have an equivalent you can buy just about everything here except jam tart tins - I managed to improvise with some muffin tins. I also had fun baking ginger cookies for the neighbours (well that's if Rob does not eat them all first)
Mum -- it took us really hours to get the deer to stand still long enough to wrap them in Christmas lights, I hope you appreciate it.
The snow has been quite heavy with multiple storms since last Thursday. Monday the temperature dropped to 10F -12C on Monday and the wind chill made if feel even colder. It has certainly warmed up a bit more now. We should be in for some great skiing this year.
As you can see I decided to try out my snow shoes in the garden !!
Hope you like the Christmas tree -- go figure, after years of nagging the "bob" decides he wants a 9ft tree and we spent all last weekend making bows and decorating it

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

One year on …....

I'm typing this from a very snowy Montreal. I'm up here for the week and it's definitely winter. I've left Rob in Pine Bush waiting for the snow to arrive but he has some painting to keep him busy. Oh, did I tell you that I have the most gorgeous granddaughter and she has just had her first birthday. Well I couldn't miss it so we made a flying visit to celebrate. More of that later.
Our very good friends Paul and Robyn invited us back to Atlanta for another Thanks Giving holiday. It's just like a UK Christmas lunch without the hassle of the presents. Just family and food. We were very honoured to be included. Robyn's a great cook with gadgets for everything coming from a giant store cupboard otherwise known as “aisle 7”. It's given me ideas for some bits and pieces that I didn't know I was missing. Rob will have to get to work on that storage project now.
We were kept entertained and amused by Blake, Missy and Ali. Blake is a demon on the Wii as well as being a fine breakfast chef. The girls put on variety performance like only young girls can and were just sugar and spice. We all went down to the arts centre in Atlanta to see an exhibition of the "Terracotta Warriors”. Fascinating! It had the desired effect and we now want to visit China to see the whole thing. The list just gets longer ….. must give up work some day. To balance out the high culture, Paul and Robyn took us to the local comedy club. As advertised, it was side splitting, cringe worthy and “oh my god, did she just say that” in equal measure. We really enjoyed ourselves.

Robyn made big efforts to support my bid for a dog. Despite having a good time with both dogs Rob is still holding out ........ and I'm still working on him.

We finally left Atlanta, bound for Gatwick and England. Bob* felt at home right away in the BA lounge with a host of UK news papers and biscuits to keep him quiet. It's so important to keep him out of trouble on long journeys. BA in flight service was a joy compared to the complete lack of any service on US flights. It was a real system shock, joining the M23/25 at 8.30am. So much traffic … so many people all crammed into such a small space. We had a long “to do” list and started right away with visits to the bank, letting agent and accountant. It was quite a strange feeling to be back in Maidenhead with no Toni to shop with and no home to go back too. I mean, it's still there (we drove past) but someone else is living there and there is a strange car in the drive. We visited Robs most missed shops, WHSmiths and M&S, to stock up on PC magazines and underwear. Rob claims that the UK (and these companies in particular) are world leaders for these items. He has a point.
Having got the “business” out of the way I could then get to see Sarah and little Alana. Oh how she has grown since I last saw her. I know that I'm very biased, but she is gorgeous …. almost edible. She is such a happy baby. All smiles and giggles. A real credit to Sarah's hard work as a young mum. I'm very proud of the way she cares for Alana and the bond they have developed. I miss them both very much. Our trip was a whirlwind of family visits an lots of driving (1500 miles) and was over too soon. Sorry to anyone that we couldn't get to. Especially Caitlin. Hopefully we will get to see you for some skiing later in the winter. Back home to Pine Bush and both Rob and me have succumbed to after flight head colds. At least it didn't turn into flu. Our quest to see as many old 70's stars as possible continued on Monday night. We saw Neil Young at Maddison Square Gardens. I like the more acoustic stuff but the screaming guitar bit were a bit too much. Mind you it was funny to see all those old Bobs rocking out as if they were teenagers. Needles to say, Rob came out grinning from ear to ear. It was 1am by the time we got back to the hotel and I was ready for shut-eye. The next day Rob saw me to an airport taxi and he took the train back up the Hudson valley. So it's back to the grind and looking forward to a white Christmas.

I was really lucky to get back from Montreal on Friday - I literally flew back to Newark about half an hour ahead of the snow - Rob picked me up at the airport and within an hour of getting home we had a foot of snow. Rob cleared a path to the hot tub and we braved it for a token 5 minutes.!!

*Bob .......... Boofy Old Bloke aka Rob

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I've been here a whole year now .... it's hard to believe

The whole place went mad for Halloween. Houses and gardens were all decked out with cobwebs, skeletons, pumpkin lanterns and other spooky stuff. We even had an area of our offices decked out and all the kids were invited in for a “trick or treat” party. I'm not sure who had more fun. That night, the traffic through Pine Bush was at a crawl with dozens of dressed up children (and a few scary adults) filling the streets for a haunted house event. Lights, music and hot dogs. It was the last day of the year for the ice cream parlour and they were exchanging candy for ice cream. I really enjoyed the spectacle. Bob (see previous blog) wasn't so enthusiastic but did brighten up at the sight of one or two of the older girls costumes.

Well after the excitement of the Vegas visit, it's been relaxing to spend some time on home turf. I did have one multi-day trip on the east coast with the last stop in Boston. Business was wrapped up sooner than expected so, rather that kick my heals at the airport, I rented a car and drove back. I was able to get home at a decent hour and there was lots of autumn colour to be seen on the way.

Autumn is giving Rob plenty of work in the garden. The trees have provided a lovely display in the last weeks but have now shed all those beautiful leaves. Until recently, Rob has been able to mulch them when mowing. This week, though, there have been just too many for the mower to handle. Well that's what the old boy said when he convinced me that we (he) needed a leaf blower. What is it with boys and toys? He's been out there for two whole days blowing piles of leaves around the lawn. He said that he needed to finish it before the snow came. He only just managed it. There was a bright white carpet to greet us this morning. The locals say it's going to be a harsh winter and that we got off lightly last year.

Mother nature seems to be getting ready. Our plants have lost their leaves and died back. Only the box wood has any colour but the ornamental grass is still magnificent, even as it fades out. The animals know something is happening as well. The deer are coming around more often, the squirrels are back and the birds have become very active on the feeding front. The other day we looked out on the lawn to see it covered by a mass of black birds. There couldn't have been an insect left!

A week or so ago, I left Rob pottering in the garden (fighting chipmunks) and joined the ladies at the “Quilters Attic” for a one day course. It was just so relaxing. I learned some new techniques and ideas for Christmas. It's generally been busy on that front!

Talking about relaxing....... we've both decided that the hot tub was our best idea this year. Well, Rob insists it was his idea but we know don't we. We climb in after putting in some time on the gym machines. Mind you, it's getting a little exciting on the trip too and from. The evening temperatures have been hovering around freezing for the last week.

We've been remarkably social in the last few weeks. We had a very pleasant meal at a local restaurant with a couple who live nearby but even further into the woods (they've had bear in the garden!!). Coming from the west coast, they are just about as far away from home as we are. They told us about a local artist that works with glass. The following weekend we went with them to visit the studio. It was a kind of open day stoke sales opportunity. They were demonstrating glass blowing and showing a variety of pieces from vases to stained glass panels. The studio is an annexe of the house set in the woods. Rob was very impressed by the glass blowing demo and the house but I think the event was a little bit “artsy” for his taste. Amazingly, neither of us took a camera. Fortunately our friends remembered.

There has been a lot of activity in the field to the left of our driveway. It soon became clear that we would have a new neighbour. The basement was quickly formed and concrete poured. Then, incredibly, the whole single story house, complete with plumbing, electrics, a fitted bathroom , a fitted kitchen and all the appliances arrived on two huge trailers. This was followed two days later by a giant crane which flew the two sections onto the waiting foundation. The building was completely watertight by the end of the day. Good job too as it bucketed down for the next two days. They'll be in for Christmas.

So it's been another busy month ........ in a relaxing sort of way. Oh, I nearly forgot. Rob is back on the road again ........ more boys toys. Apparently it's got a 4.7 V thingy. More importantly, it can seat six. That saves mine on the trips to the diy centre and will make things easier when we have visitors!

Monday, October 27, 2008

It's Fall

click on image for full splendour ......

I'm pleased to say that everything is pretty much back to normal after the "landscaping" accident. I've got my car back as good as new and we have a cheque in the bank for Robs. (although I'm not sure that's the best place for money these days) We haven't found a replacement yet but hope to pick up a bargain soon. The rental company provided a couple of different trucks for Rob to try. They were a breeze to drive even if they were the size of a small house. Oh well I'm sure he'll find something soon. ....... then I won't have to keep adjusting the seat and mirrors on mine!

One of North America's big tourist attractions is the Autumn (Fall as they say here) colours. It's usually associated with New England but it's just as spectacular where we are on the Southern edge of the Catskills. What was really interesting was driving north into Canada and seeing the countryside changing from green to red. By the time I returned at the end of the week, it had spread all the way home.

We've had glorious weather with temperatures into the low 70's (all changed now though). We took advantage of the blue skies to go for a bike ride in our local state park. Quite a few other New Yorkers had the same idea and we had to join the line to get parked. It wasn't bad once we got away from the car park ....... it's a big place.

We did something over 15 miles around the lakes of Miniwaska and Awosting. There were some difficult uphill sections that we walked but the paths are well maintained and ideal for mountain bikes. One of the rules for bike riders is the use of a crash hat. Of course, "grumpy old granddad" objects to wearing a crash hat on a push bike ...... "I've been riding a bike for 50 years with out one" ........ "They look silly" ....... etc. Anyway, after the third time of being told off by park rangers, he has decided that it's easier to wear one. It doesn't make sense to me. The "buffy old bloke" has no problem using a helmet when he's flying or when riding a motorbike. It's funny really, he's just becoming Victor Meldrew.

We've just got back from a short trip to Las Vegas. The company holds a convention there for customers and though it would be nice to see some of the surrounding country this time. The flight in passed over some spectacular mountain/desert scenery and over the Hoover Dam and it looked too good to miss. Our stay was right in the heart of the strip at the Caesars Palace Hotel. Las Vegas is like Blackpool on steroids or perhaps like Disney World for big kids. I'm not sure that Rob was really comfortable in the town but it was a fun place to be working for the week.

We hooked up with our friends Paul and Robyn to make the most of it. It was great to catch up and enjoy dinner(s), the Jersey Boys (amazing show) and a road trip to the Hoover Dam. The Dam Tour (endless fun) started and ended with a top down ride along the strip in the "American icon" Ford Mustang.......... well that's what Rob said. I just kept thinking CSI! It's only about 20 miles to the dam but wow, what a change in scenery. That mountain come desert look is something I remember from old westerns.

The dam is a remarkable structure and is a national monument. It gets a lot of visitors but we were pleased to find that it's all well organised and the people seem very proud of the whole thing. We had a lot of fun with the staff and the "Dam Tour" ...... how many times must they hear that! We had a top quality guided tour of the whole place including a trip into the heart of the dam and the turbine hall. At one point we were able to walk along a 6ft tall tube to see the view from a grating half way down the dam wall ............. and this is where Bob (buffy old bloke) excelled himself. What is he like! Well I'll tell you. If he's not being a grumpy old man, he's reverting to child hood. Just imagine what an eight year old boy would do if he's asked to go down a long 6ft diameter tube like tunnel .............. yes that's it ...... think skateboard pipe. He only starts running up the walls........ big kid. And yes it all ended in tears. Not being a kid any more, he lost his footing and landed on his elbow ....... chaos ensued with calls from the deep to alert medical staff at the surface.

Still, the tour went ahead and we were met at the surface by a bemused first aider ........ what more can I say! We continued on our way back to Vegas via lunch beside lake Mead. The fish were taking advantage of the no fishing rule and looking for offerings.

Apart from the weekend, I actually had to work so Rob looked after himself and walked the strip form one end to the other. Thank you to our friend Jayne who took time out and join Rob for lunch. I'll try to meet up next time.

Getting back home after a week away was a bit of a shock. Leaves covered the garden and the first night went below freezing. It's been time for logs on the fire and wrap up. I'm suddenly realising that I've been over here very nearly a whole year. So while I caught up with being away from the office, Rob busied himself in the garden in an attempt to keep on top of the falling leaves. They are everywhere. Rob was up a ladder clearing the gutters yesterday.
The wild life is also getting ready for winter. The squirrels are busy burying nuts all over the place and the deer are coming around more often again. One surprise though is that the Mantis is still praying in the fountain grass ....... perhaps he's praying for warmer weather.