Thursday, July 31, 2014

Day 7.202: A big (short) race

All my races to date have been fairly small local ones. The last half marathon I ran had 238 finishers, my 2014 marathon had 621, my 2013 marathon 939. Today I went to the expo for my race on Sunday Saturday. They had police directing traffic for just the first of two days of people showing up to pick up their race numbers.

Last year this race had 6247 finishers.

The expo was a little more well-attended than I'm used to, and the start-line will also be a bit of a culture-shock I expect.

I'm hoping to be done with the 6.2 miles in something close to 40 minutes but, even if I succeed, that will mean I cross the line about twelve minutes behind the winner. This is not your average local race!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Day 7.201: Hey, Lego!

E5N1 and his spaceships project. At some point I think everyone has contributed - these ones are his and Exile #2's work I think.

Exile #3 masterminded the Doctor Who mini-figure scene, although she did have some help with the execution from her siblings.

And that's how summer vacation goes down at Exile Central 2.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Day 7.200: A geography lesson...

...from E5N1.

Here is a page from the card he made for his "future wife" - one of his classmates before the move - explaining where they are relative to one another, more-or-less, with some important landmarks thrown in.

Please do not attempt to navigate using this map.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Day 7.199: Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co.

With the threat of a stormy turn for the weather on Sunday, we made the most of Saturday's sunshine with a visit to the narrow gauge railroad in Portland in the afternoon. The museum is fairly small, but packed with a nice variety of exhibits. There were trains (of various kinds) to explore:

Morse code messages to be sent over a rather short telegraph using a Morse key:

and this:

Then, after a happy hour or so, it was time for our train ride.

The train stops at the end of the line where a not-safe-for-travel bridge spans the opening to Back Cove.

The swing section of the bridge (permanently open for water-traffic) is home to a family of ospreys.

We see them often enough that I should be getting blasé about them by now - but not a chance!

After that, we had a delicious meal at Boone's as Exile #2 mentioned and then a wonderful treat-sized sorbetto or gelato at Gelato Fiasco to fuel us for the walk back to the car (and because, especially for E5N1 and me, the choice of multiple amazing dairy-free flavours is not-to-be-missed).

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Day 7.198: Exile #2's Sunday Column #15

Exile #2 writes...

In upstate NY, we came to expect firefly season right around my birthday. Well, my birthday came and went with no sightings. I have to admit to having been disappointed. It is a magical experience walking in the evening just as they are starting to send out their pulses of light. Once your eyes adjust, you find yourself surrounded by sparkles (a bit like in Cinderella before the fairy godmother appears!). There are no fireflies in UK, so it's still a novelty for us to see them although, I was beginning to think we had moved too far north. Much to my delight, however, they have arrived, like most things (but not the end of term!) two weeks later than in Albany.

In other news...there is no other news. Well, that's not exactly true. The week has involved much Lego action, cartoon drawing, knitting, hair clip creating, game playing, baking, jigsaw solving, obstacle course construction, etc. etc. but apart from that it's been fairly quiet. I won't steal phase 2 of Exile #1's Saturday report but I will say that once again we enjoyed a great meal out, this time at Boone's in Portland and are feeling very fortunate to live somewhere where food is lovingly prepared.

Have a great week!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Day 7.197: So, cars in Saco

We had a busy day. Too much for me to write about at this late hour, but I can make a start...

This morning we visited Main Street in Saco, Maine where we walked in the sunshine amongst a wide variety of interesting cars and trucks. Most were old (some very), almost all were in pristine condition and many had spectacular paint colours.

It was a quite diverting way to spend an hour or so.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Day 7.196: Art/walk/run

After dinner we went to Biddeford for the Biddeford+Saco Art Walk. Here are some of us walking near some art:

The display of art collaborations at Engine were great as were the variety of works we saw at Common Roots, and the geeky awesomeness of Awesome Hobby Shoppe.

...and here is the sun going down:

As the sun set, we were at the park at the riverfront where we met a young family out for a walk and E5N1 got involved in an extended series of sprint races with a five year old boy while E5N1's big sisters and his new friend's little sister looked on largely unimpressed. Until, that is, Exile #3 joined in the final race and realised just how fast the boys had been running.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Day 7.195: Tea/coffee, warm beer & she'll tell you

Here are some pleasing things we've seen recently (and a pun for title-watchers):

On our travels, Exile #2 spotted this:

...and at the supermarket, she wanted to be sure I didn't miss this...

...and we're always looking for out-of-state plates...

(it did have normal letters and numbers when I took the photo however.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Day 7.194: Taking a bath - on TV

E5N1 is taking swimming lessons at the moment. Today, after work - at his request - I went to see how he's doing. Although earlier in the summer he did a course of lessons in an outdoor pool, his current lessons are taking place in above-ground indoor bathtubs. Happily, since you can't really see into them, they have added CCTV to complete the weirdness.

That's him on the screen stretched out in the orange shorts.

To be fair, the pools are the kind with a strong pump that you can swim against and the CCTV can also be used to play-back your stroke in slow motion for coaching purposes. Apparently it's how Michael Phelps learned. However, for now, they do not have the current turned on and E5N1 and his three compatriots are doing lengths of the tiny pool while learning some real swimming stroke techniques. It's probably exactly what he needs, but how well it will transfer to actually staying afloat in a larger body of water remains to be seen.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Day 7.193: Spring Point

On Sunday, after a relaxing day recovering from our super-busy Saturday, we eventually ventured out in the mid-afternoon. We went to walk the Spring Point Shoreway trail, starting with a stroll along the beach at Simonton Cove. I'd been to Spring Point previously, but this time there was no trace of ice on the rock causeway (I wonder why!?) and we were able to make it out to the lighthouse - a small one not unlike the next one up the coast - the Bug Light.

On the way back, with the dramatic clouds lifting, we had a good view to the lighthouse to the south - the Portland Head Light - and, with a bit of patience and a sense of rhythm, I was able to capture it mid-flash.

As you can see, we also saw a monarch butterfly and a large as-yet-unidentified duck. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Day 7.192: Rather wet at the beach

After dinner, we went to enjoy a perfect evening at the beach. The kids were keen to show me their Chinese jump-rope skills at first, then we made a sandcastle (without any tools) but, before too long, first E5N1 and then the girls turned to wetter activities.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Day 7.191: Exile #2's Sunday Column #14

Exile #2 writes...

It was a rather rainy end to the visit of Exile #1's parents (I gather they took the heat, humidity and stormy weather back to the UK with them) but we were not too disappointed and it gave us time to recover from our short break.

We said our farewells on Thursday. E5N1 was more affected than previously. He understands now what it means not to see family members for a year or two (and he is not impressed). Grandma and Grandpa were lucky not to find a stowaway in their luggage. In fact, he may have cloned himself and just left a copy behind, Calvin and Hobbes-style because he was claiming to be "good E5N1" yesterday. I think that was a slight exaggeration on his part but he did enter into the role occasionally.

Since then, we have been returning things to their normal places. The leaf has been removed from the table, the fold-out bed has been, well, folded in. We have also entered into a second wave of unpacking.

Pictures that were still lingering in corners are up on the walls and most amazing of all we can park not just one but two cars in the garage. Now I just need to sort through all the papers that have been accumulating while E5N1 probably creates more.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Day 7.190: Pork and park

Thanks to Exile #2 and a couple of the kids going in search of a big hunk of meat yesterday, today was for smoking. After a quick trip for Exile #4, E5N1 and myself to get haircuts, I got the charcoal heating, the wood-chips soaking  and the spices mixing to make pulled pork.

My standard recipe (I have used others - but this is my fall-back) is from Dad's Awesome Grilling Book. - although I do shun the "move to the oven" step in favour of keeping the grill hot (after all, s'mores will also be expected). In the book, the author suggests that pulled-pork day might be a day to get a job-you've-been-putting-off done such as tidying the garage and, as it turned out, that is a job that was on our list.

It's not super-urgent to be able to get the cars in the garage at this time of year, but it will be important later and - when that time comes - we'll be ready!

We also had some yummy pulled pork sandwiches for dinner - and there's plenty more for another day or three.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Day 7.189: Eastern Trail at Scarborough Marsh

Due to the rather wet weather we had after our weekend break, we didn't get out with my parents during their last few evenings here. This evening, sadly without their company, we did one of the strolls we'd thought of doing earlier in the week.

We walked across Scarborough Marsh on the Eastern Trail. My previous visit here was during a long run back in April. This is from near the same place as I took those rather brown shots - the marsh was rather greener today:

We saw lots of flowers and birds including snowy egrets (mid top) and glossy ibis (bottom right and middle) and what I think must have been a small group of willets flying overhead (one pictured bottom left)

We also saw some impressive aerobatics as a swallow mobbed a tern a little way off:

At one point we saw a group of photographers staking out a tree by the trail. I think they must have been on an organised walk because when their "prey" flew away and they moved on, they were not overly sure what it was. I caught some photos as it flew by:

They thought it was a cooper's hawk, but I haven't yet convinced myself.

Overall it was a beautiful evening and a lovely evening walk.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Day 7.188: Maine Audubon, Portland & Bug Light Park

We said goodbye to my parents today, so it's appropriate that I have reached the last day of my recap of our mini-break with them last weekend. On Monday we were back home, but I still had the day off work and the weather was still dry (if getting a little hot and humid).

Our first stop was the Maine Audubon headquarters at Gilsland Farm in Yarmouth, where the birds were a little thin on the ground due to the midday heat, but we saw turkeys, swallows and yellowthroats along with a sphinx moth caterpillar, flowers and some great sculptures which were (in addition to being very appealing in their own right) excellent for keeping E5N1 interested as we walked the trails.

Then it was on to Portland for lunch and a stroll, from which we saw this red lizard across the inlet in Bug Light Park in South Portland:

So, we stopped in there on our way home and saw some kites (the lizard was being packed up by then), the loon that I saw some time ago in the same spot, now in its distinctive breeding plumage.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Day 7.187: Maine Wildlife Park

On our way back home on Sunday, we visited the Maine Wildlife Park. The animals there are almost all native to Maine and mostly rescued animals who could not live in the wild. It's a great opportunity to see these animals - some of which we've seen in the wild - up-close.

How many can you identify? (answers below).

Great Horned Owl, Racoon (white), Fisher, Porcupine, Canadian Lynx, Coyote, Canadian Lynx (and its tongue), Black Bear, Moose, Painted Turtle.

We actually had a debate about the turtle, but - given the colouring on the face - I'm pretty sure it's a painted turtle even though its shell looks strange.

It was a fun visit and made Exile #4 especially happy because she had been there on a school trip and was very pleased to be able to show the rest of us around.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Day 7.186: Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens and the Maine State Aquarium

We crammed a lot in on Saturday. This is how some of it looked.

In the morning we visited the delightfully designed and very well kept Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens.

As you can see, we saw different kinds if dragonflies, a red squirrel, a pitcher plant "eating" a bee, whales, lobster fishing, flowers and sculptures:

After lunch, we continued on to the Maine State Aquarium - a modest-sized but charming aquarium dominated by local sea-life including lobsters small and large, tiny baby horseshoe crabs, moon jellies and a are-you-as-tall-as-a-huge-lobster chart. We also had a walk around in Boothbay Harbor and saw a woodchuck outside our motel-room window.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Day 7.185: Reid State Park

Today was my last day off work and we had a very nice busy day, but I'll stick with plan-A and tell you about things in the order they happened. Back on Friday, we visited Reid State Park

Lots of people were there for the beach, but it was more of a tidal-pooling adventure for us. We found lots of weed and sea snails along with a few small crabs including one hermit crab. At one point, we were watched by a red squirrel.

The park is very picturesque and was not overly busy as you can see in the picture of the beach and the picture of the surroundings in the bottom right:

It certainly helped that the weather was nearly perfect and the tide almost fully out, but I'm sure we'd have had fun there in any case.