Sunday, December 31, 2017

Day 10.355: Exile #2's Sunday Column #206

Exile #2 writes...

We had a fun prequel to New Year’s Eve last night, celebrating a friend’s birthday at Up and Up, a local cocktail bar. It was very friendly and cozy, with comfy sofas and games. We might just have to go back. As is generally the case in Maine, we could comfortably roll up in snow boots and no one batted an eyelid.

Today we are planning to continue our tradition of raising a glass at British New Year - 7 pm our time - (allowing us to be in bed when midnight rolls around!) but wherever you are, and whenever you mark the turning of the New Year, we wish you good things for 2018. With credit to Regina Spektor who introduced the song to us and to Paul Horner and Peggy Lee who wrote it, here are some musical good wishes too, if you have a minute to listen:

Friday, December 29, 2017

Day 10.353: Cold!

This was at 8 am this morning - in °F on the left and °C on the right. As you can also see, the next few days are not showing much in the way of a warm-up.

Amazingly, the ice that we had last Saturday has been clinging to the trees very effectively for nearly a week despite a snow storm and quite a lot of windy conditions. This was yesterday:

Of course, it has also been falling out of the trees. Decorating the top of the snow or wherever it has fallen with all the beauty (and virtually none of the danger) of broken glass.  I took this on our driveway earlier today:

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Day 10.352: Rope bridge

Here's another thing my automatic GoPro time-lapse captured yesterday - a rope bridge with a sprinkling of LED fairy dust:

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Day 10.351: Gardens Aglow

During the Christmas season, the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens string half a million LED lights and open in the evenings for an event called Gardens Aglow. We'd heard about it several years ago, but a few days ago we saw that tickets were available for today - so we finally went. A friend of ours had tipped us off that the best tickets are for 4 pm because you get to see the garden and the lights in the twilight and then (if you stay a while) also in the dark, and that is what we did.

It was cold today - around 10°F (-12°C) while we were at the gardens. We bundled up in as many layers of thermal clothing as we could find and I decided to try my new GoPro in timelapse mode to take some hands-free photographs so I could keep my gloves on. It did pretty well while there was still some light:

After a brief spell in the warming room, we ventured out under the darkening skies. I wasn't sure how well the GoPro would do in the dark or how long the battery would hold out in the cold, so I braved some photographs with my DSLR - at least I could keep one of my two pairs of gloves on and operate that!

The combination made for some interesting moments and the GoPro caught a few good action shots too:

I loved the lights buried in the snow and yes we enjoyed some kettle corn to keep us going on the drive home.

Here are some DLSR photos:


Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Day 10.350: Boxing Day on the beach

We managed our Christmas walk on the beach today. The roads were pretty clear and the beach was easy to get onto and easy to walk on. It was quite cold but the weather reports suggested "seasonably" so. As of tonight some really cold weather is coming in which may make our planned adventure more challenging than we intended. Today, the small pools on the beach were starting to freeze and in one case (bottom right) we found a shell in ice in a clam shell in ice in water in a pool. There were lots of big clam and snail shells and some sandpipers.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Day 10.349: The Christmas Day Storm

There were really two stories today. The first was Christmas - with stockings and gifts and a traditional meal (including Christmas pudding of course), Facetime conversations with family and the playing of new board games (Codenames [not pictured], Doctor Who - Time of the Daleks and Takenoko):

The other was a pretty impressive snow storm. The snow got started in the early hours and was done by early afternoon, but at times it was coming down very rapidly. I would guess we had nine inches or so. Here are some pictures from as it was still coming down (but towards the end) and one when the clean-up was done for the day:

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Day 10.348: Merry Christmas #11

This is our tenth Christmas in the USA (we returned to the UK at the end of the first year of the Exile) and on Christmas Eve in each of those years I've posted some kind of video greeting:

Day 1.348: We wish you a... (song by the tree)
Day 2.348: Happy Holidays (playing in the snow)
Day 3.348: Happy Christmas #4 (Advent calendar animation)
Day 4.348: 'twas the night before Christmas (stop motion blocks)
Day 5.348: Happy Christmas #6 (song by the tree)
Day 6.348: Happy Christmas (#7)! (undoing the house-selling staging of the tree)
Day 7.348: The Bethlehem Tornado (Advent calendar animation)
Day 8.348: Merry Christmas (Rockin' around...) (song by the tree)
Day 9.349: Holly, Jolly, Happy, Merry (song by the tree)

All of which brings us to this year, which starts with E5N1 playing the trumpet...

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Day 10.347: Drawn out storm

The second part of our storm arrived right on cue with sleet (ice pellets) followed by freezing rain with a bit of regular rain for a while late in the day. We started the day by clearing the snow from last night. Later Exile #4 and I cleared most of the ice from the drive while it was briefly above freezing. E5N1 also made an ice sculpture that the eagle-eyed may spot below.

Apart from that we stayed inside. Just before lunch there was an epic Pictionary session (it has recently been rediscovered). Two three-player games with Exile #2, E5N1 and me followed by Exile #3 joining us for a game during which E5N1 somehow managed to successfully draw "unanimous". The rest of us all agreed that we would not have wanted to try that!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Day 10.346: Snow; time for snow

It snowed today. Quite a lot. I was at work for the last working day before Christmas.  They are calling this a three-part holiday-weekend storm. Part two comes tomorrow with a chance of a significant amount of ice build-up. Sunday is a break, then several more inches of snow are expected on Christmas Day.

I was surprised to find Exile #3 in fairly good spirits this evening at the end of her first day of winter break. As far as she is concerned snow is only good for two things - canceling school and Christmas. Maybe this is close enough to the latter, or maybe she just managed to avoid looking out of the window all day.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Day 10.345: The Last Jedi (no spoilers!)

No spoilers...unless you count my ticket spoiling the view of my excellent Star Wars Christmas sweater!

We all went to see Episode VIII tonight and found it to be very satisfactory.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Day 10.344: Otter surprise

On our way to Mount Agamenticus on Sunday morning we were passing Chases Pond in York when we spotted something on the ice. It only took a second glance to identify it as an otter. We'd never seen one in the wild before and this one was very obliging - staying by this hole in the ice having an occasional roll in the snow while we parked, photographed and left.

It turns out that North American river otters are mostly nocturnal or crepuscular during the rest of the year, but become more active in daylight in winter.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Day 10.343: One more holiday concert

Yesterday evening, we drove through the unexpectedly persistent snow to see and hear E5N1's first band concert. These kids only got their instruments three months ago, so I think they're doing amazingly well.

Can you see him, just under the conductor's arms?

The band played some pieces all together, then decreasing sized groups that had earned their white, yellow, orange, green and blue belts in their band karate program played their more difficult tunes. E5N1 has earned his green belt - here is their performance:

Only two had earned their blue belt by concert time, but they gamely did their piece as a duet.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Day 10.342: Snowy at East Point

After goodbyes as the kids left for school, the four of us set out for one last taste of the Maine coast. Some unexpectedly persistent snow was just getting started, but that didn't stop us from visiting East Point Sanctuary at Biddeford Pool - views of Wood Island Lighthouse and various birds including (pictured) a long-tailed duck and a loon.

There were a couple of loons on the beach too - we're sad to have said goodbye to them so they can head home tonight.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Day 10.341: Exile #2's Sunday Column #205

Exile #2 writes...

We have had quite a vigorous day. We woke up to beautiful blue skies, and decided to make the most of it, with a climb up Mount Agamenticus. It was pretty cold, but the snow was not too slick or too deep on the ground for us to have an enjoyable hike to the top for some spectacular views, including that of a very snowy Mount Washington.

We went home for a brief lunch before using what remained of the daylight to take a walk on the beach. We finished out with dinner, including a spectacular paddle of beers for some. Fun!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Day 10.340: Mills, Mackworth & Magic

We packed a lot into our second day with my sister and brother-in-law. We started with a walk around the mills by the Saco River:

After lunch, we circumnavigated Mackworth Island:

Followed by a walk around Brunswick, a fantastic dinner at Frontier (which is in another former mill building) and then a walk around the shop and the lights at L.L. Bean in Freeport.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Day 10.339: Sister; Williams

My sister & brother-in-law are here and, with a reasonable night's sleep, the kids off to school and a few chores completed, we ventured out into the ice and snow to visit Fort Williams Park and add a few more to the photos taken of Portland Head Light - maybe-the-most-photographed lighthouse in the U.S.

We had a very nice lunch in the Old Port before heading back in time to greet the kids back from school. They joined us to watch a dance show DVD, eat dinner and play a game. All quite good!

Day 10.338: Twinkle, twinkle

After some travel delays, our visitors have safely arrived. Christmas was ready for them:

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Day 10.337: Holiday Concert #2

It was both our second holiday concert of the season and the second year in a row that we've attended this one at Exile #3's High School. This year she was singing in both the big Concert Choir and the auditioned Treble Choir. In total there were two bands, two orchestras and three choirs in a packed and wonderful programme.

Tomorrow, she gets to do it again, but we have a different excitement!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Day 10.336: Snow fingers (and other winter precipitation)

I took this on Sunday after the snow - we liked the way the snow was peeling off the railings and forming snake-like fingers.

Today we had another winter storm - with a few inches of snow followed by some freezing rain. It made it rather a mess on the roads for our drive to the work holiday dinner, but we all made it there safely and I am now back home in the warm.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Day 10.335: Christmas jumpers!

Seeing as five of the six in attendance at our gathering tonight (and four out of five sweater wearers) are British (even if most are also American), I thought I could get away with calling them "jumpers"

We had a very nice evening!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Day 10.334: Exile #2's Sunday Column #204

Exile #2 writes...

Like many in the U.K., we woke up to a healthy covering of snow. The photo my Mum sent me looked pretty much like what I could see out of the window. This being the Northeast, however, we were still able to drive into Portland for 9 am church with no difficulty. We opted for the early service because today was also the long awaited performance of the Land of Misfit Toys, for which Exile #3 and E5N1 had been rehearsing for the last few months.

The show told the story of a doll, who is thrown away because she is broken while some mean girls are making fun of her and the little girl who owns her. She ends up in the Land of Misfit toys, where she finds friends and feels loved again. True to the stereotype of all British characters being baddies, Exile #3 got to play one of the mean girls, and perhaps in homage to Bert the “Cockney” chimney sweep, E5N1 was Fred the Garbage Man, who shook his head sadly at the sight of dolly in the bin. Both also did turns as jack-in-the boxes and Exile #3 appeared finally as a rocking horse. It was very enjoyable - a fun alternative to the traditional Nutcracker!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Day 10.333: First snow, last tree

Our first couple of Decembers in the US we were caught by surprise at how early the Christmas decorations arrive. In fact, I believe we went shopping for a few decorations in mid-December once to find the few items that were left already on mark-down. More recently, we've embraced the season on more US terms and so we went to cut down a tree today, only to find that we were - once again - rather late to the decorating party.

This wasn't literally the last tree, but the view is pretty representative of the farm's stock levels:

Fortunately, they had some pre-cut ones, presumably from some other less-accessible farm and we were able to choose one and pay for it as the first snowflakes were beginning to fall.

The snow continued to fall:

and fall:

as we decorated the tree. This was the last time I ventured out:

but the snow is still falling. It wasn't literally the first snow of the season - but the first that is making much of an impact.