Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cool clouds

Looking up this morning Crisp pointed out to me that the sky is pretty cool-

Monday, January 30, 2012

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Evening sun through the trees

It's so nice that the days are getting long enough that I can come out with the dog at 4 o'clock and not be finishing our walk in the dark :)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sunday, January 22, 2012

More winter gear

When I went out with the dog this afternoon the snow on the trails had already been packed down and was nice and icy in places as it was so cold (15F) overnight, so I decided it was a perfect chance to try out another piece of winter gear I picked up over the summer- my Hillsound Trail Crampons.

Last winter I swore by my YakTrax in the snow and ice, but I wore them out and was never really happy that I often had to reset them on my feet on the trail. So over the summer I did a some research for something a little tougher and found these slightly (!) more aggressive hiking crampons from a company in Canada (well, they should know about ice and snow, eh?).

So today I tried them for the first time and was very happy. They stayed in place for the whole hike without needing any futzing with, the grip is awesome as they have serious spikes, there was no problem with snow gathering under the plates, and they seem to be extremely well made.

This snow will probably all be gone by tomorrow as it's going up into the 50s, but if we get any more snow I'll post further thoughts on these as I have them.

Oh, and I should mention the boots I have been wearing all winter that I am very happy with- again picked up over the summer on clearance. It must seem that I spend all my time in the summer prowling the interweb looking for bargains on winter gear! Not quite, I just keep an eye on a couple of those websites that aggregate sales and stuff, and LLBean sent me a coupon and had these boots on clearance :)

They are these Tuckerman's Multisport Boots in bright red :) Insulated, waterproof, very comfortable, and with a kinda cool wind-up lace system: you just twist the button on the front to tighten them, and then just pull on it to loosen them to take them off- all the support of a lace up with the convenience of a slip on. I have been wearing them all winter to walk the dog, and they have proven very warm and comfortable, both on their own and yesterday with snowshoes and today with the crampons- and when the dog hears the clicking of the lace system tightening she comes running- very Pavlovian.

Anyhow, thats the end of my little product review segment for today, stay tuned for your local news...

Sunday Pictures

I grabbed my dslr this morning to take a few better pictures of the Blind Brook Lodge smokestack, amongst other things:

It looks so weird against the clear, blue sky
It was about 15 degrees this morning so that's probably why the smoke/steam showed so well
With the cell antennas around the tower it looks kind of steam-punk :)
Snowy church
Lone ivy leaf in the snow

Electing a Pope?

Very cool plume of white smoke or steam coming from one of the towers of Blind Brook Lodge (the apartment building behind the rectory). It must be a boiler flue, but it looks really cool in the morning sun.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Ariens snow brush...

... so easy to use a 12 year old can do it :)

Crisp and his buddy Jason came out to help and did sterling work shoveling the lower nursery school patio & fire exit (an area I can't get to with the snow brush, and which, because of the stupid design of the building, is a royal pain in the ass)!

New Snowshoes :)

Holly and I came out to the woods before I do another run with the snow brush. The snow is not really deep enough, but for the fun of it I thought I would try out my new snowshoes. I'm pleased to report that despite being 1/3 bigger than my old ones they are just as easy to hike in :)

Lovin' my snow brush!

This is the first real powdery snow we've had, so I was wondering how the snow brush would handle it... awesomely! is the answer :)

It clears down to the bare sidewalk, even clearing the compressed snow where someone has walked.

It's still coming down, so I shall have to go out again later, and I still have to shovel the steps etc. (although Crisp has been a huge help and has done a lot of them), but I'm actually quite looking forward to it :)

Friday, January 20, 2012

RIP Etta James

Very sad to hear that Etta James has died. At Last was our wedding song, and it lives on as the ring tone for Jackie on my phone.

Ignore the hokey video (it was one of the least hokey I could find on YouTube), just enjoy the song.


In my travels today I finally got around to picking up a frame for the caricature of Crisp we got at Legoland in Florida on New Year's Eve. I think he actually captured him pretty well :)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Snow Brush FTW

We got a little snow last night, not much, just one of those little annoying snows- about 1/2 an inch and slushy. It's above freezing so it'll all be gone by lunchtime, but it gave me a chance to go and try out my new toy.

And it worked a treat! I've just got in from doing all the sidewalks in about an hour :)

This kind of snowfall is usually a royal pain coz it's not enough for the snowblower so I have to shovel it by hand which would take a good couple of hours. But the snowbrush made short work of it, leaving me just a few steps to shovel- and it gets all the snow off, leaving the sidewalks just wet, so no need for ice-melter!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Bit of a chill in the air...

... 22F to be exact. I had to break out my snowboard jacket (not that I actually snowboard!)  and Holly's smart RuffWear coat :)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Old school camera

My nephew Jason (16) did a digital camera class at high school last semester using a basic point-and-shoot digital camera. This semester he's doing the next class, and for this he needed a proper DSLR (if you're interested, a comparison of types of camera is here). Of course, as I am the camera geek in the family (as well as being the family scrounger) they came to me to ask if I could find something for him to use for less than the $4-500 price of a new entry level DSLR.

Funnily enough, Jackie's friend and colleague Megan (who I often chat to over the interweb about camera gear as she's a camera geek too) had just called me for advice about buying a second-hand lens from someone on Craigslist. I knew that the lens had been bought as part of a "job-lot" that included a Canon 300D camera body. This was the camera that started the whole popular DSLR revolution as it was the first one that sold for under $1,000 when it came out in 2003, and it's an ideal camera to learn on- it's only 6.3 megapixels but it's a excellent quality camera without all the bells and whistles of the newer models. So I called Megan and she agreed to sell it to me for $75 (a steal! thanks Megan!). Then I sallied forth onto eBay in search of a basic zoom lens, and very quickly snagged a 1st generation EF 35-80mm 1:4-5.6 lens for $50 :)

The lens arrived this morning, and I opened it a little nervously (well, you never know what you're going to get!) but it seems to work perfectly- the auto focus works and it stops down nicely. There's a little dust inside it, but not enough to affect the quality of the pictures, and it's again a nice lens to learn on- no image stabilisation or anything fancy, just good, old school Canon optics.

So, when I headed out with the dog I took the camera and it's new (!) lens with me to try them out- and I think for $125 it's a pretty good deal (see below)! Now I just need to dig out an old Compact Flash card reader and burn the 300D manual I downloaded to a disk and I can give the whole kit to Jason tomorrow :)

Ice crystals in the mud


Stream: slow shutter...

...and fast shutter :)

Dog and ball


This lens actually has quite nice bokeh

And more ice crystals

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Crazy weather!

This weather is nuts! We had frost on the cars this morning, but now it's 50F.

I came out at lunchtime to walk Holly and thought I was imagining it when I started hearing woodpeckers- but no, here is one of them. They must be as confuddled by the weather as the rest of us!

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Goodbye Jaws :(

Someone mentioned today, and we've just confirmed online, that we rode the Jaws ride at Universal last week during it's last week in existence- it turns out that Universal closed the ride and it's "4th of July" area for good without a lot of ceremony a couple of days ago on January 2nd, and the rumor is that they will be replacing it with a new Harry Potter themed area and ride.

It's very sad, but I'm very glad we got to ride it twice as it was the one ride I've always wanted to go on (as it's been featured itself in lots of movies). Crisp really enjoyed it, and I'm glad that the second time around I braved the spray from the shark and pulled my camera out :)

While looking up news about Jaws we also found out that it was a busier week for the theme parks in Florida than we had thought- apparently on the day we were at the Magic Kingdom (Disney) they actually closed the entrances to the park for a period because it was full. From what I've read the capacity of the Magic Kingdom is 100,000 people, so it makes me even more impressed with the whole operation! The fact that we were able to have a fabulous day, do all the rides we did, get reservations for lunch and dinner, and get out and home at the end of the day so smoothly is truly amazing!

And we were also very lucky to be at Legoland when we were- they also closed their doors on the 28th & 29th because they were full, and on the 31st when we were there the park was so quiet that on some of the rides we got off and got straight back on again because there was no line. Perhaps people had heard about them being so full on those days and stayed away- but we had no idea and just lucked out :)

Cool frozen puddle...

... at Saxon Woods.

Sunday, January 01, 2012


To find Sasha waiting to greet us. And tomorrow morning I'll go and pick up Holly from the kennels- she'll be a complete basket case!  :)

Back in NY

Just touched down 1/2 an hour early, thankfully turned on my phone to find a text from our car service saying he's already here :)

On the way home

On the plane and found a spot near our seats for our carry on :)

Delta 1876

Our plane is at the gate, which is a good sign!

Bye Sunshine :(

On the tram to the terminal at Orlando airport.

New Year's Day

Packing to go home to cold New York, but we've had a wonderful time :)