Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year from NYC

All the focus is on Times Square of course with the ball drop at midnight being the "last" place on the planet to welcome in 2012, almost 24 hrs after the Sydney fireworks. We may be just 2km from Times Square over here on First Avenue, but it is a world away: just another bleak winter's Saturday morning, though a bit quiter than usual because of the holiday weekend. It is unseasonably mild today, 12 degrees Celsius being more like April than December, so good to make the most of it and get outdoors as it is not expected to get above freezing for most of next week.

All the best for 2012 to all the followers of the 'Letter'.

First Avenue

Bagel line (Seinfeld moment)

67th Street farmers' market: limited range this time of year

the swings are in big demand at 68th Street playground

Xavi loves the swing.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Baby's first Christmas

waiting in anticipation...

Xavi's first car. Looks like he's going to be a real petrol head!

In those colours, looks he's also going to be a Chicago Bears supporter

no snow but pretty bleak outdoors today: +2 to +8

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Xavi is 6 months today!

How time flies! It has been a wonderful journey so far - hope it has been as much fun for him as it has for us.

This week, Xavi started sitting up and has also started lifting his bottom up when he does 'tummy time', so he is getting ready to crawl. He babbles a lot and has started blowing bubbles. He eats some solids (pumpkin soup, weetbix, prunes yogurt). He goes to sleep easily but he is still waking 2-3 times per night. So after he gets over his 6 month vaccinations tomorrow, we will ferberize him.

To celebrate Xavi's "mezzo compleanno", we went to Untitled, the baby-friendly restaurant in the Whitney Art Museum on Madison at 76th, about a 20 minute walk. It was fine and sunny but very cold, only minus 3 deg C, and minus 9 deg C in the wind. No sign of any snow and it is forecast to be 5-10 deg C most days right through to Christmas, so no White Christmas in NYC again this year ( officially defined as 2.5cm of snow on the ground, which happens only 1 year in 7).

Here are some photos of him today

Monday, December 12, 2011

NYT Editorial: "The rain it raineth"By VERLYN KLINKENBORG

It rained the whole of the last week we were in Sydney, and by all accounts the big wet there has basically continued ever since (noticed there has not been a good track in Sydney since the Rosehill meeting on December 3rd) . So here is the NY Times waxing lyrical about November rain in these parts, in their occasional "The Rural Life" editorial series, published the day we returned from Down Under. I imagine Verlyn is some old codger with a white beard wearing a flannelette shirt and dungarees while riding his John Deere tractor somewhere not far from Millerton. Hope you enjoy it!

“It’s raining,” I think, and then wonder what the “it” is that is doing the raining. Ordinarily, that’s just a linguistic question. But on a cold November day, it feels like a philosophical problem. It makes no sense to say the clouds are raining when the sky is so solidly, grayly felted. In the pasture, the horses stand, hair slicked, hind legs cocked. I conclude that what is raining is the rain, a phrase that sounds like the opening of a grim, Anglo-Saxon lyric.

The trees are coming into their winter bareness, the only green is the lichen on their branches. Against the hemlocks, the rain is falling in dim, straight lines. The sugar maples on the far edge of the pasture have nothing to say about the rain, only the wind. This is the time of year when all the houses have come out of the woods, edging closer to the roads as if for company.

It will sound strange to say that on a day like this my thoughts are never far from the chickens, but it’s true. The red heat lamps are on in the brooder house, and when chore time comes I’ll look in through the window and watch the month-old chicks for a while before disturbing them with food and fresh water. One by one, they stand and stretch a wing and leg — the only balletic move a chicken can make — then settle back into the mass of bodies. They’re always seeking thermal equilibrium, clustering tighter and edging closer to the heat as the temperature drops, dispersing and drifting away as it rises.

I do the same inside my house, sitting close to the wood stove, writing. The fire burns clean and hot, but this is the kind of day when there is sometimes a backdraft, a tuft of smoke venting out the air intake and into the kitchen with an audible puff. It rises and vanishes but leaves behind the scent of oak and maple burning, a scent so welcome and autumnal that it’s almost bacon to the nose. The rain rains, I write, the chickens brood, and the horses stand in the mist of their breath, all of us getting along as best we can.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Winter hits NYC a couple of weeks early

Winter doesn't arrive until the solstice in another 10 days, and no snow yet (apart from the freak storm in October), but it has certainly gotten cold enough this week. Only -2 deg C at 7 am this morning when we went running - fortunately no wind chill - and had only gotten up to 4 deg C by mid afternoon. Sunset is at about 4.30 pm these days and its already getting darker by 3pm.

Xavi does looks cute "bundled up" in his hat and coat when we venture out into the cold. he's 6 months next weekend, and is sitting up (with supervision), eating some solids and looking very grown up in his high chair, reaching out for everything, grabbing things in his two hands - and trying to put it in his mouth.

Yesterday we went Christmas tree shopping at one of the sidewalk stalls that pop up on every other corner across the city this time of year. $50 for one of those little trees on a red & green stand on the sidewalk behind Monica. To get the tree to open up and bring the color and aroma out, we were advised to use warm water with an aspirin dissolved in it the first time we water it!

Photos courtesy of Monica's iPhone. our camera broke and we will buy a new one at the post-Xmas sales.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Xavi Down Under!

Xavi had busy social calendar while in Sydney, meeting his extended family who love him so much. Apologies to those who met him and didn't get their picture taken (...and apologies to passengers on QF 107 back to New York)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Postcard from Noosa

Been to Hawaii and Caribbean this year, but Noosa wins hands down. What a great couple of days of surf, sun & fun we had...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Post card from Louisville, KY

It was the Breeders Cup this weekend, one of the richest two days of horse racing in the world, with 12 Grade 1 events worth around $US 15 million in prize money and the best horses from US and Europe come to compete. The venue moves around the country and this year it was at Churchill Downs, the site of the Kentucky Derby. It was a beautiful day for it, crystal clear skies and temperatures around 18-20C. The main and final race is the BC Classic, worth $5M, and So You Think, the former Bart Cummings horse, came over from Ireland for it, but only finished 5th.

Away from the track, Kentucky is one of the most rural and poorest states in the Union. Louisville is a river town, on the Ohio River, perhaps like a Newcastle or a Maitland. It was named in honor of Louis XIV, for the help the French gave the Americans during the Revolutionary War. Kentucky was part of the Confederacy and Louisville's heyday was in the 1800's when steamships came up the Mississippi from New Orleans, mainly carrying slaves. Aside from the race track, Louisville is famous for being the home of the Louisville Slugger baseball bat factory, a UPS hub, the home town of Muhammad Ali, and the worst Oxycontin abuse in the country.

So unless you are a racing fan or baseball afficionado, you probably don't need to come here.

the famous Twin Spires at Churchill Downs race track

the mighty Ohio River. that's Indiana state on the other side

Gen. Geo. Clark a Revolutionary War patriot. His younger brother was the Clark of Lewis & Clark, America's version of Burke & Wills - though they made it back.

Beautiful fall colors and the Cathedral of the Assumption

world's biggest baseball bat!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Xavi is on his way down under!

What was already a stressful event was aggravated by terrible traffic - it was raining and the Thursday p.m. peak hour, and took almost 2hrs not the usual 45 minutes to get to JFK by car. Arrived less than 90 mins before departure , but tell Alan Joyce the Qantas staff at JFK were very sympathetic and helpful

checking in

mixed emotions at security. As Lloyd Christmas said "I hate goodbyes!"

How will the plane ever take off? Monica+Kate+2 babies=100 kg of luggage

UPDATE: 2 cute boys waiting patiently at LAX, 3 a.m. NYC time (sent from Kate's iPhone)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Trick or Treat!

Scary! Monica & Kate getting into the Halloween sprirt

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Postcard from St Martin/St Maarten

Hi from this schizophrenic little island in the southern Caribbean off the coast of Venezuela, 3.5 hours direct flight from NYC. It was recommended by a work friend as a good place to go in the Caribbean ~ if you don't want to spend a $1000/night. We are here for 3 nights before Steve heads back to Sydney on Thursday. The northern half of the island, Saint Martin, is owned by France and is part of the French West Indes. The southern half, Sint Maarten, is owned by Holland and is part of Netherlands Antilles. It is very tropical, mountainous like Hawaii, but very third world like New Guinea or New Caledonia. So the scenic beauty is a bit spoilt by the third world development. The French side is nicer; the Dutch side is very overdeveloped and touristy. But the weather has been fabulous and we are having a great time, staying at the "Grand Case Beach Club" which is not unlike Villa Manyana but right on the water's edge.
View of Grand Case

Hack family on Grand Case beach

Xavi's first day at the beach

Le Galion beach near the famous Orient Bay

Daquiri time (responsible parenting by the Hacks')

Saturday, October 8, 2011

What Kind of Fall Am I? -

What Kind of Fall Am I?
Published: October 4, 2011

There is no single way to measure the coming of autumn. Gardeners wait for the first hard frost, the one that blackens the basil and pulps the tomatoes still on the vine. For some, it’s the smell of wood smoke or the sight of leaves flaming out one tree species at a time. In New York City, there are different measures. Fall begins when street fashion slips into thermal chaos — down jackets, shawls, bermudas and flip-flops all on the same block. Fall begins, as it did this week, when the residual heat in the subway station feels strangely welcome.

The approach to autumn has been murkier than usual this year — a long, damp slog toward October, days of rain all across the Northeast. We can hope, after the first hard frost, for a week or so of Indian summer. But there is really no proper name for the slice of the season we’ve had so far. This fall has been made of moments from late May, a few gray days from early June, some Sundays that April discarded, and a week or so that seems to have been orphaned entirely, with no month to call home.

It will come, we hope — the sky a Venetian blue, the days as crisp as a just-ripe, old-fashioned apple, an Ashmead’s Kernel or a Calville Blanc. That is the autumn we’re waiting for — not a prognostication of winter or a postponement of summer, but actual autumn, a season we hope will last as long as it can. It is a season of gnat-killing nights and afternoons when the sun’s heat is becoming elusive. It is frost on the grass and your visible breath rising in the air.

Today was such a day...

The punters enjoying the Venetian blue sky over Bethesda fountain in Central Park

Early fall colors, Central Park

Our basil and tomatoes are "gone"

East River

Xavi is looking forward to seeing everyone in Sydney real soon!