Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Monday, December 22, 2014

White Christmas: ski weekend in Vermont

We went skiing at Stowe in Vermont this past weekend, about 500 km N of NYC and only 80km south of the Canadian border. It was a lot of fun. Flew to Burlington, VT then 40 miles by road to ski-in/ski-out Stowe Mountain Lodge - very comfortable and cozy for this time of year. Glorious sunny day Saturday, -2 deg C but no wind on a 60-120 cm groomed base (they've had a lot of snow already this month); overcast, colder and breezy Sunday. Xavi had his first go on skis and obviously his scootering and biking helped with his balance. Paul & Monica found skiing is like riding a bike, straight back on the piste despite not having been for about 5 years - as our ski gear attests! :)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Look who's three and a half today!

Now 88 cm tall and weighs 14.8 kg. Loves his bike (no training wheels), scooter, swimming and any NYC playground. And loves his trains. Toilet trained in the day. sleeps 8.30 'til 7.30. loves pizza, spinach triangles, chicken schnitzel, ham. water, juice, milk. Quite a sweet tooth. Can almost write his name and can count to 10 in Italian. No food allergies but still on asthma preventative and needs Ventolin about once a month. What a good boy!
Fall semester progress report from Miss Ashleigh: Xavier is a pleasure to have in class. He is bright, curious, and kind. He is able to follow directions and maintain focus on the activity at hand. He’s an enthusiastic participant in all of our activities, from circle time to music and movement. He is well-liked by his peers and is comfortable playing alone and with his classmates. Xavier loves to build elaborate tracks for Thomas the Train to cruise around on. I’ve enjoyed getting to know Xavier and look forward to working with him next semester!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

First snow for the winter of 2014-2015

Another "nor'easter" storm yesterday (named Damon) brought us our first snow for this winter. That makes it 6 Decembers out of the last 7 it has snowed. It snowed pretty steadily from 6-8pm and left about 1-2cm on the ground. Enough to play in.
A "nor'easter" is so-named because it is a storm that tracks northward up the US East coast, the winter version of a summer hurricane like Irene or Sandy. If it moves up the coast slightly inland (as last month's storm did), it brings rain to NYC and the other big cities on the coastal plain (Philadelphia, Baltimore, ...etc.) and snow up in upstate NY and New England (Boston northward). But if it can move slightly offshore, as it did yesterday, it will bring wet snow to the coastal cities from NYC all the way down to Richmond, VA or even parts of North Carolina.
Technical note: Nor'easters develop in response to the sharp contrast in the warm Gulf Stream ocean current coming up from the tropical Atlantic and the cold air masses coming down from NE Canada. When the very cold and dry air rushes southward and meets up with the warm Gulf stream current (often near 70 F/21 C even in mid winter) intense low pressure develops. The divergence or diffluence in the upper atmosphere caused by the Jet Stream removes and disperses the rising air at a faster rate than it is replaced at the surface, which, along with the Coriolis Force, creates and develops a storm. Their northeast track brings them up along the East Coast past the mid-Atlantic and New England coastal states. The counterclockwise flow around a low-pressure system brings the warm moist oceanic air over land. The warm moist air meets cold air carried southward by the trough. The low enhances the surrounding pressure gradient, which acts to spiral the very different air masses toward each other at an even faster rate. The greater the temperature differences between the two air masses the greater the turbulence and instability, and the more severe the storm can become.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Beer Mile Championships in Austin TX

In a dizzying finish, American scientist Elizabeth Herndon set a new women's world record in the Beer Mile World Championships in Austin, Texas last week, breaking through a tight field to obliterate the previous mark by 11 seconds. In the men's race, Canadian mailman Corey Gallagher relied on fast drinking to separate himself from the field, turning in a time a hair over 5 minutes, just three seconds off the men's world record. Herndon, an environmental geochemist from Fort Wayne, Ind., used a steady pace and a strong final lap to pull away from several runners who had traded the lead back and forth. Her final time was 6:17.76. Her competitors included Austin native Chris Kimbrough, who made headlines last month when the 44-year-old mother of six set the previous women's world record with a time of 6:28.6. On Wednesday, Kimbrough struggled to keep up with her opponents' drinking and finished fourth. To remind you, the beer mile is an event that was for years a mostly private pursuit of uniquely motivated athletes, who drink one beer at the start of each of 4 track laps. But it's grown more popular recently, and the beer mile went viral – or bacterial, one might say – when James Nielsen made a video claim to the first-ever sub-5 minute time (Nielsen did not compete in last night's race). And in case you're thinking these aren't serious athletes, consider that the men's field included an Olympian.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

It was a cold bleak day, with a "wintry mix" of snow flurries, freezing rain and sleet at times. Despite a plot by 'anarchists' to disrupt the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (thankfully foiled by NYPD), we went over to watch it and got a great spot on the corner of Central Park South & 6th Avenue, right where they turn. Emma Lovell, in US for a conference, came by for lunch. In the evening, we went for dinner to the apartment of some new expat friends fresh off the boat, Ray & Di and and their daughter Katarina who is just a week younger than Xave. This year, we're giving thanks for the Rabbitohs of course. Also the cherry tomatoes, egg plants and herbs on our terrace did pretty well! :) (the first frost, marking the end of the 'growing season' occurred Nov 18 this year)
as they say in Italy, Buon Ringraziamento!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

"They celebrate Thanksgiving in Australia, right?"

This year, I'm saying "yep, and it's big there too" - after 6 years of getting shocked &/or dismayed reactions to "no, it's in the Southern hemisphere, so it's spring there, it's not harvest time (and the water really does go down the plug the other way), and Christmas is our big family occasion".* But unlike Halloween, Valentines Day and various other American holidays, Thanksgiving is a nice concept, as these old photos show. Being just 2 deg C outside with a wintry mix (rain/sleet/snow flurries) today, staying inside to eat and drink and watch the footy sounds like a good option. We would do well to add "Thanksgiving" to the NSW Public Holiday roster, perhaps some time in late May?
*Footnote: despite the obvious harvest and religious connotations, it was actually Abraham Lincoln who proclaimed TG as a public holiday, to give thanks for "the advantages and privileges of living in a democracy" such as the USA

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A slow news day for sure, but the story is about the City Council attempting to regulate the people who dress up in costumes and hang out at Times Square for photos with tourists (for a fee). Many consider them little more than panhandling pests.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Private playground at Union Square

Perhaps the record cold temperatures (and snow - but not in NYC) across the eastern US yesterday made the World news in your neck of the woods? if not, it struggled to get above 0 deg here, and the 30-60 kph winds made it feel much colder. Nevertheless, it was a surprise to M & X that they had the Union Square playground to themselves at 10 am - a time when it would normally be teeming with hundreds of kids. New Yorkers are such whimps!
It's cold again this morning (6 a.m.): minus 5 deg C, feels like minus 10.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Holiday Train Show at NYBG

Although not winter until December 21st, the cold weather is now upon us and and there was even forecast of snow one night during the week, that did not eventuate. The "Holidays" (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years) are just around the corner, and yesterday we went to the Botanical Garden to see the Holiday Train Show which Xavi enjoyed very much. Although the "Fall colors" are past their peak, the Garden was pretty spectacular on a clear, crisp day (max. 3 deg C). Even the real MetroNorth trains looked good today.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

This could just be the best value meal in NYC

From the sublime to the ridiculous - last Sunday we were enjoying the regional dishes of the northern Veneto with Stephen & Jenny in the old world charm of Hosteria Ca' Dentro on via Canova in Asolo. This Sunday back in NYC we had lunch at Ikea in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn. All you could eat for $14.40: Swedish meatballs and fries, soup, salad, yogurt, chips, soda (free refills), apple juice. Plus great views of the Freedom Tower and Statue of Liberty from the dining room. Plus a free water taxi ride to and from Pier 11 at South Street Seaport. Not to mention plenty of exercise climbing through the "Bjursta" cupboards. Only trouble was it was extremely depressing standing in the long, slow moving line waiting to be served lunch...