Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Last Saturday, 46 of our relatives and friends gathered at the community centre in our local village to help Mum and me celebrate our 60th and 90th birthdays.

Our birthdays are only 9 days apart and so it seemed appropriate that we share our celebration.

We had quite a mixed group, with ages ranging from 1 year to 99 years of age. All of Mum's children were there, her oldest surviving sister, Grace, as well as grandchildren, great grandchildren and cousins together with friends and neighbours.

Brother Bob was Master of Ceremonies and carried the proceedings very well for us. He did not let us down in regard to his ability to quote poetry and we enjoyed the several he rendered on the day.

We provided morning tea and had lunch catered for and all of the food was excellent. The birthday cakes are yummy, traditional fruit and classically iced. Even the floral decorations were made from icing.

Mum with all of her children - from the left, Barbara, Linda, Mum, Norman, Wendy, Bob, Peggy, Alan.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Memories of San Francisco.

Lisa took this of David and me with Jackson the day we went to Fishermans Wharf.

The infamous Alcatraz Prison is in the background.
I couldn't have done this if I tried.

Last year I planted a clematis which has the most beautiful large lavender coloured flowers.

Several months ago I planted some hollyhock plants and they seemed to be taking so long to come into flower I was about ready to give up on them.

Something must have happened while I was away because suddenly the hollyhocks have shot up and flowered in delicate shades of pink.

One of the hollyhocks manged to twist itself around and through the trellis fence and has just begun to flower and has two of the lovely clematis flowers as a base. Now, if I had tried to plan that, it would never have worked for me.

A lovely delight in the random type garden that we have.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Home again after two weeks and the garden and those lovely flowers were still there.

The timing of my flight from San Francisco meant that I arrived at Auckland airport at 4am and the connecting flight got me to Taupo just before 9am.

I had expected sister, Linda, to be there, but Mum was there as well. I think she wanted to see for herself that I had actually made it home again.

Lovely to go on holiday, I had a wonderful time with David, Lisa and Jackson, a lovely opportunity to see parts of the world I had never seen before, but also lovely to come to family, friends and that lovely garden. Oops, forgot to mention the cats. I don't think they could believe it at first that I had actually returned. Boris, in particular, stayed very close once he realised it was me and purred like he had never purred before.
After our visit to the delightful Muir Woods, David took us for a drive high above the redwood trees. We were able to look down and see the redwoods towering high above their companion trees.

We drove through the Mount Tamalpais State Park and stopped at the lookout to view the scene in this image.

The weather was not good and dusk was approaching. The outline of San Francisco city can be seen to the right of the image in the distance.

Apart from the weather not being good, there was also a stiff breeze in the air. I was not brave enough to face the elements so Lisa was kind enough to be our photographer.

If you are ever in this part of the world a drive through this State Park is well worth while, providing some sweeping views of the vast Pacific Ocean.

As a visitor to the United States, the opportunity to go to Muir Woods was truly delightful.

Tucked away in a valley near the Pacific Ocean is the Muir Woods - the last remaining coastal redwood forest.

These redwood trees are truly magnificent and have to be seen to be believed.

We had hoped to use the opportunity for a grandma/grandson photo but Jackson had other ideas.

He had his little yellow car with him and he was on a mission.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Commander in Chief

If Jackson needs help with a project he likes to let you know.

'Help, Daddy, Help,' or 'Sit down, Daddy, sit down,' all with project completion in mind.

Jackson had a lot of fun with this giant Leggo when I was there and I found myself to be part of his construction team at time as well.

Nothing else would do but Nana had to get down to his level to help complete the project.

When all was done he would line up as many of his trains and cars that he could find and 'drive' them along the constructed road.

A trip to San Francisco would somehow not be complete without at least a close up look at the Golden Gate Bridge.

Again the weather was not the best but still it was worthwhile and not only did we look but we drove over the bridge so that we could visit and have a late lunch in Sausalito a lovely waterside location that reminded me very much of the harbour at Mosman in Sydney, Australia.

David had booked us into a hotel in San Rafael, also on the northern side of the Golden Gate Bridge and I offered to babysit Jackson so Mom and Dad could have an evening out together.

I ordered room service for Jackson and me and we enjoyed a lovely quiet evening together while he munched on french fries and watched a video.
Train journey over and I made it home again in time to be an observer for Googleween - David's employers version of Halloween.

Not quite sure what I expected from all of this but I soon came to realise that Google have made this celebration into a family event.

In the States, commercially Halloween is the most successful celebration after that of Christmas and when you see the amount of time and effort that families go to in costume dress up either for themselves or their children you gain some understanding of the popularity of this event.

Google had set this event up in the outdoors but the day was the first in a number of wet days and with the State of California being very thirsty for wet weather you could not complain about that but in terms of Halloween it did put a bit of a dampener on events.

Musical entertainment, nibbles and pumpkin decoration all seemed to be events of the day.

With a bit of help from Dad, Jackson was successful in creating a face for the pumpkin of his choice.

Lisa had bought Jackson a car costume to wear for Halloween but the tow car driver's cap was as far as he was prepared to go and he could easily have been a two truck driver in miniature dressed as he was.

Young and old - a young baby dressed up as a flower and adults dressed in costume as well -just a small sampling of what was on show. Spider man was very popular amongst the young boys.

The rain meant our time at Google was shortened and so we moved on to Lisa's work.

Jackson took his Elmo themed treat basket and he scored very well as we moved around the different cubicles at Live Ops and was consistently polite with his 'thank you's' as his treat basket filled up.

After a week in San Francisco with David and family I decided to go off on my own little adventure for a couple of days.

I took the Amtrack train from San Jose and travelled up the coast into Oregan, over the Cascade Mountains and on to Seattle, Washington.

The journey takes 24 hours and the under leg seat rest is a great help for the majority of people like myself who took a reserve seat and not a sleeper for the journey.

The countryside became prettier the further north we travelled. The Cascade Mountains were lovely, mile after mile after mile of autumn splendour. I had always said I would love to be in the America when the leaves were changing for autumn and I certainly had this dream fulfilled.

I had hoped to share images of the Cascade Mountains but my laptop was stolen on my return journey to New Zealand and I had uploaded my images and deleted them off my camera so they are gone for ever. Still, I have memories and they are all good ones.

Travelling by train over such a long period meant that meals were provided either in a community dining car or you could use the cafeteria. For most of my meals I chose to go to the dining car and it was a very good way of meeting people. Seating was limited and so you had to share with others in booths for four people.

Each meal time was totally different and so I got to meet an interesting cross section of people including Republicans who said they were voting for McCain but knew that Obama would win - how right they were.

The trip to Seattle was extended by a further 2 hours to 26 hours all up as we had to stop for rail works just near the Oregan border. This meant our train did not get into Seattle until about 10.30pm. I found a cab as soon as I could to take me to my pre booked hotel, made the most of sleep in a very comfortable bed, rose at 6.30am, showered and had a lovely cooked breakfast, before I headed back to the station for the return journey at 9.45am.

The forward journey was such that we arrived in Washington State after dark and so it was lovely, for the return journey to able to soak all of this in. Some very, very nice coastal scenery. Puget Sound would be worth a return visit, if only. It was just a glimpse in what was a very long train journey but enough to make me think that this part of the world could offer a lot more if I get the chance to go back.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Yesterday, Sunday here, we went to Santa Cruz for an outing.

We had to go up over the hills to leave Silicon Valley and cooler temperature with an incoming sea breeze, was quite noticeable.

A walk through the local shops and a meal at a local Mexican restaurant were first up on the agenda and then we went for a walk along the pier.

Again their were more sea lions, not as prolific as at Fishermans Wharf but tucked away under the pier nevertheless.

Fenced off watching holes have been created in the pier to allow visitors to look down on the sea lions. If they did not have numbers they more than made up for it with their honking. One has to wonder what they are honking about as they seem to keep up conversation on an ongoing basis.

Looking back at the beach from the pier there is a huge building which looks late 19th century/early 20th century and then stretching out from that an enormous fair ground.

I did a little bit of research:-


and the boardwalk and fair were the West's answer to Coney Island in New York. The Santa Cruz fairground had been going for just over 100 years and from the screams coming from the rides when I took the photo it would seem to be just as popular as ever.

After spending time on the pier it was getting late so we did not take time out on the beach or at the fair but moved on. We were meeting a friend from Lisa's work for tea and we had a very nice meal at an Italian restaurant. The food in San Francisco is very good.
If there is one thing Jackson loves to do it is to run his fingers through him Mommy's hair.

Only thing is, sometimes he tugs a bit more than he should and if he hops into bed with Mommy and Daddy in the night and does this then it can cause a few problems..........................

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Mum and I have two cats, Bella and Boris.

They are Burmillas, have beautiful colourings and the best in good looks but their people communication skills are not the best - to say the least.

When I am at home they relate to me more than anyone and so while I am away they have been acting up and sometimes have been naughty little stop outs and not come home at night like they should.

Still, my time away is making them rely more on others, so hopefully their whole world will be a little larger by the time I return and hopefully they will be relating more to others than to me.

That will be okay, as long as they don't ignore me totally.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Yesterday was spent at yet another shopping mall. Of my own choosing, of course, no one forced me to go.

I very much wanted to go to Walmart to see if I could get a repeat of some garments that I had bought two years ago. Fortunately I was successful in my mission and managed to buy a few other items besides.

I also took time out just to wander the aisles to see the vast array of items for sale - window shopping, without the windows.

I had been thinking that the Hispanics had left San Francisco and moved south to Los Angeles as they abound there but I had not seen many since here.

I discovered that if they are nowhere else in San Francisco, they are certainly at Walmart, as all the employees I saw that day were Hispanic in origin. The lady who greeted me as I walked in the door would have been more than 70, about 4'6" tall, who spoke with an extremely strong Spanish accent. The Hispanics have not left town after all.

After a couple of hours I moved on to the other stores in the mall. One shop I went to, Sears, I had no intention of buying anything, but spotted a pink square yoked top that I liked. It had been $25 and was marked down by 50%.

I joined the queue at customer service and when my turn came to be served the assistant rang the item up and said, 'that will be $1.07 please.' 'Oh, really,' I said. 'Yes,' she said, 'that's what you get for waiting in line.' Total mystery to me what waiting in line had to do with it all but I did not argue and was more than happy to pay just $1.07 for the top.

A few more shops and time out for coffee and I was about done with shopping centres.

I had picked up a book in Walmart and was happy to read that while I waited for David to pick me up when he finished work.

I took up a bench seat near the front entrance overlooking the vast shopping mall parking lot. Not a bad place to do a bit of people watching. Most of the parking lot was filled with modern cars but suddenly there was what had to be a vintage Volkswagen, looking very sad and worn and without a sign of polish being driven by a very old lady. Not long after another granny like person passed by on a bicycle. Another surprise for me, in the world of motor cars here, some do actually ride push bikes and age does not appear to be a barrier.

We went together to pick up Jackson from day care. A quick trip home and then we all went out to dinner to meet another of Lisa's work friends, Valerie.

This time a totally different type of shopping centre at Santana Row. Very upmarket and very nice.

Shopping malls like the one where Walmart was do not have shop windows but Santana Row was different, more boutique type style stores. It is obviously the in place to be in the evenings and there was a constant flow of people walking through the area.

The restaurant where we met for dinner 'Straits' had a Singaporean style menu and food was excellent. A very popular place, just humming with people - only down side for me was that the lighting was too dim and the music too loud, but we did have a lovely time, nevertheless.

After the mail meal we moved to the bakery next door which had some of nicest treats I have ever seen available. We were able to take these outdoors to sit and eat and as the evening was a pleasant one we enjoyed our time together there again watching the passing parade of people.
Halloween is alive and well in the United States.

Linda and I saw quite a lot of halloween decorations as we travelled east from Dallas two years ago. Seeing the decorations again this time has made me even more aware of how much this is celebrated here.

Next Thursday I have been invited to go with David, Lisa and Jackson to Googleween, for a family celebration of Halloween. Afterwards we will go to Lisa's work for more of the same.

Jackson will be dressed in a car costume and the amount of costumes there are available for hire for people of all ages has to be seen to be believed.

The other night, when out for dinner, we met a couple who had a six month old baby girl. Lovely little girl with short, dark, curly hair and a round face. This will be her first halloween and Mom is dressing her up as Betty Boop. She was not sure how effective the costume would be but then she saw a segment on the Today show here where they were talking about baby's first high heels. Apparently you can buy baby shoes that look for all the world like high heel shoes but when you touch the heels they squash flat. The mother thought this would be the ideal added touch for her daughter's first halloween.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

How did these trees get so big?

There is a whole cluster of them at the entrance to the apartments where David and Lisa live and they are just grand.

Once again I decided to stay home again today and I did a repeat journey to the supermarket which gave me the opportunity to explore once again my local surroundings.

The first image is part of the walkway with fenced off swimming pool on the right and shows some of the established trees.

The second image is of one of the block of apartments, being typical of all the blocks here.

The surroundings really are very pleasant and the size of whole complex means no road traffic noise and peace and quiet.

Yesterday when I came home from the supermarket I managed to lose my way within the complex. There was a map of the complex at the front entrance and so I photographed it on my way out today and used it to check my way on return and it worked. I was able to use it on return and happily found my way home.

When David and Lisa returned from work for the day we went to a buffet style Japanese restaurant for dinner.

Lisa and her friend from work, Beth, share the same birthday, today, and we met at the restaurant with friends of Beth's and enjoyed a very nice dinner together.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Today I opted to stay home for the day. I needed to sort out my belongings after being out and about for a few days and I thankfully found that in spite of what seemed like a lot of buying I can still comfortably fit everything into my suitcase. However, I do realise the holiday is still in early days and so more purchases could yet be acquired.

Part of the reason for staying home was to cook dinner for the family, a long time favourite of David's, fried rice. To enable this I needed to walk to the local supermarket - about half a mile away, to buy the necessary ingredients for the meal.

When I was at the shopping centre yesterday I asked for directions to a shop and was told I needed to take my car (which I don't have and couldn't drive if I did) but when I explored further I found that the shop was not more than 5 minutes away so to say that I was going to walk to the supermarket today would be the exception for most people and not the norm.

I was quite happy to be doing this as it has given me a better sense of my bearings. The day was beautiful, clear blue skies and 20 degrees or more and so very pleasant.

David and Lisa live in a very large gated community and towards the back of the complex so I had quite a long walk through the various dwellings before getting to the main road. Somewhere towards the centre there is a fenced and gated swimming pool, an amenities room and a fitness centre. The property has paths throughout, lots of well established trees and gardens.

The photos in today's blog are of an apricot rose on a bush near the entrance way. I saw quite a lot of rose bushes today. They are coming towards the end of the season but nice to look at nonetheless.

I also saw squirrels from time to time - a pest in this part of the world but always a source of fascination to me. I must have seen them romanticised in too many books when I was a child, I think.

So, the trip to the supermarket was successful and dinner too and well received.

When Jackson came home from day care we had play mat time and had a lot of fun crashing trains into each other along the train track.

I still did not achieve all that I wanted to at home today so I may well spend another day indoors tomorrow.

We go out tomorrow night to celebrate Lisa's birthday and that of a workmate as well.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

When I was in the United States two years ago I kept looking for the change in the trees indicating the onset of autumn weather.

We were a little early and did not see autumn in its full glory.

Today when I went out shopping it was the first time I noticed here that the leaves on the trees are beginning to change colour here.

When I lived in Sydney, I worked for a time in the Westfield office block and the Westfield shopping centre in Miranda was my shopping home for quite a number of years so it was amazing to me that I should travel half way across the world to end up shopping at a Westfield shopping centre, Westgate, San Jose, for the day.

There just happened to be quite a few stores there that I wanted to browse through, so with David and Lisa back at work for another week and Jackson in day care, it was the perfect opportunity for me to take my time about exploring the vast quantity of goods available.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Today we decided to go to down town San Francisco.

It was decided that we would try to see Pier 39, Fisherman's Wharf, the Golden Gate bridge and go for a ride on one of the cable cars.

We were going with an open mind and if we achieved at least some of them I was going to be more than happy.

The weather has been quite warm since I have been here but Lisa checked out the weather conditions and said it could be a bit cool down town so I was thankful that I wore a jacket for extra warmth.

We travelled into San Francisco via South San Francisco and came home along the Pacific Highway.

Going into town we saw lots and lots and lots of homes on the hills. Some of them were terrace homes, much like you would see in parts of Sydney but lots of them had flat roofs and looked like boxes in a row. Put me very much in mind of the words of the song - little boxes on this hillside and they're all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same.

It was quite a surprise to me as I had always admired the houses in the States, but this is Texas and towards the eastern seaboard where so many of the houses look rather grand with their deep eaves and lawn surrounds.

I guess the heritage of these houses in San Francisco go back to their early settlement days and so give the area its own characteristics.

The trip home along the Pacific Highway surprised me when at times we came down to one lane traffic - most unusual along main thoroughfares here.

At first the traffic in the opposite direction seemed to be delayed but then the same thing happened to us. It was Pumpkin Festival day here. Market gardeners had pumpkins on display by the acre and apparently today was the big day for people to go out and select their pumpkins for halloween.

Pumpkins with bright orange skins were the pumpkin of choice for halloween and they made quite a dramatic display spread out on the fields.

We saw the remains of the pumpkins at the end of the day and there were so many, it is hard to imagine how many there would have been at the beginning of the day.

Apart from pumpkins aplenty it was lovely to travel along this part of the highway with sometimes quite dramatic views of the Pacific Ocean. Again, I was reminded of parts of Sydney, especially the trip down the coast to Wollongong where similar sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean from a totally different part of the world can be observed.

Boats aplenty were moored at Pier 39.

Although I have listed Pier 39 and Fishermans Wharf as separate entities, Pier 39 is within the district of Fishermans Wharf and so there can be a little bit of ambiguity when talking about these two areas. as pointed out by my ever knowing son, David.
This is probably the closest I will ever come to the notorious Alcatraz Prison.

The weather was overcast and even the Golden Gate Bridge could hardly be seen for the mist that surrounded it.

As we walked through Pier 39 I was aware of the noise of sea lions and as we reached the end of the pier so we came upon crowds of people standing and watching these sea lions.

There was a constant honking noise and the smell had to be ignored but a fascinating sight, nevertheless, as these creatures swarmed over each other and occasionally some jumped into the water for a swim.

A trip to downtown San Francisco would not be complete without a trip to Fishermans Wharf.

The cable car in the picture is about as close as we came to riding on one. By the time we had done the rounds of Fishermans Wharf the queue at the cable cars was longer than we might have been able to wait, especially with a young boy in hand, so that will have to keep for another day, hopefully.

Whilst in this area we visited the very popular Ghirardhelli Square to try some of the famous chocolates. There was a man at the door handing out squares of chocolate to prospective customers and the shop was overflowing with prospective buyers.
Seemed an appropriate thing to do, to have a seafood lunch whilst at Fishermans Wharf. Lots of stall holders with live crabs like these ones for the picking or crab chowder if prefered but we stayed with conventional meals like fish and chips.

Pretty much all of the shops in Pier 39 and at Fishermans Wharf cater for the tourist trade.

Some of them had carved ivory for sale and I saw elephants tusks in at least two shops that had been intricately carved like this one.

When I planned my trip to San Francisco I had no idea whether there would be any quilt shows or activities in which I might be able to participate.

Johanna let me know about the Pacific International Quilt Festival and it just happens to be in the same part of San Francisco where David and Lisa live and on during the first few days of my arrival.

On Saturday afternoon David and Lisa dropped me off to spend a few hours enjoying the wonders of the world of quilting.

After wandering the first few aisles of merchants they seemed to run out which I thought rather strange as this was supposed to be HUGE. When I backtracked and went down a few aisle of quilts and then more merchants, I discovered they had alternatated between quilts and merchants, which meant you did not get too much of one of the other. Very good idea.

Lots of lovely merchants and so I came home with heavier bags and lighter pocket book but all in a good cause, I feel.

The quilt image in this posting was a mystery applique quilt. It started with an image of the border only in black and white which gave participants the opportunity to choose their own colours for the whole quilt and then the rest of the quilt was revealed after borders were done. I had never seen applique quilts used in the mystery concept before.

My three/four hours at the quilt festival were well worth while and I could go back for more of the same today but we must press on and do some of the sightseeing that San Francisco will provide for us today.
This one I found particularly appealing. Probably not everybody's cup of tea but the colours and design worked for me. The lady who made it said she bought it as a kit and wondered if she would be able to finish but once she started she loved it and was able to complete.

This quilt won best wall quilt of the show. An original design by the creator of the quilt, machine appliqued and machine quilted. The intricacy of the work was amazing and from the photo you might think it was an oil painting but instead it is a 'painting' created from fabric. This quilt was gaining a lot of interest, including mine.

This quilt fascinated me because of the layers within layers. Diamond shaped blocks made up from lots of small strippy pieces. It must have taken many hours to construct and yet the maker said how liberating it was to make. She was a cancer survivor so may have been grateful for the opportunity that at least she was able to do this one.
I very much liked this quilt, the colour contrasts and composition were very appealing.

In case you are wondering, I have not photographed part of the quilt, this is all of the quilt, very cleverly done.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Just so I don't forget all the lovely things about living in Taupo, I took a few photos of the garden, to remind me of what I have to come back to - as well as a lovely family too, of course.
The play mat I quilted for Jackson was received very well and has been a play place already.

Although not showing on the screen at the moment, Jackson very much loves the DVD 'Cars' that Ricky and Johanna bought for him.

He is watching it at the moment, while I am updating my Blog.

Although he is sitting beside me at the moment while he watches, it is not uncommon for him to stand in front of the TV like this for some considerable length of time while he watches the action.

Last night Jackson was up in the middle of the night asking Mommy and Daddy if they could get up so he could watch 'Cars' - needless to say his request was not met with any enthusiasm.

After lunch we went to pick up Jackson from day care.

He was having his afternoon nap when we arrived so was very quiet at first so we took things quietly and he soon warmed up as the afternoon progressed.

I couldn't help noticing the 'peace' symbol on Jackson's t-shirt so had to take a photo to mark the occasion.

Apparently peace and flower power is still alive in San Francisco, even after all these years.

San Francisco destination achieved safely. I must be travelling too much lately. All airports seem to be getting a 'sameness' about them and I had trouble focussing on where I really was.

The Customs process was plain sailing as was the collection of baggage and in no time at all I was through.

David was there to meet me and all too soon we were on the freeway heading out of downtown San Francisco.

He suggested we go and have some lunch at Google, in one of the 20 restaurants supplied for staff so that is what we did.

The whole of the Google 'campus' covered several blocks and where we stopped for lunch looked very much like a college campus.

I had to be signed in as a guest to Google and we went to 'Pure Ingredients' for lunch. David said this particular restaurant prides itself on only fresh ingredients and the lunch was very nice. Everything was buffet style and so you could help yourself to whatever you wanted. There was quite a smorgasbord of delights and probably the thing I enjoyed the most was the Peppered Veal - nice bite size pieces, tender, juicy and peppery - delicious!

When I was at San Francisco airport I noticed in the ladies that they supplied brown, recycled paper hand towels - hmmmmmmmm, clean and green, I thought. Same at Google, the serviettes are brown, recycled paper - clean and green at Google as well.

Such trivial notations on an overseas trip - strange the things you notice along the way.