Sunday, August 30, 2009

Hot as blazes.

We've had a weird summer in terms of weather. It's either been very hot for a few days at a time or really cool (relatively so for us) for this time of year. Already it is feeling more like Autumn- we get cool nights all summer, but now we have the heavy early morning fog. It was really warm Friday and Saturday. At 3:35 PM it was still..

hot! On those days we hunker down at home and catch up on inside jobs- ironically, the kind of jobs we used to do when it rained in England :-)

Addicted to Scrabble

Yes, I am addicted to Scrabble on my iPhone! I'm told it is good brain practice, and I even managed a seven letter word for my first word last week..

I also found out that my iPhone can take pictures of any screen. Excellent!

Downtown San Jose Excitement

Being on the top floor of a building means we hear all the sounds funneling up to us. Last week we had sirens blasting continuously. Eventually we worked out the commotion was coming from a building across the way from us. We couldn't see that they had evacuated the building but one of the engines had an extendable ladder, although it only managed about 8 floors. I counted 12 emergency vehicles in total. The only thing I found out later was that there had been a fire in a trash can??

The ironic thing was that last Monday, we too had to evacuate the building due to some contractors working on the roof who accidentally set off the fire alarm. Walking down 14 flights of stairs was not fun in sandals though.

Cat and Parrot sitting

Meet Moses- our neighbors parrot. He was a cheeky thing. His millet seed string was empty within a day or two of us looking after him and every time we went into the house, he nudged the empty container. Dick ended up going to the pet shop to buy him another one so he didn't nag us !

This is Jonesy. She was supposed to be put outside every morning, and be let back in every night, only she decided she was a night cat while we looked after her. She stayed out all night and insisted on coming in every morning to sleep it off!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

St. Baldrick's

My favorite fish/meat shop is Poppy's in Morgan Hill. A couple of weeks ago, Mike the owner, said he had signed up to join the Morgan Hill Police officers and have his head shaved in aid of St Baldrick's, a kids cancer charity. Very impressive to have 18 police officers do this I know, but my first thought was their hair is pretty short anyway. Mike however had LONG hair- way past his shoulders, halfway down his back. I took a picture of him a few weeks ago but it doesn't show his pony tail.

I missed the event itself but I did take a photo of a photo..

Today I saw him for the first time since the event..

It's growing back already!

PS Mike raised $4,100 for St. Baldrick's and the police officers raised $13,000. Mike also donated his locks to Locks for Love- another non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children in the United States and Canada under age 18 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis. Great job all round!

Green Day

I get off the bus in the morning in San Jose a few stops early to walk the last 10 minutes to work. The walk involves walking behind the convention center, and often there will be a tour bus parked. Yesterday it was Green Day..

I walked at lunchtime too, and saw that the bus had moved to the HP Pavillion.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Shrimp Artichoke Pizza With Cilantro Pesto

We are die hard home made pizza fans, and make one once a week- usually Friday or Sunday nights. They normally consist of a pizza base made in the bread machine, with toppings such us onions, peppers, mushrooms, and some kind of sausage with a good layer of fresh mozzarella.

For a long time, Dick has tried to convince me that shrimp is good on a pizza, but I just didn't even like the sound of any kind of fish on pizza. If I've ever had shrimp on pizza it was a long time ago and they were small and hard after being baked. Yuk.

However, last weekend we both ended up listening to a story on NPR about a winning pizza recipe in New York. It actually sounded good even to me, and tonight we made it, and it was lovely!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Halfway there!

I started my photography project on 15th February. At the time I was trying to decide whether to do a photo blog or a 365 self-portrait project, and ended up doing both. I was off sick at the time and so had a little more time on my hands. Little did I know this would become such a big project. It's been fun in lots of ways- keeping family and friends up to date and trying to find different ways of taking a picture of the same subject every day!

183 days later..

That's a lot of pictures of me!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Motorcycle blues

This morning we went for a ride on our motorbikes, and I started off really well. I even had to do a quick stop when a traffic light changed, so I was feeling pretty confident. Maybe a little overly so. Going up a hill I took a corner a little narrower than I should have and almost fell off but just recovered myself in time. I was a little shaken and Dick had seen it all in his mirrors (he was in front of me) and so we stopped. We should have just carried on but we didn't and I ended up over thinking it, so when we set off again, I stalled the bike, and as the bike was not straight, it started to tip over. There is a moment when you can rescue it but I realized a moment too late, and a bike is heavy once it starts falling. Luckily I was still on the side of the road, so perfectly safe, but I did feel a fool. Poor bike, the end of the clutch lever snapped off. Now I have a matching pair...

The good news is that I can pick the bike up myself and by the time Dick came back to find me, I was stood next to my bike once more. We did carry on and rode for an hour, by then I had worked out what I had done wrong in the first corner and was fine after that. Phew! Why is it so hard to learn things in your 40's??

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Almost 6 months in..

...and my photograph every day for my blog has slipped a bit recently. I still take at least one picture every day because I do my 365 self portraits. I belong to both the main 365 Flickr group, with currently 14,556 members, and to another smaller group with only 216 members. The latter are very supportive and fun, so we comment on each others' photos and it is quite an incentive to post one. The blog takes a little longer to do and I don't have so many interesting things to talk about on a daily work grind basis- but I try!

Today, we did the usual chores and finally ended up at Sycamore Creek Vineyards for their 2007 Chardonnay and Pinot Noir release. The Chardonnay was their oaked version, but I prefer their Naked Chardonnay. This is only their second Pinot release and it is really nice. The grapes come from their Santa Cruz Mountains vineyards and it is a really good balance between fruity and smoky. It's still young, so will only get better but we like it! To accompany it they had three different kinds of dressed oysters, shrimp, cheeses, nuts and fruit. There was also some good live music. It was a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon :-)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Monday - Stinking hot again

This should say it all...

Sunday- third motorbike ride

We went out again on our motorbikes on Sunday. I have a new seat for my Suzuki, which is about an inch lower then the original which gives me a much better stance when I stop. This time we went further and on a route with quite a lot of stopping and starting. I'm still trying to get used the clutch control so it was good practice. We also had several twisty roads, so it was a lot of fun, but I was very tired when we got home. You have to concentrate a lot!

Me and the new seat

A few days rest and then chutney making

For some reason, it was very hard to get up Thursday and Friday, and we were both very glad to have a short work week. Dick's week did however not stop there, as they were trying to meet a deadline and he ended up working from home most of Saturday. I, in the mean time, went and did the usual Saturday morning jobs- market and supermarket. Whilst out I discovered that the tomatoes, apples and onions were just at the right price point for me to make Jamma's spicy tomato chutney. I do however always forget how expensive the malt vinegar is that goes in it.

Armed with all the ingredients, I spent the afternoon chopping and mixing, and then boiling. This time I did run out of malt vinegar- I had also forgotten that an English pint is bigger than an American pint. So the second batch I made was with a mix of vinegars which I will never be able to recreate, but we'll see how it tastes in a few years! Yes, years.. the longer it is kept, the better it is. Here's a photo of two jars in my pantry right now- one made in May 2004 and one made in September 2006.

Wednesday and home

After a reasonably good nights sleep, having now got the hang of clambering onto the top bunk and able to just about ignore the noisy passengers getting off the train at 6 am in Sacramento, we finally got up and prepared ourselves to go back to work. I even had a shower- and quite a good one, in the larger than expected 'dressing room'. After breakfast and good views of the bay, I went again for a wander in the train and took some more photos.

We arrived into San Jose about 20 minutes late at 10:10 AM. I walked to work and Dick waited for his commute train to work. We decided to go to work because neither the express buses or the trains run down to Morgan Hill during the day, so we saved a day off and worked a longer day instead. It was a strange day though- everything ran later!

Train trip home

It's already been a week since we came home, but I still have the trip on my mind. Tuesday morning we were up early, and headed down to Pike Place Market to find some food. After a fully loaded bagel and some coffee, a quick trip to one of the market stalls to pick up some fresh fruit, we headed back to the hotel to pick up our suitcases. We had decided to walk to the train station to stretch our legs a little before the day on the train.

The first question we asked when we checked in, was whether there was a parlour car on board this time- and there was :-) So after a quick check to see where our new cabin was, we headed straight up there and it was exactly as we'd hoped.

Comfy swivel chairs that you could get a full 360 degree view, and plug in points galore. This was an ideal time to catch up on my blog for the first part of the trip was through the populated areas of Seattle. However, I was slightly stymied in that regard, when a man (who had just retired from working from a freight train company and travelling on his own...) decided to tell me his life story, and point out all the points of interest along the tracks, despite my polite hints that I was hoping to get some work done. However I did learn some interesting facts!

The parlour car was worked by an English lady named Jane who had a thick accent despite living here some 20 years, and she took to us pretty quickly. No sooner had we got going, she made Dick an Americano coffee, and we were set up!

It's amazing what you see just traveling in the opposite direction as you did on the way there! The parlour car also served meals for sleeping car passengers only- a more limited menu but a slightly better one too, so we ended up eating every meal in there. It was also fairly quiet as lots of the sleeping car passengers seem to prefer staying in their rooms. It is a very relaxing way to travel.

Mid afternoon we joined the Washington Wine tasting event they had in there too. The wines turned out to be very good and were priced extremely well for the train at only $15 a bottle- we'd paid $11 for half a bottle on the train on the way up! That meant we spent the afternoon listening to our books, and watching the beautiful scenery of the Cascades. Early evening we bought a bottle of red wine and watched the sun go down whilst chugging up the hills. Very nice.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Seattle Part 3- Pike Place Market, and Ferry to Bainbridge Island

After a very nice breakfast, we wandered into the maze of the famous Pike Place Market. This is one of those places where you never know whether you have seem it all as there is so much of it and lots of passages and corridors hidden here there and everywhere. A labyrinth. We spent at least two hours there and could have spent the whole day, especially if you were in the mood for shopping, as there was everything from fresh fruit and vegetables, fish and many other kinds of foods, as well as jewelery, pottery and other craft type stalls. Amazing.

We had decided to take the ferry to Bainbridge Island for lunch, and unfortunately just missed one, so ended up with a shorter time there, but the views of Seattle skyline from the ferry were really good.

We had to rush a bit back from the ferry, and caught the Monorail once again to the Seattle Center, this time to see 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince' in the IMAX theatre. We did however sit for almost an hour while they had to fix something before the film actually started. The first part of it was 3D which was really excellent.

Back on the Monorail, we ate another superb meal in Place Pigalle and then a glass of wine at the very eclectic The White Horse Trading Company - wine, beer and books!

Seattle Part 2 - Queen Anne

We then walked even further uphill to the Queen Anne area of Settle to a well deserved pint of local beer at the Hilltop Ale House and some lunch. It was a very pretty neighborhood, and nice to see a non-touristy spot.

After a bus ride back down the hill, we went to the Sci-Fi Museum and geeked out for a while, though I must admit I did not recognise anywhere near as much as Dick, which was not unexpected! They also had a special exhibit which was a tribute to Jim Henson and therefore lots about the Muppets which was fun.

The museum is also attached to the Music Experience which had a tower of guitars in the entrance.

By this time we were getting tired so we headed back to the hotel on the Monorail and had a swim and a relax before we headed out to dinner. We pushed the boat out and had a wonderful, although long, chef's sampler menu in Chez Shea. A perfect end to a lovely first day.

Seattle Part 1 - the Space Needle and Kerry Viewpoint

We stayed in the Hotel Fairmount Olympic- must posher than our usual hotel, but we were celebrating, and it was very nice after the rather narrow bunk beds on the train! In true Wall family tradition we were up early and out for breakfast bright and early. Breakfast was overlooking Puget Sound, at the beginning of a very nice sunny and warm day. Seattle has had overly warm weather for this time of year- so the temperatures were more like we are used to at home.

After breakfast we walked all the way along the seafront and up to the Space Needle. The queues were fairly short, so we got to the top in record time. It actually takes 40 seconds in the glass elevators..

Next we walked uphill again to the Kerry Viewpoint for another perspective on the Seattle Skyline..

Train travel

Climbing out of bed to go to the loo first thing in the morning was an adventure in itself on the train, but then we were able to watch the sun come up over Mount Shasta..

We headed for the dining car for breakfast and then into the observation car to just watch the world go by..

I took lots of photos through the very dirty windows on the moving train just see what they would come out like but some of them were fine. The Cascades, mountains, valleys, lakes and reservoirs...

Friday surprise

Yes, I am a few days behind but I have a great excuse. A couple of weeks ago, Dick presented me with a surprise trip to Seattle, WA by train to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary :-) Friday was leaving day! We both went to work as usual and then Dick came down by train to meet me in San Jose. The intention was to go for a walk around and find a new restaurant but we didn't get very far- we ended up in the Brit Pub and had a pint! Dick had English style pub curry and I had fish and chips.

Not very adventurous but fine. We did go for a walk after, trying to find where we had walked the first time we came to San Jose, but eventually ended up back at my work to pick up the suitcases and headed to the train station.

Lots of people were waiting at the station but only a few had sleeper cabins like us. The train came in about 10 minutes late. We were showed our little box of a room, and told to go straight up to the diner for dinner. As we'd already had dinner, so we settled for dessert and shared a half bottle of wine.

The dining car..

Once we got back to our cabin, the attendant had already set up our beds which was quite funny as I had to work out how to get in the top bunk. They even provide a strap to stop you falling out of bed! The downside was I could not see out of the window.


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