Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Ice ice baby

The Walnut Creek ice rink reappeared earlier this month!  Emily and I decided to have a skate around today (it's cheaper on weekdays than on weekends).  It was nice to be back on low-friction blades instead of four wheels, and we skated for over an hour before a combination of aching ankles and age forced us off.

We do love it!

The visits to In'n'Out haven't helped Em's figure, but the skating will soon sort that out.

Tentative first steps (she says she hasn't done this in 20 years).

It wasn't crowded.

Gearing up for my triple toe loop.

Emily tries a quadruple Salchow.

Perhaps we should both arrange for some of these...

White with one

Some things in life - birth, marriage, cricket - are important.  Some are really important - buying a new teapot.  Little else can be as transformative to everyday human existence.  I'm sure you agree.

I've been looking for something to handle loose leaf tea for a while, and although I have a tea strainer and an infusing gadget they don't really cut the mustard.  Back in March, when Em and I did a tour of London, I saw a fantastic teapot in the Tate Modern but couldn't really justify the price (it was in the shop, rather than the gallery.  Britain isn't that bankrupt yet.)

So you can imagine my elation at finding the exact same Stump teapot in our very own Peet's for a fraction of the price even Amazon is selling it!  Like me it is both functional and beautiful, and (unlike me) has a microinfuser, making it perfect for either loose-leaf or bag brewing.  The lid makes such a pleasing little chink when it closes that I can entertain myself for hours.  It pours like a dream.  It was christened with some NZ Breakfast this morning, and I've moved onto strawberry pepper tea that Sheila brought - the packet suggests you add a shot of vodka, which sounds delicious but I shouldn't break my no-alcohol-before-10am rule.

Have you ever seen anything inanimate more gorgeous?

Getting ready.

Pot to kettle, not kettle to pot.  Pre-warmed, of course.

What more could life ever need than a nice cup of tea?

Monday, 28 November 2011

We can stay all day

It was Emily's birthday today, so she got to do exactly what she wanted to (how does that differ from every other day, you may ask).  Her choice was to go on a trip to Oakland Zoo!

Having spent much of my life in captivity, I'm a bit ambivalent when it comes to zoos.  This one, however, is filled with animals rescued from circuses and private collections.  Did you know there are more privately-owned tigers in the US than exist in the wild?  The animals seemed pretty happy with their new lives, and the zoo works hard to rehabilitate them back to some form of normality.  What they didn't seem so happy about was the cold and fog that was shrouding Oakland yesterday.

So I'll just get on and post cute pictures of animals, including my new favourite: the Malaysian sun bear.

I arrived with a rescued animal, but they wouldn't take her.

A spoonbill!

The flamingos and the spoonbills prefer not to mix.

This is the zoo's one boy tiger, who seems fairly relaxed.

A white-handed gibbon checks himself out.

Squirrel monkeys!  Among the cutest animals in the place.

A bundle of snakes.

The US obesity crisis extends to their reptiles.

A river otter put on a little swimming display for the visitors.

They had goats that you could pet!

When you're surrounded by predators, it's best to keep your head down.

A face that only a mother could love.


And meerkats.

Another meerkat, because they are cool.


One of the elephants, who naturally enjoy the biggest enclosure.

The lioness has been taking lessons from the tiger.

A Malaysian sun bear!  Pretty cute, hey?  And a much nicer size than our native black bears.

They spent much of their time wrestling up a tree.

A chimpanzee does the only sensible thing on this cold morning.


And then it was back to the tigers.  Don't you just want to tickle him under the chin?

The girls and boy took turns in the enclosure.  The one looking at the camera is called Molly!  They have a pretty interesting story...

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Dim sum

"Dim sum" is Cantonese for "extremely tasty", and one of Emily's stated aims this holiday was to find the tastiest dim sum in San Francisco.  To this end we found ourselves, logically, in Little Russia, where the Hong Kong Lounge receives the top Yelp rating of anywhere.  The queue outside seemed to confirm this, and we took our ticket and the obviously false reassurance that our wait would only be 30 minutes.

An hour later we were shown to our table in the huge, completely packed inside.  They cleverly give you a menu that you fill in while you wait, and this was whisked away and replaced with green tea.  We'd decided to skip "beef shank jelly fish" and kept mostly to pot stickers, dumplings and steamed buns.  We branched out a bit for dessert with "durian pastry".  It's illegal to carry durians on the underground in Singapore due to their smell, but they're meant to be delicious.  I thought it was pretty good, Emily reckoned it tasted like burning socks.

The meal took roughly the same amount of time as the wait, but it was certainly worth it.  How can so many small things fill you up?  We walked up to Ocean Beach and all the way along that, then drove home, and I still feel stuffed.  Perhaps the fact that it was also a break from turkey leftovers made it all the more delicious.

There's an Russian Orthodox cathedral in SF.  Who knew?

Joining the crowd for the looooong wait.

But it was all worth it for these little beauties.

The steamed custard buns were probably my favourite.  (Yes, the entire post is just so I can show this photo).

Emily is distracted for a second, and Hannah's chopsticks arrive.

Mmmm, durian.

Late November on the beach.  Still good.

Stuart and Charity

Sorry about somewhat slow blogging of late, but I've been entertaining Goddaughter Charity, her dad Stuart, and my sister Emily for the past week.  I haven't had to entertain a 9-yr-old girl since...Emily was 9, I guess.  As she'll always be about 12 in my mind that doesn't seem too long ago, but she assures me it is.

It's Stuart and Charity's first trip to the best coast and so we mostly stuck to the Davies Standard Introductory Highlight Tour package.  There was a little more shopping than I would have liked, but it was Black Friday during their stay.  There was also quite a lot of Wii game playing, but I did my best to manage.  Oh, and we watched The Muppets' new film, which is great.

They were only here for a short week as it's the middle of the school term in the UK.  I like to think that a trip to California is as educational as anything school can offer, with Charity now able to answer questions like "what's the best flavour of frozen yogurt?" and "if Macy's is having a 2-for-1 sale, and I also have a 15% off voucher, how much more can I buy with my money?"  Come back soon!

Wild animals at the entrance to Chinatown.

Getting a rather nice demo of Chinese tea making (no milk or sugar).

Picking up Stuart post-conference, and straight onto the trolley bus!

Next time Charity can stay on an exclusive island.

Sour dough soup bowls!

At the Musee Mechanique, encouraging her Dad to try an interesting game.

Emily finds her zen at Ghirardelli plaza.

Why do I have to look at these boring old trees?  (A quote).

Emily among the redwoods.

A banana slug!!

Charity finds the Muir Beach Overlook somewhat windy.

But an In'n'Out burger very much to her taste.

So does Em.

Capturing fellow tourists at a world famous photo spot.  I mean, really?

Much more obedient photographic subjects.

Charity measures the bridge.

Black Friday!

Someone is very happy with two new pairs of shoes.

Breakfast pancakes.

We treated someone to a goodbye pedicure.

No, not Stuart.  He got a burger.