Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Take me back to dear old Blighty

In a move that will cause feelings of abandonment which will take years for me to overcome, my parents left today.  It has been a fun-filled two weeks, which included babysitting (fun for me), extremely high temperatures, the Olympics, mountains, lots of tea, etc. etc.

They upgraded their tickets for the way back too, and so got to sit in the Virgin lounge in SFO before their flight, complete with free booze and food.  No wonder Dad wanted to get there four hours before the flight.  Anyway, it has been lovely seeing them, and below are the last few highlights of their stay.  But don't worry about me - I got over the departure trauma by going to see the new Batman film...and Meg and Ellen arrive on Thursday!

Finally, a nice comfy place where Dad is not a danger to himself or others - Psycho Donuts in San Jose.

Dad and Arbel solve a puzzle together.

Americans, known for understatement.

Clingy?  Arbel?

Mum and Arbel play.

Um, please can we remember who your actual child is...?

Yesterday was National Cheesecake Day!  Half-price a slice at The Cheesecake Factory, where Dad was his usual culinary pioneer and went for shepherd's pie (after a strawberry daiquiri, to be fair).

The new cheesecake - Oreo Dream Extreme.

The cappuccino after our cheesecake?  No!  This is one I made for Mum this morning with my own home machine.  Pretty impressive, eh?  Sadly I couldn't repeat the trick.

Packed, ready, and waiting for the BART.  Have a happy trip, and come back soon!

Sunday, 29 July 2012

The Parent Trap 2: Now You're The Parents

In one of those situations where you can't accurately trace each step that got you there, we found ourselves babysitting three children in Palo Alto for the weekend.  Elise and Elliot were away celebrating their 10-year wedding anniversary (only 10 years?) so we were in charge of the three Singer girls, in addition to having responsibility for my parents.

It all worked out pretty well, of course, with Sofia entertaining my Mum while my Dad sat reading back-issues of Elise's medical magazine, and Maya and little Hannah playing while big Hannah cooked.  I didn't have much to do, thinking back.  The main form of discipline was bribery - isn't it always? - including frozen yogurt, French toast, and a trip to see Madagascar 3.  Elise and Elliot returned a day later looking years younger.  We've been home for a few hours, during which we've been enjoying the silence.

The secret of management is delegation.

The Singer sisters.  Look out world.

Delegation #2.

...because these pelicans eat them.

Delegation #3.

"If you're naughty I won't let you have a fifth tub of frozen yogurt...ok, but definitely not a sixth."

Who could resist French toast cooked by this guy?  Bonjour!

Oh, I forgot to mention: when we arrived on Saturday morning Elliot revealed that they have a rat living in their garage conversion.  Where Hannah and I were sleeping.  There was a fair bit of snuffling and scratching in the night, although most of it was Hannah.  We did find "evidence" the next morning, which I collected in a plastic zip-lock for further examination.  Yes, we have such low self-esteem that we will babysit overnight and share a room with a plague-carrying rodent.  I've always wondered why people with children are so friendly to us...

Friday, 27 July 2012

The Parent Trap

It's been a busy week entertaining my parents, who are no strangers to the West Coast and so hard to surprise.  In the end, against my better judgement, I let them out on their own for one day.  Before that we made it north to Sonoma for wine tasting, across the Bay by ferry, and into the city a couple of times.  They haven't complained too much, as long as I supply continuous tea and we're home each day for an afternoon nap.

A quick trip by boat to Sausalito.

Cooling off in the pool as temperatures topped 100F, although UK weather improved no end after my parents left.  The Olympics have started, so that won't last.

A free Sunday concert from the Golden Gate Park Band.

Enjoying the music.

And public transport.

"I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold and very well-made."

In search of more booze in wine country.

Found it!

And some more.

Only one person in this photo is sober.

At SFMOMA (this is the day I let them out on their own).

Haven't I seen you somewhere before?

Up on Mt Diablo.

Taking in the view.

Attaining the summit.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Hello Lolly

What do you mean, you didn't know it was National Lollipop Day?!  Please pay more attention to events of global importance.  We celebrated by heading into San Francisco to claim free lollipops from See's Candy (who may have invented the day in the first place).

More excitingly, they'd brought the biggest lollipop in the world to the city!  It's 17 feet tall - including stick - and weighs 7,000 lbs.  Unfortunately it was lying down, so could not be appreciated in all its glory.  It was also, suspiciously, kept in its wrapper, so might just be a big gold cardboard box, although Guinness had apparently come and verified it for their records.

You may also be interested to hear that 21st is National Junk Food Day, 25th is National Hot Fudge Sundae Day, and 29th is National Lasagna Day.  I don't make this stuff up.

Pretty large, especially when you consider that my mother is 6'4".

Tourists caught on camera once again.

Enjoying a nice cup of Blue Bottle coffee.  You can clearly see that I'm adopted.

Flood refugees

While building an ark has been one option for UK inhabitants, having just enjoyed the wettest June since records began, my parents decided to take to the skies rather than the waters and arrived this afternoon for a two week stay.  It was all very last minute, which is very unlike them.  We Davieses are planners, so the fact that they're being impulsive shows just how bad the weather has got.

They spent some of my inheritance upgrading their seats, so arrived very happy and relaxed.  They were a little scared of the large glowing yellow thing in the sky, but then remembered they'd seen the sun once before, on a package holiday to Corfu in the 1970s.  A quick trip around the Creek and they soon found their bearings.  Then it was back home for a cup of tea, and to find out how much Cadbury's chocolate, Marmite and Branston Pickle they'd managed to smuggle in.

Spot the English tourists.

The haul.  And, wow, it's a good one!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Hard Rock

It's been a weekend of cinder cones, fumaroles, pumice and bubbling mud as we spent a few nights camping with the Singers in Lassen Volcanic National Park.

I still make the mistake of thinking of California as SF and LA, disregarding the hundreds of miles east filled with forests, mountains, farming and, it turns out, volcanoes.  Lassen is about four hours north-east of us, and even the Berkeley-centric-urban-liberal politics has no place around here ("Obama bin lyin" and "Control your children, not my guns" being the best bumper stickers we saw).  The nearest Starbucks is 45 minutes from the park entrance.  Yep, remote.

We drove up on Friday morning, pitched our tents, then wandered out into places with wonderful names like Chaos Jumbles, Bumpass's Hell, and the economic but evocative Devastated Area.  There is lots of cooled, grey lava on the ground, punctuated by giant black rocks projected thousands of feet from the last eruption.  That was about 100 years ago, but volcanologists don't like to talk about volcanoes as being dormant any more.  They're either alive or extinct, and these ones aren't extinct.  I didn't sleep much.

On Saturday we hiked up to the aforementioned Bumpass's Hell, through thick ponderosa pines looking down into secluded valleys.  Mr Kendall Vanhook Bumpass had an unfortunate name and a more unfortunate life, as his foot fell through a thin crust of rock and into a pool of searing mud.  He lost the leg but the place kept his name so, you know, silver lining.  They've put up a walkway now, and steam hisses out of the ground around you with the sound of a jet engine.  There's a lot of sulphur - I won't be wanting egg sandwiches for a while.

Having gone up, on Sunday we descended into the extinct lava tube of Subway Cave.  It's a leftover from an eruption 2000 years ago, when the outside of a lava flow hardened while the inside drained out.  Then the top fell in, and now it's a tourist attraction.  Native Americans didn't like it much, and it still has areas known as Lucifer's Cul-de-Sac and Devil's Doorway.  Luckily we had four-year-old Sofia with us, and everything is scared of her.

Lassen is one of the more empty National Parks we've been too, and is often only open June - October due to a 40ft+ snow covering most winters.  Our weekend was certainly over far too quickly, although it is nice to once again be far from a potential river of molten rock (and near a Starbucks).

A final feed at the Black Bear Diner before heading into the unknown.

Hannah directs operations in the tent.

Elliot struggles to secure everything in the bear locker (because bears are particularly partial to Sauvignon Blanc).

Our first volcano!

Chaos Jumbles.

Hannah, no stranger to chaos, is impressed by the pine cones hereabouts.

Roasting marshmallows.  I wonder how long that would take over hot lava.

Starting the next morning with hot chocolate.

One of the Hot Rocks, plonked here by the last eruption.

Most of the devastation was actually due to snow and mud avalanches, displaced by all the heat.  Things are quiet...for now.

The Davies Family. 

The Singer Family.  All our children look remarkably similar.

Snow, in July, but every season's good for a snowball fight.

One of the less forested area.

Maya on the moon.

Lassen Peak volcano over Lake Helen.

A fine view.  Hopefully it doesn't explode while we're here.

Awe, majesty, and me.

The local wildlife isn't the wildest.  This chipmunk harassed us at lunchtime until he found a dropped crisp.

Savage beasts.

Welcome to Hell.

My favourite notice.




We were greeted by this crazy bug back at camp.  And it could fly.  The only problem with the great outdoors is that it's outdoors.

Sofia and Hannah map out our journey downwards.

Maya knocks on the Devil's Doorway.

Entering the darkness.

Inside.  With flash.

And without.

On our way home...via a latte.