Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Em here, Han gone

Hannah has survived her first day back at work.  And she enjoyed it!  Apparently it was fun not being vomited over constantly (that only happens when her boss gets really mad).  She also discovered a task that should have been done while she was away wasn't, which allowed her to feel angry and indispensable, and that always puts her in a good mood.

But before you feel sorry for poor little me, left alone with a baby and a fridge full of beer, my sister Emily has arrived!  She's a pediatric nurse.  Every good manager knows how important it is to delegate, and now that I'm back to being the full-time Executive Domestic Director I'm making sure that I excel.  It's also important for Pete to get to know his family, very well, at all times of day and night.  I'm only thinking of him.

Chevron: the company that loves.  "Thank you.  Now get me the chief exec on the phone."

Family likeness.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Days of wine and roses

As mentioned, reality restarts for Hannah on Wednesday when she returns to work. What better way to keep reality at bay than by drinking fine wines? With this highly practical approach in mind, Hannah booked us a night at a frou-frou hotel in Lodi ("load-eye"), a town north-east of WC.

Lodi is the place where 45% of the world's Zinfandel grapes are grown. This dubious fact was told to us at the Lodi visitors' centre (where they give you free wine), but I can't deny the vast expanse of vines that lined the roads. I keep forgetting how massive this country is. I know it's vast in the mountains-forests-deserts sense, but I mean how huge it is locally. An hour away from the Creek and you're in an unrecognisable delta of ruralness to rival even Somerset, and you've traveled a fraction of California's breadth.

Lodi itself is a fittingly frontier settlement, and although we diligently wandered the downtown area this morning there wasn't much to keep us there, apart from one charity shop. The area's tactic seems to be to start making booze to get the tourists in, rather than just grow grapes and sell them to other winemakers, so there are several tasting rooms dotted about the streets, all unimpressively closed on a Monday.

The hotel was a different story, a little island of enclosed paradise (that Hannah found cheap online, of course). Pete had his first introduction to a swimming pool - a gentler, warmer option than our apartment complex's ice bath - and was not entirely unimpressed. The large tub in the room, which he got to share with mummy, was much more to his liking.

And the wines? Not great, or not the ones we tried anyway. I have a psychological problem (just the one) with paying $30 for a bottle at a vineyard when Trader Joe's down the road offers oodles of incredibly tasty stuff for under a fiver. If you stretch to $8, as we do for weddings/births, you can't beat their own label cab sauv. We still mourn the disappearance of ecoVino (wine in a bag!)

There was a complimentary bottle of local Lodi wine in the hotel room when we arrived. How can you tell you've grown up? When you only drink half a bottle of the free wine. Parenthood has obviously changed us.

What I like to see on entering any hotel room.  Although TJ's plonk will be fine next time.

The view from our terrace.

Strong overtones of poo and sick.  Oh wait, that's just me, all the time now.

Lining up the varietals.

Modern mummy.

One of the dangers of indulging too heavily.

Hannah takes the more sedate route.

Ready for a dip.

That's a smile, not a desperate grimace.

The kind of swimming that Pete actually enjoys.


The owners parrots, that were a little noisy throughout.

I could get used to this luxury living...

What Lodi is hoping to be all about.

A local.

Sleep training is going well; Pete has me almost completely under his thumb.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Drill, baby, drill

Every parent wants their child to excel them, which - to be honest - isn't too hard in 50% of Pete's case.  But the better half has a pretty good job at a rather large company, so it was time to give the baby something to aspire to.  Down we went to Chevron HQ.

The "quick" trip for Hannah to pick up a few bits and pieces before she returns proper on Wednesday slowed significantly once we got to the offices.  Many people, several of whom Hannah claims never to have seen before, came out and asked for a cuddle.  I tried to oblige, but apparently it wasn't me they were after.

All in all, a positive start to Pete's journey to the heart of corporate America.  And, by an amazing coincidence, 25th April is Take Your Baby To Work Day.  Looks like I may get a break during my first week of going "full time".

Planning the changes he's going to make to the lobby.

Hannah's boss Matt takes Pete through his induction.

Back to her office, throwing out the 3-month-old food she'd forgotten about.

Centre of attention, as ever.

A good place to start your career.

Bedtime reading.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Generation gap

It was another tearful farewell at the BART station today as we waved goodbye to my parents.  Pete will be the one to miss out the most - it's back to being swaddled 22 hours a day!  You don't want them getting too used to human affection.

Before that we managed to fit in a trip to Albany, driving down memory lane (otherwise known as Ohlone Avenue) in Berkeley's University Village, finding a lost ice rink, building a cot, meeting a Durham uni friend, lots of walks (yes Mum and Dad, you do have to put on sun cream, regardless of what British weather is doing), meals out, and several cheeky bottles of Californian wine.

Come back soon!  Seriously, because Hannah starts work again next week and it's not looking good for my sanity.

Ah, so many memories.

Yep, still filled with health hazards/works of art.  There's also a"community" living down here now, possibly everyone who was thrown off the Occupy Albany farm.

I like this new one.

To explain: my Dad is a big competitive ice skater, and had heard that Berkeley used to have a beautiful art deco ice rink that fell into disrepair and dereliction.  So we had to go on a pilgrimage.  Here it is!  People are trying to get it back up and working, so maybe for Dad's 90th we'll have an ice skating party.

All the family together at WC market!

This is Georgina!  She went to Durham uni with us, but was in the year below.  Now she's a entrepreneur whose company organises conferences, and she was down in Silicon Valley to do a little industrial espionage at a rival event.

But she's also an incredible pianist who studied music!  Like theology, a very useful degree.  The Creek grand piano shop was having a sale (this Steinway reduced to a piffling $86k) so she had some fun.

But then I put her in front of that great musical leveller: Rock Band.  And she was still a lot better than me, so...

Goodbye lunch at Dad's favourite, the Cheesecake Factory.  In a break from tradition, he switched from shepherd's pie to fish and chips.

The new look of Cheesecake Factory lunches.

Constructing a crib!  The engineer advised, the theologian did all the work.

Pete is still loving his baths, and sneakily checking to see if bubbles are edible.

In some natty British threads knitted and sent our way by lovely friend Rachel.

Newly expanded family portrait.

A final few smiley moments with Grandma and Grandpa, with Pete wondering when he'll be old enough to go and stay on his own (answer: now!)

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Around the world in 80 years

My Dad is turning 80 in a week, and to celebrate a life dedicated to various things to do with the sea, like being in the navy and building submarines, we decided to treat him to a trip around the Bay on a boat.  But not just any boat!

USA 76 is an 84-ft America's Cup racing yacht that challenged for the title when it was held in New Zealand in 2003.  It didn't win, sadly.  The first America's Cup was held in 1851 around the Isle of Wight in England, and was named because the only American ship, imaginatively named America, won.  "Who came in second place?" a watching Queen Victoria asked, to be famously told: "Your Majesty, there is no second place."  We haven't won - ever - but the famously seafaring Swiss took it the year USA 76 raced, so that was the beginning and end of 76's racing history.

But fear not!  Intrepid sailors can jump on board at Pier 39 for a few hours of shooting about as the fastest thing on the Bay, cocking a snook at all those other silly yachts not made out of carbon fibre or sporting 11-storey tall masts.  It was a lot of fun.

Dad had a great time, taking the wheel on two occasions and powering us along as we tipped at 45-degrees with lots of splashing.  "It's impossible to capsize," said Jon the skipper.  He sounded confident, and his crew of four did well to whip a land-lubber like myself into shape.  For a big ship it was incredibly sensitive to every nudge of the wheel, but I only sent the crew scurrying in panic once when I turned left (towards a pier) when I'd been told to steer right.  Sadly Pete Jr. was not allowed to join us (it's political correctness gone mad!) but I'm quietly hoping he's already got some good ideas for my 80th birthday.

Built for speed.

Built to last.

Skipper Jon takes us out of dock under power.

Time to put the sails up!  Vice-skipper Jeanette tells us that she expects every man to do his duty.

Hoisting the mainsail.

It's up!

Back under the Bay Bridge and towards the city.

Putting in my midshipman duties to get the jib raised.

Dad is given the wheel, and our heading.

We didn't move slowly.

Escaping from Alcatraz.

Is it meant to do this?

Hanging on.

A kite surfer out by the Golden Gate.

We went underneath, but only a little way.  We were hoping to make a break for Hawaii.

Sailors together.

Dad takes the helm again and strikes an epic pose, past a bridge that opened four years after he was born.

Flying back in.

And that was it!  Tied up alongside and back on solid ground.

"...and perhaps England will win the America's Cup sometime during your lifetime..."