Friday, 30 August 2013

His highness

There comes a time in every boy's life when he has to rise up and be counted among the men.  This hasn't happened for me yet, but for Peter it came today with the arrival of his high chair.  He will sit on a knee and be spoon-fed no longer; now he can announce his independence and (artificially) raised stature by joining us at the table!  He will also be expected to use his own spoon.

The delivery of this chair has not been without its drama, as (surprise!) I opted to buy from the cheapest place I could find.  When they suspiciously couldn't fulfil my order I went for the second cheapest, who managed to iron out "problems" with the supplier to finally get me the chair 19 days after I ordered it.  They've done a good job washing off the dried-on food...

Before he could ascend, Pete got to witness another indicator of manliness: building flat-pack furniture!  Although I did embarrass myself by referring to the instructions.  At the end of the construction, and partial deconstruction to put in the bits I'd missed the first time, I seated him on his lofty pedestal and he surveyed all around him!  Before trying to eat the tray.  Tomorrow: food.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Sitting on his own two feet

Peter is an "at risk" baby.  Not a judgement on us as parents, so I'm told, but because he was tiny when he popped out.  There's no particular consequence to this other than our hospital making us attend loads of reviews and charging us $25 a time.  US healthcare is the best!

One of our regular appointments is with physiotherapist Heidi, and in this case my $25 gets me a chair to sit on for ten minutes while I watch her play with Pete and a load of toys on the floor.  Like I do all day every day, for less than $25.

At the end of the session I'm given a worksheet of things I have to make Peter do next time, and this one was all about sitting.  Pete's Grandma, a fellow physio, told me the advanced stage is to get baby to reach for things above his head.  I'm nothing if not ambitious, but perhaps this is trying to run before we can walk...

I made this for physio Grandma.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Cute new baby

Raccoons get something of a bad press around here, which is ridiculous when they're soooooo cute!  They do tend to mess stuff up and eat rubbish, and might be a bit aggressive, and have rabies, but take a look at their beady little eyes - they're filled with love.  If I ever find one of those Davy Crockett hats I'll wear it everywhere.

Eileen, our apartment manager who lives downstairs, has been enjoying a little visitor to her patio every few nights, one that's been playing in her fountain and messing up her flower pots.  He seems to be an orphan, is not scared of people in the slightest, and basically taps on her window for food.  She's understandably unimpressed by a critter eating her plants but I've been desperately trying to spot him.

Well, everyone was happy today when the sweet little troublemaker was caught and transported to a happier life at Lindsay Wildlife Museum hospital.  I was woken by strange sounds at around 5am which turned out to be a baby raccoon complaining about being trapped.  How do you lure a raccoon?  With marshmallows.  That's why they're always around when you camp.

Eileen refused my offer of taking the little stripey one off her hands myself.  Pete needs a playmate, and having a pet teaches children about care and responsibility.  Apparently I'd signed something in the lease that says I agree not to do such things.  I'll have to read the small print more diligently when we move to Vancouver.

Caught like a raccoon in a trap!  Exactly like one.

I will call him Little Stripey and I will take him home and he will love me.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Breakfast is cancelled

Breaking news - literally - as Tiffany's in Walnut Creek was knocked over at 5.45am this morning!  Apparently four men rammed a pickup truck into the shop's (large, metal, formerly-thick-looking) doors, went on a little private shopping spree, then took off.  As yet it's unclear how much ice they scored. "It was costumey jewelry, only a little more expensive," said a spokesperson trying to put a brave face on things.

Wow, in the Creek!  We leave this place for a month and it goes to the dogs!  I'm just happy that they didn't try the same thing on one of our ice cream shops.  That would have been a real disaster.  Full story on ABC 7.

They didn't even own the truck but stole it from somewhere nearby!  No honour among thieves.

You're only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!

Monday, 12 August 2013

Meet Pete's new best friend!

What subliminal messaging?

Also, it talks with the voice of his mother.

Fracking is dangerous?  Hahahaaaa!

Orthodox spin

'Life is all about new experiences' I reflected as I refilled the priest's shot glass and tried to listen, over the Russian cover band, about the differences between heresy and error.

We were all here to celebrate the marriage of Florin and Sasha - Romania to Russia - and what a celebration it was!  The ceremony, amid singing, incense, and gold, was in Holy Virgin Cathedral in SF, and the reception across town in L'Olivier restaurant.  Don't let the French name fool you: this place is run by Russians, with so much Eastern European food on the tables it was hard to put the vodka bottle down.  We could have been in Moscow!  Where I've never been.

British weddings are terribly polite affairs, it may surprise you, and this was a little different.  There was the food and drink, then dancing, then more food, then back to dancing.  At one point the bride was stolen and Florin had to pay money to get her back.  Then there was some more dancing.  I was seated beside Fathers Ioan and Peter, both of whom did brandy shots and one of whom knew someone who taught us theology at Durham.

Strangely, baby Pete was finding it difficult to sleep through all this, and so we had to say До свидания a little early, before things got totally out of hand.  It was a day and a night I'm not going to forget quickly (aside from the bits that were already a bit cloudy at the time...) and thank you so much to handsome groom Florin and beautiful bride Sasha for the invitation.  Mulţumesc foarte mulţ and Большое спасибо, as we say in England.

This seems to be the place.

Don't look so worried Florin!  (Florin's the one on the left).

The bride arrives, impressively on time.  For the first part of the ceremony they don't even get to come into the church!

Then they rush to the altar.

Nicely decorated.

Receiving instruction from Father Peter.

There was a balcony you could go up to.  Everyone was wandering around and taking photos during the service (despite all the signs saying that you weren't allowed to).  It was a blogger's paradise!

Mr and Mes Stanciu.

With parents, but getting photobombed by an orthodox priest.

Out they come!  There's a tradition where you have to shout "gorka" (I think) and the bride and groom have to kiss the whole time.  This happened a lot.

These aren't even the appetisers, just pre-appetiser snacks!

Jelly, eggs, carrot, pickled fish at the bottom.  Hmmm.

This poor guy couldn't take the weight of the desserts, but retained his dignity with a rose.

Pete, overcome.

"Are you Russian mafia?" people kept asking me.

They prayed a lot in the service for Florin and Sasha to have kids.  And suddenly...!

First dance: "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" by U2.

Me and Father P.

Turning on the vodka-fueled charm to Sasha.  She was impressed.

And here are all my memories of the evening summed up in one easy photo.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Cookies Ruin Everything Around Me

As you know, the word "free" is guaranteed to get my attention.  If that word is followed by "ice cream" then you can stop talking now.  Amazingly, this very phrase appeared with the opening of CREAM (Cookies Rule Everything Around Me) in Walnut Creek this weekend.  What could be better than two cookies sandwiching a rich dollop of ice cream?  Apart from not having to pay for it.

I contacted friends Drew and Sarah, fellow lovers of all things free, and after some of Hannah's homemade pizza and a few beers we wandered downtown.  Pizza, beer and free ice cream.  This was going to be the best day of my WHOLE LIFE!

Unfortunately, "free" seems to attract lots of people.  Several hundred, judging by the queue outside the shop.  We joined the end but when "forty-five minutes" was whispered my three companions (and two babies) showed their true capitalist colours and decided that it was more fun to buy ice cream than wait.  What??  I grudgingly followed them to the SF Creamery, where we were served immediately, and while my toasted almond/cookies'n'cream combo was delicious it did have a slightly bitter aftertaste: disappointment.

Yeah, we're all having fun here at the front of the line!

At the back?  Not so much.

Perhaps the cookie sandwiches weren't so tasty after all.

But ever dependable SF Creamery brings the smiles; more chunks and variety than Lottie's, but (possibly) lower quality.

And here's a cute picture of a baby.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Pacific Time

We're back!

Heathrow security has enjoyed a bit of an upgrade since we were last here.

Pre-flight nap.

And when it's ten hours to SFO, thank goodness for the entertainment system.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

The end of the road

As surely as sunshine follows rain, rain followed sunshine and the finest week of British weather since records began (possibly) ended in flood warnings and apocalyptic thunder.  Our trip to the mother country ends also, a time to stock up on tea and Cadbury's, on chocolate Hob Nobs and Marmite.

We've spent the last few days popping about the West Country between parents before heading towards Heathrow via Woking.  Hannah went shopping today with Ellen while I got to enjoy time with Goddaughter Megan.  We lunched, we saw Despicable Me 2 in 3D, we found an unlikely Italian gelateria newly opened in the centre of town.  Incredibly it didn't rain.

It has been a fine few weeks, and a huge thank you to everyone who made time to see us, give us food, come to Pete's baptism, etc.  Come and visit us in Walnut Creek soon!  Very soon, because our visa application is now in the Canadian embassy and, with the Queen being Head of State there, it's really only a formality.  I think.

We went to the beach again, and it was sunny!

In the Badger Brewery cafe in Blandford.  Only coffee and tea were consumed, sadly.

Pete's development continues in leaps and bounds (it's the superior education system here).

With Grandparents #1.

And the inevitable rain arrives, even when the sky is blue!

Luckily our friend Allan was on hand with his daughter's brolly.

And here are the daughters, and mother Jo, very ably entertaining the little boy.  Later we had a full-on variety show from the younger ones, like in The Sound of Music.

Back to Frome, with Mum and frequent-travelling-companion Sheila - both have wiped my bottom many a time, although not for a few years.

With Grandparents #2.


Despicable Me 2, which pretty much lived up to the title.

Finishing off with ice cream.  Outside!  In England!  Time to leave while the memory is fresh.