Sunday, 29 September 2013

Pizza delivery

It took a few days, and the intervention of Walnut Creek hospital staff with strong drugs, but today the Prego pizza worked its magic and Lauren and Nate welcomed Genevieve Noelle into the world!  She arrived at 3.02am weighing 8lbs 5oz and measuring 22.5" long.  Her father set a baby size record when he was born so mother is relieved and all are doing well.

If delivery takes longer than 30 minutes, aren't you meant to get the pizza for free?

You eat a Prego, and two weeks later this pops out!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Piracy on the high seas

Fairy tale comebacks don't really happen in sport - that's because fairy tales aren't real.  Except I just watched Team USA win eight races on the trot to literally pinch the America's Cup from under the Kiwis' noses.  I was worried that it would all be over before Dad arrived, and it turns out he left before it was decided!  From a scoreline of 8-1 somehow everything came down to one winner-takes-all race today.

Pete and I weren't alone in thinking we'd pop along to watch.  Around 20,000 friends joined us, with far more USA flags on display than our last trip, but we'd already sussed out the air-conditioned, spacious Kids' Zone which enjoyed an excellent uninterrupted view of the big screen.  We hung out there with the other well-informed families.

Getting back to fairy tales, it was meant to be the Cinderella story of plucky, impecunious Team NZ beating the bottomless pockets of Larry Ellison and his Team USA (who, lest we forget, are actually a bunch of Aussies and Brits).  Turns out that success does have a price, but Ellison can afford it!

With the usual American penchant for understatement, the commentators declared it "the greatest comeback in sporting history".  As with all implausible results there are plenty of conspiracy-flavoured questions to be asked.  How come the three races that Team NZ were leading were called off, only to be won by the USA on the restart?  When Team USA were docked points for cheating, why were races added on so they could still score enough to win?  Did Ellison really build a mechanical whale in case he had to scupper another race?  Will the Queen strip Ben Ainslie of his knighthood for so impressively assisting the old enemy?

Commiserations to Fiona, Dan, Patrick, and all our NZ buddies.  Stealing something from another boat used to be called piracy, but it looks like it's legal on San Francisco Bay.

Off go Team USA.  NZ were already out there practicing their starts.

Plenty of interest - this is an hour before the race even started.

Not a sight I expected to see.

The Kiwis might not have the cup but they do have the beer tent.

There's no confusion about who we're supporting today.

The view from the Kids' Zone.

Team USA sail through the finish and then buzz the crowd.

In the end it was all too much for some.

Look!  It's a fire boat doing that fire boat thing!

Pirate Pete says: USA arrrrrr the winnarrrrs.

Generation gap

Unfortunately, today was the day that my parents had to go back to England.

On Sunday we polished off Sacramento with a trip to the capitol building to see how these Americans interpret good old British democracy.  Turns out that they copy the colour scheme of the House of Commons for the Assembly Chamber and the Lords for the Senate!  That's where the similarity ends, as there's no shouting, waving of papers, or any of the fun that makes the British parliament worth watching.

The rest of their stay was spent chilling in the Creek - officially the best place to get ice cream in the East Bay.  We went to coffee shops, topped up the shopping at Target, and much playing with the baby took place.

Pete and I waved them goodbye at the BART station this afternoon and reality has hit us both hard.  Me because I now have to change nappies and feed the baby, Pete because he has to go back to watching me play computer games all day as his only entertainment.  From both of us: "come back soon Grandparents!"

The Senate chamber/House of Lords.  The two "thrones" in the middle always remain empty to symbolise that no royal power is exerted over this land.  Whatever.

Pete, getting closer to the governor's office every day.

Now on solids, but not that solid.

In Old Sacramento.

We deviated from Lottie's - a mistake.

Grandchildren, the reward for having children.

Judgement Day

As a science fiction fan, I know that when things become self-aware it normally spells trouble for most of the human race.

Hey, it's another baby!  But it's doing everything I am...wait...

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Golden delicious

Black gold is the commodity of choice for the Davies family but really we'll accept any colour.  So on our weekend trip to Sacramento we decided to head into historic gold country where, in 1824, a paper mill's waterwheel dredged up the first flecks of flashy metal from a local riverbed.

No miners actually made money from gold during the Californian gold rush, with the motherlode being the initial discovery, but others did including Mr Levi Strauss with his denim work trousers and Samuel Brannan who opened an extortionately-priced supply store and became the state's first millionaire.  At Gold Bug mine it was easy to see why most didn't hit paydirt - a ton of hand-dug ore was considered good if it yielded an ounce of gold.  We wandered deep into the hill but couldn't find any overlooked nuggets.

The area might be poor in minerals but it's rich in apples!  Being a Somerset boy I'm well versed in God's own fruit and the variety and volume around here is impressive.  It's like Napa Valley but with apples, and they can be found strudelled, pied, tarted, made into cookies, candles, soap, etc. etc.  Though not enough turned into (hard) cider, in my opinion.  The weather turned decidedly Somerset as well; the heavens opened, and Californians stared aghast at the skies wondering why they were grey and had water falling out of them.   A little further north in Tahoe they were pleased to get the first snow of the season.  Skiing tomorrow?

Kings of the wild frontier.

Going underground.

In a cavern, in a canyon.

The end of the line, and of any useful gold ore.

Pricey!  It was about $20 an ounce in the year it was pulled out.

Who's in the mine?

Panning: easier than mining.

Hannah's haul, with a value that was difficult to calculate.

What are you doing to me?!

Like comparing apples to pumpkins.


Inside the shed at Rainbow Orchards, who coincidentally sell their wares at Walnut Creek market, while rain beats down on the tin roof.

As cute as apple pie!

Clever marketing.

Back at the hotel, and proof that the apple hasn't fallen far from the tree.

Nut house

If you're anything like me, you sit in the evening eating almonds wondering "where did this delicious and adaptable nut come from?"  After our trip to Blue Diamond Growers in Sacramento today I can tell you: probably California!

The almond is the Golden State's number one food export and, in fine NorCal socialist style, Blue Diamond is a big cooperative of almond growers that got together 100 years ago and now produces around 1.4 million tons a year.  Half goes overseas and the rest stays.  If you've ever eaten an almond within US borders then it was grown here, and you can find these nuts in every food product ever (possibly).

This information was communicated to me by a talking almond, the star of the film "The Amazing Almond" that's shown in the visitors' centre.  The centre is really just a big almond shop (although I did spot some raisins in there) but there's limitless almond tasting of all their varieties - including the dubious new coffee almond range - and you get a free pack for watching the film.

What do you call a nut with a sneeze?  A cashew!  I couldn't think of a joke involving almonds.

They chose their name because it's the rarest and priciest diamond around.  Cut diamonds are the number two non-agricultural export of California (after aircraft parts).  Not a lot of people know that.

All of these flavours occur naturally.

Hannah goes for mint dark chocolate.  Hmm.

Almonds good, peanuts bad.

Too much choice!

The world's best film featuring a talking almond - not a cartoon almond, an actual almond, that talks - made in the early 80s judging from the hairstyles and "cutting edge" computerised ordering system on display.  To harvest almonds they have a machine that shakes the trees to make them fall out, then they sweep them into long lines, then another machine picks them up.  It's true!

Even the packet tastes good.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Prego pizza

Inducing childbirth - ah, the myriad old wives' tales of how to get that baby out!  Raspberry tea, a curry, chestnuts, etc.  Had we got to that stage with Pete we'd have no doubt tried them all (to be fair, Caesarean section was 100% effective) but what we'd have really looked forward to is the Prego pizza offered at local joint Skipolini's.

Their website is chock-full of success stories, dating from 1981, of pregnant women eating this monster culinary creation and welcoming their bundles of joy mere hours later.  While we couldn't join those ranks ourselves we had a friend/victim willing to try: Lauren, whose due date is tomorrow.  She and Nate are expecting little Genevieve to pop out any day, but having already missed two weeks of Chevron work Lauren is desperate to get this damned maternity leave over and back to big oil!

Well, we're here to help, and so met her at the pizza restaurant this evening.  The Prego consists mainly of meat and garlic and we appropriately ordered a family size.  Fairly certain I wouldn't go into labour I ate a slice or two myself and it was very good.

As for Lauren, while blogging her giving birth on the sawdust-covered restaurant floor would have been SO COOL there was nothing to report by the end of the meal.  Looks like we'll be back at Skipolini's tomorrow...and the next night...until Genevieve pops out just to get a change in diet.

Actual size.

First bite (my mother's head was an extra topping).

Taking home the leftovers, with the box reminding us why we were there.

Still full up.  Fingers crossed, and good luck!

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Guess who's back!

It has been a long and lonely road, but Twinkies have finally returned to Walnut Creek.

As you will no doubt remember, it being the most important news story of the year, Hostess Brands went bankrupt a few months ago due to industrial action shenanigans.  The US government, who saw fit to bail out corrupt banks to the tune of billions, decided not to intervene.  If you want any proof of the faulty moral compass of this country, there it is.

Luckily private equity stepped in (while the final boxes of Twinkies changed hands for hundreds of dollars on ebay).  Although production lines began rolling again in July, demand was understandably such that I've had to live through months of "Dream Cakes" and other pretenders filling up our local Target shelves.

But no more!  With a new box boasting "The Sweetest Comeback in the History of Ever" the cream-filled pieces of heaven were back on display today, and the main reason I moved across the Atlantic returned.  Mmmm mmm.

From this... this!

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Still afloat!

I expected to write at this point about how Dad and I watched Team NZ gloriously win the America's Cup, but a combination of British talent (Sir Ben tacticianing Team USA), weather (several races cancelled) and the Kiwis sportingly trying to tip their boat over means that things are still not-quite-over.

In-between the waterborne drama we've been playing with the baby, visiting a classic car museum, wandering the Creek, playing with a baby, to the beach, playing with baby, wine, baby, then some baby.  Everyone seems very happy with the domestic setup and I continue, quietly, unsung, to serve all around me unobtrusively and modestly demanding no recognition...

Showing some love for Grandma.

They may be old but they're still looking good.

It's not the years, honey, it's the mileage.

Finally a real classic!  An original MG Midget, British-made.

Cappuccino or breastmilkaccino?

The catamarans are smaller than they look on telly...

Bouncing in the America's Cup Kids' Zone.

Sailing by.

Team NZ are so confident that they're pulling stunts during the race!


What's this?  A different baby?  Grandma shares some of her love with little Agam at Arbel's 3rd birthday party.

Back with the correct baby on Albany beach.

Mmmmm, sand.

The main attraction.