Wednesday, December 30, 2009

While Ed was away, Mum went and bought some knitting wool and patterns for little baby clothes... I know, it's slightly middle-aged, but I am getting pretty desperate for things to fill my time while I lie on my back!

... I have to confess that I am LOVING it!!!

I finished my first little jumper last night... but, due to the fact that I was using the wrong-sized needles for the pattern I was following, it turned out to be a very funny shape - far too wide! Oh well, it has been a learning experience and Mum and Dad have gone off this morning to get me more wool, more patterns AND the correct sized needles! Hopefully my next attempt will be more of a success! This one is probably going to work best as a silly skiing hat for Ed!!!
Ed arrived home on Monday night and I have to say, of all my Christmas and birthday prezzies, seeing him was the absolute BEST present! It is wonderful to have him home, although we continue to grieve and it is obviously tough for him feeling torn with his sister and Dad back in the uk – they would understandably still love to have him around – if only he could be cloned!

Yesterday we had our level 2 ultrasound (a more in depth scan to check the integrity of the organs and development). We were thrilled to hear that ‘baby B’ (the healthy baby who has an intact amniotic sack) looks like a perfectly healthy and normally developing little BOY – yes, it was confirmed yesterday, we are having a BOY!

The other baby is looking more and more bent over and there does not seem to be any sign that amniotic fluid is building up around him. His heart is still beating strongly, but it is very unlikely (unless the Lord works a wonderful miracle!) that he will survive. It is good that he is still alive though, since while he is alive there is no risk that my body will go into labor AND there is no risk to me (apparently if he dies there is a risk to my health, since he is linked into my circulation system)…

So, even though bed rest stinks and we would obviously LOVE to be having a ‘normal’ pregnancy, we came home feeling relieved that we had not received any new bad news…

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Although tinged with sadness because of Jane's death and the fact that Ed and I had to spend the day apart, we both managed to celebrate a surprisingly happy Christmas... Ed had a lovely day with his extended family in Wimbledon and Mum, Dad and I managed to make a day of bed rest feel remarkably Christmasy!
I got out of bed at about 4.15pm and went to recline on one of the sofas in front of the Christmas tree and roaring fire Dad had got ready... we opened our presents while enjoying some smoked salmon and non-alchoholic champagne and then, at about 6.30pm Mum spoiled us all (the bambino's enjoyed it too!) with the most delicious Christmas dinner complete with all the trimmings! And then, to top it all off, Mum and Dad had brought a genuine English Christmas pudding over (smuggled in their luggage!), which we enjoyed with brandy butter and cream! Yum!
For the first time ever, I felt that the size of my stomach adequately reflected how well-fed I was at the end of all the feasting!
Praise God for the joy he gives even in the midst of sadness! Praise God for Jesus who came to die in our place that we might have the hope of heaven - meaning we do not have to grieve like other people do (1 Thessalonians 4:13)!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

In amidst all the sadness, we have been amazed at how we still find things to laugh about...

One thing that made us hoot was when Mum and I decided to try and solve an episode of Poirot before Poirot got there himself... as the first character rolled up in his car, I said as a joke "that's a fake beard, keep an eye on him"... and then, low and behold, turns out it WAS a fake beard!!!

On the video there were 3 episodes... Mum and I managed to solve the first 2 convincingly but failed to get our hatrick (although Mum still claims that she had got there!)

Another joy has been watching the pelicans hunting over the waterway that is just opposite my bedroom window - they fly back and forth for a while and then suddenly tuck their wings in and plummet like an arrow into the water to snare the unsuspecting fish below! All very exciting! What is especially fun is that I had NEVER seen pelicans over this particular waterway before I went on bed rest - so I think the Lord is laying on the spectacle just for me each day!

I have to admit that as we read reports of heavy snow and ice back home, Mum, Dad and I are feeling slightly smug as we look out of the window and see uninterrupted sunshine! Make sure you make some snowmen and snow-angels (and a snow Ed?!!! - sorry, private joke from skiing last year!) to make up for the fact that I can't join in the fun!
Since Jane’s untimely death last Wednesday, this week has been filled with plenty of tears and regular Skype calls (Praise God for modern technology which allows us to speak face-to-face even though we’re so far apart!)… it has all felt unreal as we have sought to come to terms with the gaping hole Ed’s Mum will leave… but our heavenly Father has been tangibly with us and we have all felt supernaturally strengthened and given the ability to cope – it is SUCH a comfort to know that Jane is in a much better place and that we will see her again one day!

They are having a private family funeral tomorrow and then there is a memorial service planned for the 22nd January…

The scan this morning revealed that our little fighter is STILL alive (to the utter amazement of the entire medical team!), but his heart beat is much weaker and it is very likely that he will not survive much longer (unless the Lord works a miracle!) The healthy baby is still doing well – so no real change (which is a good thing)…

Each week the obstetrician re-affirms the need for continued bed rest, but this morning I thought I’d ask some more probing questions to try and find out how long this is likely to last… it was a hard blow to be told that I will definitely be on strict bed rest until at least week 30 of my pregnancy (I am currently at the start of week 19), and that even if they allow me to get out of bed after this, I am not going to be able to do more than little bits of walking around the house for the entire pregnancy… apparently I just have to try and make sure that gravity exerts as little pressure on my cervix as possible… so I’m going to be laid up for quite some time yet… understandably, this prospect has made me quite tearful, but then I was reminded that God only gives us strength for TODAY – I can trust he’ll keep giving me strength for each new day (as he has done so far) and that he’ll provide for all the things I’m tempted to worry about (e.g. having enough strength to cope with the demands of a newborn, getting the nursery ready, buying baby clothes/a cot etc, how we’ll cope when Ed has to go back to the uk for the memorial service)… it is such a comfort to know that God is working out His good and perfect plan for our lives through all this and that I don’t need to fret!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Ed travelled home to the uk on Tuesday and arrived at 10am yesterday morning. He spent some lovely time with his Mum, but only six hours after he arrived, she died. We are so grateful to God that Jane was able to hang on until Ed got there, but obviously it is a huge shock to realize that she has gone and, even though we know that she is now free from pain and suffering and is partying with Jesus (her first love) right now, it is still incredibly painful to have to let her go.

Do please pray for Ed, his sister Emily and their Dad David as well as the rest of the extended family as we all grieve. Please pray for all the practicalities of contacting everyone to let them know and arranging the funeral – a lot of this will fall on Ed’s shoulders.

I am just so sad I can’t be with my man to comfort and help him through this time…

In the light of this, any news about our babies seems trivial, but I know you’d all want to know that the scan today revealed no real change from last week… they can’t believe that our little fighter is still going and so they are referring me to a specialist in San Francisco (it’s unlikely he’ll be able to do anything, he just has more experience with this kind of thing). I am still on bed rest and am likely to be for the next few weeks at least.

My Mum and Dad arrive later today, which will be good.

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail, they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness!” (Lamentations 3: 21-23)

I also read Psalm 91 this morning: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust””

There is a lot going on at the moment that is hard to understand, but we feel His loving shadow over us. We know He is in control.

Many thanks for all your ongoing prayers and support…

Monday, December 14, 2009

I'm going MAD! The cause of this sudden loss of sanity, you ask?

...a pesky woodpecker!

Now, most of you will be aware of my love of birds, I encourage them closer to our home using delicious nutty hanging feeders and delight to watch them... but, oh my! Any soft feelings I had towards our feathered friends is quickly evaporating and being replaced by the mantra "die, birdie, die!"

Last Sunday the pecking started and continued throughout last week until Ed noticed a large hole in the wall below our guest room and a pile of sawdust on the ground below it... I phoned the pest control guy "George", who deals with all 'pests' for our housing association... he said he didn't have much experience with woodpeckers, but he'd come and have a look...

George came today and filled up the hole. Job done, I thought... In the fight between man and bird, man had won! BUT this pesky woodpecker was not giving up so easily... oh no! He is remarkably persistent! About half an hour after George had left, the peck, peck, peck, peck (like a little hammer on speed) started again! This hammering has continued throughout the afternoon and, although I can't go outside and look, I am pretty sure there will be a hole in our wall again... in the WAR between man and bird, bird seems to be winning...

Not to be defeated, I searched the Internet for a quick and easy way to get rid of our persistent friend... to my horror, I find that, once a woodpecker has chosen it's desired nesting place, it is a challenging task to get them to change their mind... worse than that, apparently they are a protected species, so if we kill the little sucker, we're likely to face a hefty fine!

This is war... it's ON, little birdie, it is ON! You wanna fight dirty? Well OK then... (I know woodpeckers aren't affected by smack talk, but it's making me feel better!)... this fight might have to get messy, but, in the war between man and bird, man is gonna win this thing, by fair means or foul!

Sunday, December 13, 2009


I am now almost 17 weeks pregnant... and while I have been on bed rest, just LOOK what has been growing beneath the duvet!!! Yikes! I got up yesterday evening so I could lie on the sofa in front of the open fire Ed had started (it was just embers by the time we took the photo!) and we just HAD to take a photo! I look properly Keith Cheggers! I guess, over the next few months, I am going to get a LOT bigger!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

An update on the bambinos...

We wake up on Wednesday mornings (that day we have our scans) with a sense of dread… what IS going to happen today? Please Lord, give us strength!

BUT yesterday, we were grateful to God since, even though we are not out of the woods yet, we have cause to be cautiously hopeful…

The scan revealed:

• BOTH babies still have beating hearts! (that little fighter is STILL trying to pee his way to survival!)
• The blood clot has GONE! Whooooopppppppppppeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!
• The babies have repositioned themselves, so that it is now clear that the baby whose sack has burst is NOT closest to my cervix – so the risk that I will go into labor is significantly reduced! Hooray!
• The baby who still has an intact sack is growing normally, looking great and still wriggling happily!

Our consultant is amazed that our little fighter is still going… but he is sure that even if he survives to full term, he will not survive very long outside the womb, because his lungs cannot develop without sufficient amniotic fluid… but, dear praying friends and family… this is where FAITH kicks in! Ed and I don’t know what the Lord’s will is, and we are at peace that if this little one is not meant to make it, then he will have a fantastic time playing with Jesus in heaven… BUT we are confident that IF this little one IS meant to make it, then medical probabilities are IRRELEVANT! Our Heavenly Father is the author of LIFE, HE is the one that knits us together and if HE has ordained that this little one is going to make it, then he WILL – AND, if he DOES make it, then ALL the glory will go to God!!!

So, we are at peace if God chooses to take this little one, but we have faith that, even though medical science says that only one outcome is inevitable, we have a God who can work miracles… we don’t know whether He will, but we are absolutely SURE that he CAN!!!

So… PRAY ON!!!

Bed rest continues for the time being… humph!
Throughout Movember (M, for those of you who don't know, stands for 'moustache' and generally provides an excuse for guys to indulge their facial-hair-fantasies!), Ed decided to grow a beard... and, just in case the argument about it being Movember didn't carry, he absolutely insured that I could not protest too loudly by organising sponsorship to raise money for the orphans in Burundi that we support... every year, the team seeks to give these children a Christmas treat by taking them to stay at lake Tanganyika (near the capital, Bujumbura). The cost of the entire trip comes to about $2000... so we were thrilled when we tallied up how much he had managed to raise at the end of the month and found that the total was more than $1100... thank you to all those who sponsored him!

Needless to say, I am back to having a clean-shaven man... bliss!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Some comic light relief... the mystery of the cheese-on-toast conundrum...

In order to ease the burden on Ed while I have been on bed rest, we have arranged for various friends from our church to pop in and make me lunch...

I have tried to keep it simple and so have asked for cheese on toast... fairly standard fair? Not a chance!

Apparently, in America, the idea of spreading butter on toast and then slicing cheese and putting that on top of the butter is a very strange concept! I have been handed all sorts of variations - from toast with a slice of butter on one side and a couple of slices of cheese on the other, to a butter and crumbled (literally chunks of cheese just broken off and scattered) cheese mix... all very strange...

Yesterday I asked the friend who had come to help if Americans really didn't eat cheese on toast - she said "cheese with butter - no, not really"... !!!

Today I am feeling very grown-up and daring... Ed is in LA on business for the day (he left at 5.30am - yuck!) and I have decided that I am feeling well enough to get out of bed and make my own breakfast and lunch... after 6 weeks of lying on my back, I can't express the feeling of elation I had when I managed to successfully sort myself out with marmite toast and orange juice this morning... roll on lunch time! I am a woman on a mission!

I am hoping beyond hope that the consultant gives me the all clear to get up and about when we go and see him tomorrow... I'll let you know!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Lord is asking Ed and I to walk through a dark time at the moment.

Up until Tuesday night it all seemed to be going well, the blood clot was clearing and the babies were doing well…

On Tuesday night, the sack, that one of our babies was in, burst. When we went for a scan the next morning, the baby was still moving and had a strong heart beat, but we were told that there is only a 10 – 15% chance that this precious little one will live. We have a scan booked for this Wednesday to see whether the sack has re-formed or not and whether the baby is alive or not… (the other baby is doing well, which is great news)

When we got home we phoned Ed’s parents – Ed’s Mum has been having some difficulties breathing over the last few months and they were doing tests on Wednesday to find out what was wrong. We couldn't believe it when they told us that she has advanced lung and liver cancer and may only have a few more months to live…

Now, some of you might think that a day like last Wednesday might shake our faith, but, if anything, this trial is strengthening our certainty that God IS good and that he is absolutely in control. There have been moments when Ed and I have felt like we were slipping into the pit of despair, but, in those moments we have felt supernaturally strengthened and have found ourselves SINGING – yes SINGING praises to our loving heavenly father. I can’t explain it, but what I’m telling you is true!

Ed and I have written wonderful verses from the bible on big sheets of paper and have stuck them to the mirror opposite our bed. We are holding onto those truths and it is helping us lift our eyes from our present circumstances…

It does feel like we’re living through a nightmare at the moment, and even though tears are close to the surface at all times, we know that Jesus is with us…

I know that not all of you know Jesus (but I’m praying that changes! You know me!), but for those of you who do, we really value your ongoing prayers. With all that is happening with Ed’s Mum, our worries about the baby seem less significant – obviously we’d still value prayers for those little ones, but please also pray for Ed and his family – especially his sister and Dad… it has all come as a total shock and none of us can envisage the future without Ed’s Mum’s energy, enthusiasm and her positive outlook on life – she is a beautiful woman of God and, although she is in a lot of pain, she is not afraid of death and is continuing to rejoice in Jesus and in the firm hope she has beyond the grave… it’s the rest of us that ache at the massive hole she will leave…

This is not easy, but God is with us and we know that he is good and will not give us more than we can bear...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


I guess there are SOME benefits to enforced bed rest!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hi there!

Nicci here... I am getting pretty good at typing from a reclined position, so I thought I'd try and write a brief blog update...

Things we're thanking God for...

1) BOTH babies are doing well - 3 different consultants have independently exclaimed "my these are active babies!" when doing a scan... we've nicknamed them 'the gymnasts'!

2) I am feeling much better and I'm in good spirits despite being on strict bed rest - which may last for a few more weeks... I am SOOOOOOooooooo grateful for a new 'memory foam' mattress topper which has transformed my comfort - I now have a happy bum and hips!

3) Our church family out here has been AMAZING - I have had exciting parcels full of pampering goodies, a complete new video library, a pile of recommended reading AND meals provided EVERY night for the last 2 weeks... we're feeling very loved! (all the lovely emails from back home have been a HUGE encouragement too! Thank you!)

Obviously we are still praying that the remaining blood clears without harming our little gymnasts in any way and I am hoping this bed rest doesn't go on too much longer! But, today being the first day of week 13 (i.e. I have reached the second trimester! Hooray!), we are feeling hopeful...

Ed is back in the UK for a week on business - enjoying the delights of the English Pub, 'proper' curry and beer! He's also getting to catch up with a few friends and family, which is great... I am glad he's getting a break from caring for me - he hasn't complained, but I am sure it's been a bit of a strain...

My Mum is out here for the week while Ed's away - she's cleaned the house thoroughly, done the ironing and is generally being an absolute star... it's great to have the opportunity to have a girly week together - including the mandatory 'chick flick' each evening! Wonderful!

Thanks for your continued prayers...

Nic x

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Well it's been an eventful week. Nicci's brother and sister-in-law arrived last Saturday and so we have been all together with Nicci's parents who had arrived the week before. The intention was for us to all go to Yosemite National Park but, for a reason I shall come on to explain, that idea got canned and so Peter & Liz, Paul and Tahrina have been visiting the city and seeing Alcatraz (things that Nicci and I are yet to properly do ourselves!) while I have been at work and Nicci has been 'taking it easy'.

So, for those of you who haven't heard: Nicci is pregnant! With Twins! (I know: double trouble!!) We've been longing for a child for the last 5 years, and the Lord has finally answered our prayers. We are very excited. However, last Sunday evening, there were signs that Nicci might have miscarried and we had a torrid night, waiting for the morning until we could go to the clinic for a scan. To our amazement and joy, both little treasures were still there with their little hearts beating away. But we were advised to rest, hence binning the Yosemite trip. In this morning's sermon our pastor mentioned something in passing about how beautiful Yosemite is. I guess we'll just have to wait for another time!

We had a further scare yesterday, so rest is still very much the order of the day. We have another visit to the clinic tomorrow morning and we hope to see those fellas still working away at it. We are very conscious of the Lord's strength in this situation and His timing has been amazing, what with Nicci's family being on hand to support. We're holding on by faith and, for those of you who pray, we would covet your prayers. It was a great reminder this morning from Revelation ch.4 to see things as they actually are, rather than how they appear. How they are is that God sits enthroned above all things - he is in control and we can trust Him!

This afternoon Paul, Tahrina and I had been looking forward to going to the Bridge School Benefit concert at MountainView's Shoreline Amphitheatre. The line-up included acts like Neil Young, Chris Martin from Coldplay, No Doubt, Sheryl Crow. I just pulled the tickets out of draw we'd put them in for safe keeping and discovered that our tickets were for Saturday 24th October. Yesterday. Bummer. It's hard to describe quite how you feel in moments like these! While it's a shame to have missed the concert, it does solve some of the issues that going to it entailed: Tahrina would have arrived late from her conference in San Francisco, I wasn't 100% down with the idea of leaving Nicci in bed while we went out and had fun, even though we'd lined up a friend to come and be with Nicci... So here's to a blank slate of a Sunday afternoon!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Yippeee! My parents arrived safely yesterday. It was great fun showing them round our appartment, taking them on a walk round the Bay and enjoying a lovely meal at Sam's in Half-Moon Bay overlooking the Pacific. We were thrilled that the pelicans laid on a dive-bombing display of excellence as they fed in the twilight. Amazingly, even though it was 4 in the morning UK time, Mum and Dad were full of beans and probably had more energy than we did!

We're looking forward to introducing them to our friends at church this morning and we may head into the city and across the Golden Gate Bridge this afternoon (depending on energy levels...!)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Hurumph...

I (Nicci) went for a 'routine check-up' at the dentist today. My first since moving here. Now, back home I pride myself on my 'immaculate dental hygiene' (my dentist's phrase!), but to my HORROR, today I was told that I had SIX cavities that needed filling...I am so ashamed.

AND, even worse - they could do half of them (the left side) straight away. So, I spent a miserable hour at the dentists - with him drilling and filling and polishing my marred teeth... and then spent the next 2 hours unable to speak without slurring, since the left side of my face and tongue was so numb... miserable.

I will now commence a religious flossing regime to try and regain my tooth-clean-pride...

I am secretly wondering whether the Americans put sugar in their water - is that possible? It could explain the sudden decline in my dental hygiene since moving here!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Ginger beer is my grandfather's favourite drink. I'd never really been that keen on it, until I had a 'Moscow Mule' cocktail (vodka and ginger beer with a wedge of lime) at a bar one time and decided I had to get some. So we looked around the super market and got some ginger ale. There was a faint ginger aroma, but it wasn't quite the ticket. Disappointed with that particular brand, I found some Schweppes ginger ale thinking (foolishly) that, because I recognised the name on the label and that they've never let me down when it comes to tonic for my Gs&T, it would be just what I was after. Sadly, no. I got some Safeways own brand ginger ale. Not good enough... We are now well stocked in ginger ale. By this time, I was begining to realise that I needed ginger beer and not ginger ale (how they get away with calling it ginger ale I don't know - false advertising or something... there's barely even a whiff of ginger in some of the brands we sampled). But you simply cannot buy ginger beer in America. Not to be outdone, I went online and found a British food store that had a ginger beer with the word 'fiery' on the label. That had to be more like the Moscow Mule of my dreams. I ordered 24 cans of the stuff and, while I was at it, 2 boxes of Alpen muesli and 12 Cadbury's Boost chocolate bars. They arrived. And it's gooood! Ginger beer, like curry, is just something we Brits do better than the Americans. However, I feel more comfortable in ordering cans of ginger beer to be delivered to me here in California than I would ordering a takeway curry from Xenuk in Finchampstead, Berkshire - I'm not sure it would survive the trip across the Atlantic.
Last Sunday, we decided to check out one of the hiking trails we'd been told about. So, in 30 degree heat, we donned our walking boots (sweaty!) and headed out towards half moon bay.

We parked along Skyline Blvd and started hiking in the direction of the coast... it was hot, but the thick Redwood forest provided welcome shade and the views of wooded hillsides sloping towards the Pacific were gorgeous... hiking has definitely been added to our 'potential things to do at the weekend' list!

Time for another blog post! Last weekend our friend, Claire turned 25 and decided to celebrate 'Jungle' style, by throwing a Jumanji fancy dress party...

Ed styled himself on Jumanji (Robin William's character in the film) and I went as a lion (complete with Lion's eyes painted on my eyelids for full, freaky effect!) SUCH fun!
Sadly, we forgot to bring our camera to the party, but couldnt bear to have made such an effort without capturing it, so these photos were taken in the bushes outside our home when we got back!

Monday, September 14, 2009

On Friday night we were woken up by violent 'dry' (i.e. no rain!) thunder storms. These seemed to have passed by the time we awoke on Saturday morning, so my energetic husband decided he'd go on a run while I was left in bed to snooze some more!

He'd not been gone more than about 10 minutes when the thunder and lightning started again, this time accompanied by heavy rain. I didn't know which running route he'd taken, so couldn't take the car to rescue him... I was glad when he arrived home safely without being turned into toast! He had thoughtfully curtailed his run since he knew I'd be fretting!

The thing that made me laugh was that the sea birds' reaction to the storm was to leave their safe places at ground level by the water and flock in land to perch, perilously at the top of the trees! Silly creatures! Anyway, it meant that we had Egrets perching in the tree just in front of our patio for the duration of the storm!

Hey there! This weekend, Ed and I went to our first baseball game! Ed got tickets through work to go and see the SFO Giants vs the LA Dodgers (arch rivals). We went with a couple from the 20's group, Vic and Brianna. Anyway, it was all going well as we caught the Cal train into the city, but then, to our horror, as we gazed on the crowds of supporters flooding towards the stadium, we realised that, instead of us wearing a 'neutral' colour, we had inadvertently BOTH put on tops of the EXACT blue worn by the LA Dodgers... oops! It got worse when we were told by our friends that we were sitting in the rowdy seats where fights often break out (!) Ed bought himself a Giants cap (leaving his wife to fend for herself!) and, as soon as it was cool enough, we put on our jackets!

It was a great atmosphere, although there was a heavy police presence and we saw quite a few rowdy supporters thrown out, but in general it was fairly light-hearted banter - and none of it was directed towards us, despite our apparel!

We were educated in American fast food delicacies such as Garlic fries and I had my first ever 'Corndog'. None of these treats were delicious enough to tempt Ed and I to queue up to try them again, but it was fun to try them!

The game was dull. Really dull. Since watching the game we have discovered that a large proportion of Americans also think Baseball is a pretty dull game. To make up for the fact that the game is not really worth watching, the organisers do a great job of entertaining the crowd by regularly stopping the game to film individuals in the crowd as they conduct 'dance-a-thons' or 'Kiss-a-thons' on the large screen... only in America!

We left when the Giants were losing 7 - 1. Not sure what the final score was, but I know the Giants did not make a come back!

Suffice to say, Ed and I are unlikely to become Giants 'fans'. We are told that American football is a MUCH better game, so that will be our next venture into watching live sport out here! Oh how we miss rugby and cricket!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Again, SOOOOoooooo sorry for the lack of recent posts! I guess as life settles into a steady rhythm, there is less exciting stuff to report...

BUT, we DID have our 11th wedding anniversary on the 29th August! We had a lovely day relaxing by the pool and then, about 6pm we headed for the city, went over the Golden Gate bridge and into Sausalito. Ed had booked a table at 'Spinnakers' - a restaurant that is right on the bay with views back towards the city. We had a table by the window and enjoyed a lovely meal in the perfect location!

Every year on our wedding anniversary, we have the tradition of conducting a 'wrinkle audit' to check the progress of aging in each other (what fun!). Despite a few laughter lines and some inexplicable forehead furrows, we decided we were still looking pretty 'hot'... the new discovery this year were Ed's 9 grey hairs... I've had a few for a while, but this development was definitely new. It's a slippery slope from here!

At the end of the meal, a gentleman in his 50's came up to us and said "I'm really sorry to do this, it's embarrassing, but you two were just so delightful to watch during dinner, you're so obviously in love - are you newly-weds?" ...he couldn't believe we were celebrating 11 years! Sadly I didn't get the chance to tell him that the secret to a long and happy marriage is keeping Jesus firmly at the centre...we're so grateful to him for the gift of our marriage!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

After 4 months of meticulous care and attention, Lucy (our lemon tree) is showing the first signs of actual lemon fruit. We can barely contain our excitement.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Saturday morning, the sun is shining but we're lying in bed listening to the Test Match over the Internet. This summer's Ashes seems to be heading in the right direction.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

This morning I found an ant colony who had moved in behind one of our living room curtains. The cheek! Animal rights activists will be appalled to hear that, armed with a spray bottle of kitchen cleaner, I attacked. I showed no mercy.

Needless to say, there are only humans living in our home again now. Phew. Crisis averted!

Monday, August 17, 2009

For the last two weeks, Ed and I have CYCLED to church! It takes about 40 minutes and is a beautiful route - right along the bay. The only snag is that we arrive at church slightly sweaty with our hair looking windswept... people are starting to shift away from us... but hey, it's fun to do! Yesterday I drove Ed mad by constantly calling for him to stop so that I could take a photo of some of the views along the way... in order to make that feel worth while, here they are!

Last week we met up with my Dad's God-daughter and her husband who are our here travelling for a few weeks. I had not seen Lydia since she was about 14 years old, so it was fun to meet up with this sophisticated lady and her lovely husband. I had to restrain myself from calling her by her childhood nickname (which I won't mention here just in case it would embarrass her!)
Apologies for the lack of recent blog updates... life is settling into more of a steady rhythm so that we have less interesting things to update you on!

However, this weekend we broke from the routine of Saturdays spent watching sport and sitting by the pool and instead, got in the car and travelled to San Gregorio beach - a beautiful stretch of sand backed by sandstone cliffs. The waves were crashing onto the sand and looked beautiful, although a brief toe-dip confirmed that we would NOT be venturing in!

After a picnic lunch and an hour or so of sunning ourselves, we got back in the car and travelled down the coast along Highway 1, all the way to Santa Cruz. The drive is breathtaking - beautiful hills to the left and the ocean to the right - Ed had to keep being reminded to keep his eyes on the road! At one point we passed a large forest fire (which has been on the news out here) - helicopters were emptying large containers of water onto it... which seems to have done the trick!

Santa Cruz is a weird place. Felt very disconnected. Lots of people trying very hard to be 'cool'. A real display of humanity in all it's vast diversity. Fun to visit... once!

The highlight was walking along the coast for a bit and being entertained by a seal frolicking in the water below us!

At about 6pm we headed for Saratoga where we had booked tickets to see 'Buddy Guy' in concert. For those of you who don't know, Buddy Guy is a legendary blues singer/guitar player. He is now 73 and still rocking! It was an outdoor venue and what with the stars above us and fantastic music to entertain us, it was a fitting end to a fun-filled day!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Today we cycled to church again and, given it was our only option, cycled back as well. And we again spent some time at the pool. We found a place that sells PIMM'S and what better way to while away a sunny Sunday afternoon than sipping on a glass of the stuff and reading a book? We've actually retreated in doors for a bit of shade. It has been a wonderfully lazy weekend. We've realised the importance of rest! Last weekend's trip to Napa for the release of the Silver Oak winery's 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon was great, but we thought that this weekend we'd stay close to home. I'm looking forward to maybe flying the kite Nicci got me for my birthday.

Next weekend we might venture out a little way, perhaps taking in some of the beaches on the Pacific Coast. And we have tickets next Saturday evening to go and see the great Blues guitarist, Buddy Guy, play live in Saratoga. My uncle gave me one of Buddy Guy's CDs years ago, and he looked pretty old in the inlay card back then, so we're half expecting him to be wheeled on stage. But musical genius is musical genius and we're really looking forward to it. Speaking of guitar, I've decided to try and teach myself to play the instrument. I'm going to try and do 15 minutes a day. Yesterday was the first day, and my fingers are sore but I understand that will pass.

So the latest Test Match wasn't much of a success. I see that our 3,4 and 5 only managed 15 runs between them in 2 innings. At least it makes the 5th and final test at the Oval in a couple of weeks that much more meaningful - but I'm not holding out too much hope of a victory.

I'm getting curry withdrawal symptoms. It's been far too long. I've searched for good ones on Yelp.com and I've targeted Saffron as the place to go. It's not far. Perhaps in the next week sometime we'll make a trip. I'll let you know!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

I woke up this morning and decided to tune into Test Match Special to follow the Ashes. I wish I hadn't.

Monday, August 3, 2009

My loving wife has lovingly prepared sea bass for dinner tonight, together with a Rick Stein homemade fish sauce reduction. I just arrived home and the house stinks. We have several jossticks burning at various locations and all the windows are open. Given our location right by the Bay, I hope we don't attract any pelicans. I'm sure dinner will be delicious, but it might be that a smear of Vicks vaporub above the top lip before going to bed might be a wise option later...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

On Tuesday night, Ed and I had the GREAT treat of being given tickets to watch Serena Williams play tennis at Stanford University. We have made friends with a couple from church who live round the corner from us - she's a tennis coach and so got tickets through her work.


We were invited to the 'meet-the-players' reception before the match - and enjoyed scrummy nibbles while hearing many of the top female tennis players being interviewed only a few feet away from us...


Then we headed for our seats and were amazed as we were shown to a 'box' seat only 3 rows from the court in line with the net - it was FANTASTIC - we must have been no more than 2-3 metres from the players!


Serena was playing a Japanese lady, called Na Li, who put up a great fight and really made it an exciting match before Serena closed it out in 2 sets 6:4, 7:6 in characteristic style.


What FUN!!!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

We have just had THE best 4-day-weekend in LA to celebrate Ed's 32nd Birthday... we have goggled at the incredible sights to be seen on Venice beach (like no-where else I have ever been!), eaten incredible meals (including the world's best burger - Ed was in paroxysm's of delight!), enjoyed beautiful scenery and idyllic white-sandy beaches, had our auditory systems pleasured by a live COLDPLAY concert (awesome!) AND had a 'magical' day at Disneyland... we can't quite believe it was only 4 days... we packed SO much fun in, it was GREAT!

Back to the mundane world of work and washing today... hey Ho!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


I forgot to say that last week we had our first visitors from England... Dave and Emma Philips and their gorgeous girls Izzi and Millie. We had a wonderful time with them... Ed took Wednesday off work and we went to Stinson beach together. It was great to have friends from home sharing our life out here - helped to make it all feel more integrated...
We had SUCH a fun weekend!
We started Saturday with a 7 mile jog (nearly killed me!) followed by showers (much needed!), a breakfast of ENGLISH muffins (we have managed to find some that are NOT sweet! wahooooooooo!) and then we headed for the pool...

Looking at the sky, there were a few clouds and so the rest of California was staying indoors, which left the pool gloriously deserted and bathed in magnificent sunshine. We kept pinching ourselves that this was just a 'normal' Saturday... it felt like we were on holiday!

At about 3pm the clouds got high enough in the sky to cover the sun, so we showered (again!) and then my gorgeous man agreed to go material shopping with me... a sign he truely loves me! We found some material we both liked for cushions and so yesterday (Monday), I had a lovely day sewing... they are looking good!

On Sunday we decided to cycle to church - a formula which will be repeated... it takes about 40 minutes and is a gorgeous route along the bay. After church we joined a group of friends from 20's for lunch at Chipotle (a mexican fast-food restaurant) and then cycled home before heading to the pool again... we didnt stay long (our skin looked as though it had had enough sun the day before), spent some time indoors before cycling to our local tennis courts for a knock-up before a home-made curry ('sweet curry'... yes, Brooster, that's a shout out to you!)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

After a wonderful, but busy week, Friday evening seemed like a good opportunity to chill out and have some me-and-Nicci time. Many people would think that, if the plan is to 'chill out', golf isn't the best option - but to the golf course we went nonetheless. They have a super twilight rate of $24 at Palo Alto's municipal course and at the pro's shop we were put with Nick, a nice enough seeming chap in jeans and a faint whiff of the liquor about him. Nick is Bay Area born and bred and proud of it. At the 1st tee we were also joined by Dave, a friendly and sunburned ginger Irishman. We all tee'd off with mixed success. It was into the wind and a long par-4. Nick had a bottle of Corona with him. Dave was a chain-smoker. For me and Nicci, this was date night.


On the 3rd tee Nick pulled out a great big Cuban cigar and, having finished his Corona, cracked open a can of Bud Light. (Today we salute you, Mr Gasoline Barbeque Starter....). As Nicci offered round some dried apricots, Nick surprised us all by offering round his marajuana pipe, which we politely declined - that is a DEFINITE first! To our amazement, Nick's golf actually improved the more annebriated and stoned he became... it was actually great fun... made a change from the usual, overly-intense and hyperly self-critical golfers we often get paired with!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Yikes! I have just realised that we didn't blog about our Napa day trip which we went on the weekend before we went to England...

We drove up with David and Lee (English friends who are out here for a few years too) and visited 2 wineries - Duckhorn and Cakewalk... the first was excellent - really educational with GREAT wines (although hugely over-priced!) and (even more exciting) GREAT cheese!

The second was more touristy - the wine was not very good quality and the tour guide seemed more interested in cracking jokes and getting the group drunk than he was in the actual art of wine-making!

The vineyards are beautiful and, although the area doesn't seen to have the same amount of 'soul' as the french wine regions, it was still a lovely day out and well worth the visit...
Hey there!

Sorry for being negligent bloggers over the last few weeks! We had a lovely week in the UK the week before last - Ed was in England on business and I came along to catch up with friends and family. It was great to see people we love (although sad that we didn't have time to squeeze in EVERYONE we would have loved to have seen)... although, with hindsight a trip home 3 months in was a bit early - I have struggled to re-integrate back here and I'm missing you all heaps!

We have just experienced our first July 4th weekend - such fun! On Friday, partly in support of Andy Murray (what a shame that was!) and partly as a mark of rebellion against the whole July 4th celebrations, I wore the union jack boob-tube I was given before we moved out here...

We had some English friends over to stay Friday night so we could get up early and watch the Lions thump the Spring Bocs before Ed and I headed into the city for the Fillmore jazz festival - at least 4 stages of live jazz and streets bustling with quirky markets - SUCH fun!

At about 4pm we joined the 20's group from church for a bbq in the sunshine - we have agreed to join the leadership team for next term, so that really feels like a group of friends that we're going to invest in during our time here. We were too pooped to stay for the fireworks, so came home and watched them from our balcony instead - probably the best view in all of the bay area!

Yesterday we went for lunch with some friends after church and then caught some rays on the balcony before heading off to the city for 9 holes of golf with some of Ed's work colleagues - having left blazing sunshine at home it was a shock to meet thick cloud and an icy wind in SFO... Needless to say, Ed and I were not dressed appropriately and promptly froze - we have sworn to learn our lesson and never leave home without a warm layer since the climate can differ SO vastly even 20 minutes from our door!

Today I have cleaned the house and am currently waiting in eager expectation to welcome our first guests from the UK - Dave and Emma Philips (and their 2 gorgeous daughters). They are here until Weds morning. It will be SUCH fun to show some friends from home around our new neighbourhood... Ed is taking tomorrow off work so we'll go on a day trip... can't WAIT!!!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Last night Ed and I went to the Hillsdale shopping centre to buy Ed a new suit - we had come to the realisation that his old one was not really up to scratch at the 80's party a few weeks ago. Ed had worn the jacket with the sleeves rolled up and, upon our arrival at the party one of our friends exclaimed "brilliant! I LOVE the shoulder pads!" - Ed and I just looked at each other and went with the flow, but, since no shoulder pads had been added, we decided that a new suit was in order!

Anyway, we went to one outlet where a very helpful, but incredibly camp gentleman called 'Chris' tried to persuade us that we wanted to spend $1800 on a designer Italian suit... it was very stylish, but we decided to keep looking...

In Macy's we found a suit that was similar to the one we had just tried, only it fitted Ed better and was reduced from $500 to $250... 'bargain' we thought, and headed for the till...

When the assistant scanned the bar code, a further discount had been added, so it was now somewhere in the region of $150... Ed and I were thrilled BUT to our amazement, the assistant offered to 'take another 10% off' - we weren't going to complain but THEN, just as it was about to go through, another assistant came over, told us that suits were his department and that he should therefore be conducting the transaction. He rebuked the other assistant since we should have been given an 11% reduction!

In the end, we paid $138... we can't believe that either of those 2 will be getting employee of the month - surely the idea is to try and sell things for as much money as possible?!!!
Keeping on the driving theme... the other day my Sat Nav stopped working. I had no idea where I was going, so I pulled off the Freeway and stopped in the nearest car park to wait for 'Cindy' (that's the name we've given the American voice) to work out where we were. It took a few minutes, but eventually Cindy pulled herself together and we were ready to go... or so I thought... after one frantic trip around the car park, I realised that the entrance I had used was now shut with a large, gate blocking my escape! I had inadvertently entered a private staff car park for AT&T employees - I must have followed someone in without realising!

There was no public entrance to the building and no reception... in fact, although the lights were on, there was no sign of anyone around. In a bit of a panic, I started hammering on the door...

After a few minutes 2 burly looking security guards came rushing out bristling for a fight (they had obviously thought I was some 'youth' causing trouble), they looked shocked when they saw me and erupted into fits of giggles when they heard what had happened.

To my relief, they explained how to open the gate and at long last, Cindy and I were on our way again...!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I (Ed) also just passed my California driving test. I had to intentionally roll through a Stop sign so I would incur two minor faults and so not out-do Nicci. We wouldn't want that... I'll be pleased when the license arrives in the mail. You can use it as your main piece of ID here (e.g. for domestic air travel). On Tuesday I had to fly to LA and the security lady didn't see any likeness between me and my UK Passport photo. She looked up and down from it to me a couple of times, called her colleague over, asked if I had any other form of identification... and finally just about bought that I was who I claimed to be from the photo on my PADI open water diver card and concluded that the photo in my passport must have been taken a long time ago as I look much older. The cheek of it! (It might be premature ageing induced by too much California sun!)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Today I took the behind-the-wheel part of my California driving test.

My appointment was scheduled for 3.20pm but I didn't meet my examiner until after 5pm.

I would have had a longer wait had the examiner not been a young Mexican bloke (complete with dark sunglasses which he lowered in order to peer at me over them) who spotted me in line behind a spotty teenage guy and made some lame excuse (which the spotty teenager's Mum was STILL ranting about when we got back... oops!) in order to take me out!

This amused me... and as the test progressed, it became clear that he was more interested in making conversation than actually watching me drive! It states in the handbook that examiners will speak, only to give directions about where they want you to go, otherwise they will 'remain silent'...! My guy chatted THROUGHOUT the test! Brilliant.

I only got 2 minor errors (which he couldnt explain - I guess you have to have some!) and passed with flying colours!

I guess there are advantages to being blonde!

Ed has his behind-the-wheel test tomorrow morning - let's see how he does!

Monday, June 8, 2009

The curious incident of the Englishman and the Arborist

For those of you who remember the curious incident of the Mazda and the tennis court, you'll love this...

This weekend, Nicci and I went with a group of about 80 people from the Central Peninsula Church 'Twenties' group to Westminster Woods, which is a couple of hours north of San Francisco in the Redwood forests. It was a great opportunity to really establish some of our new friendships, get to know some new folks and to get some good meaty bible teaching.

We were billeted in single-sex cabins each holding around 8 people and I, having been one of the first to check in, nabbed one of the top bunks. It was a sleeping bag-type arrangement, and the beds were quite narrow and the mattresses were plastic-covered (probably waterproofed as the same cabins may be used by kids on summer camps who may not yet have nailed down their potty training. Not a nice thought....) But anyway, sleeping isn't necessarily the main focus of this sort of retreat, the aim being to get just enough so as to be able to function the following day. On the first night we played a great Capture the Flag wide game in the dark, and then later a small group of us went on a short night hike up to the top of one of the nearby hills (in spite of the possibility of meeting a mountain lion!) and enjoyed the clear nighttime skies, picking out constellations and praising the God who made it all.

The first night's sleep wasn't great. Unfortunately I wasn't there when Leon, a dear brother in the Lord, was handing out earplugs to the rest of his cabin-mates. They would have been very useful. I had turned in before he had but nonetheless (and don't you just hate it when this happens?) Leon managed to fall asleep before I did. As if to rub it in, he then proceeded to snore so loud it shook the foundations of the cabin! At times like this, you can only be pleased for that person, to know that they are getting the rest they need... (And I love that he thought to bring earplugs for everyone!) At one stage in the night I lost my pillow down the back of my bunk, but was able to reach down and retrieve it, and after some more tossing and turning I did finally manage to grab a couple of hours kip.

Saturday was a great day. My French language skills were really pushed to the max as I attempted to simultaneously translate the talks to Florent as the speaker was speaking. I'm not sure I did a particularly good job, but I hope he got the gist of the message! There was a fair amount of free time during the day. I played a bit of 'touch football': a game which, in spite of what you might think, doesn't involve your feet. It is very hard to re-program your brain when it is used to thinking in terms of Rugby so it times a team mate would call "block for me", an action which in Rugby would be a penalty offence, but it was fun all the same. Basketball in the afternoon I was a bit more familiar with but, again, I think there is some sort of positional awareness around the court that you acquire when this is a game you play all through your life, and I was somewhat off the pace - but again, had a good time. Later in the afternoon we chilled out by the pool, trying to swim as far as possible holding your breath underwater and pulling off death-defying stunts from the diving board. That doesn't sound too much like chilling out, but there was plenty of lying back, chatting and soaking in the sun too.

After dinner was the evening group session, and then we had a great campfire out in the woods and sang songs and were introduced to 'smores'. I had toasted marshmallows on a fire before, but smores take it to a whole other level. With a smore (and I may be spelling it wrong), the melted marshmallow is just the glue that keeps a cracker and chocolate sandwich together. Calorie counter overload. The setting was like something out of the Ewok's village in Return of the Jedi: beautiful tall trees, star-studded skies and the fire roaring. After the singing, it was great chatting with Art and others around the fire. But eventually, as with everything else, all good things had to come to an end and I headed off to bed.

Perhaps it is the fact that I am more advanced in years than most of the others in the Twenties group (the name of the group refers to how old you are meant to be, but Nicci got us some fake IDs and we managed to sneak in without any worries) - but I was the first to turn in. Coming back from the wash room block I was startled by a couple of raccoons rummaging around in the rubbish bins. They are a feisty creature, and apparently rabid, some I'm glad they didn't attack.

Anyway, I got ready for bed, turned out the light got into my sleeping bag and my wretched pillow disappeared off the back of the bed again. There was no head-rest and the bunk bed was bolted to the floor 8 inches away from the wall, and with the slippery mattress there was always the chance of that happening again. Anyhow, as I had done the night before, I went down after it to retrieve it. The pillow had fallen a little lower than Friday night and as I stretched that extra inch to grab it, my slippery sleeping bag slipped on the slippery mattress and I went a little further than I had planned. I managed to stop myself falling further, but couldn't see any way back out the way I had come, so decided the best play was to slip down further towards the floor and get out round the side. However the bed post was only six inches from the wall and, having slipped down to the floor, upside down and legs now trapped in the sleeping bag, my chest got wedged stuck between the wall and the bed post. I took a brief moment to reassess my options (and bear in mind: I am alone in the cabin):
- could I shake off the sleeping bag? No. Zero maneuverability given the narrow 8-inch space, the inherent lack of wiggle-room in sleeping bags and the fact that the top of the sleeping bag was wedged with me behind the bed post...
- could I push myself back the way I had come? No. I was stuck, my right arm was out but, with my chest wedged, there was no way I could twist my shoulders to push back up. And having been this way for a minute of two, my arms were getting a bit tired...
- could I...? No. Swallowing my pride, I knew there was nothing else for it...

"HELP!!" I yelled, hopeful that the thin wooden cabins would allow my voice to travel far enough to be heard. "HEELLLPP!", a second time - and, thankfully, a timid knock on the door and Ethan and Des'ree: "are you OK?"
"Turn the light on", I said.
"What's wrong?" said Ethan.
"I'm stuck", I said. And as the light came on, the full glory of the situation was revealed: an Englishman trapped upside down in his sleeping bag, wedged between a bunk bed and the wall.

Action stations. Word got around and within seconds other keen but bewildered folks came to the rescue. They tugged at me, they tried to yank the bed away - but to no avail: the bunks were bolted both to the wall and the floor. They tried to lift me up, but I was well and truly wedged, now becoming more L-shaped as my legs were still in the air, my chest stuck behind the bottom right bed post, head visible round the side but the rest of me unable now to keep straight. Jordon had the presence of mind to push his leg through the bottom bunk to give my side some support as Ethan, an arborist / tree surgeon, ran to his truck to get his tools. (He had suggested using a chainsaw, but the consensus (wisely) was that perhaps that might be a little risky and best not....)

Out in the woods in an area with no mobile phone coverage, people were sent in search of Jen, the girl with the walkie-talkie and our only contact with the outside world. Chinese whispers being what they can be, I'm not sure quite what the details of the message were that got around - but at the end of the day it didn't matter as Ethan returned to the scene with a saw and set to work sawing away at the side bar of the bottom bunk in an attempt to cut me free. It was a hack-saw designed for cutting through metal and not perfect for the job of sawing through a block of wood six inches wide by two inches thick - but he stuck with it. And all the while I, still upside down and wedged behind the post, was breathing in the sawdust as Ethan got closer and closer to the final break through and as the other 'helpers'/spectators looked on. When it came, it wasn't too hard to get me out. The whole operation since my calling for help must have taken around 10-15 minutes.

The next morning at breakfast I had become something of an overnight celebrity. (Indeed, "get me out of here!" would have been quite appropriate given my situation the night before.) I wasn't sure whether or not everyone knew already quite what had taken place, but clearly some rumours were abounding. Nicci hadn't had a clue about it - but in our final group get-together on the Sunday morning I got to recount to story in full detail and to rapturous applause.

I told Leon (the snorer) that I was worried I was going to be known for ever more as 'the guy who got stuck upside down in his sleeping bag behind the bunk bed'. He reassured me: "No. You won't be known as that guy. You'll be know as the guy who got stuck upside down in his sleeping bag behind the bunk bed from England". Alas, I may have forever damaged the way the Americans view us English. Ah gee....

Monday, June 1, 2009

During the French Open Ed and I have taken to watching a few sets of tennis over breakfast... this morning we couldn't stop giggling as we watched Federa play Tommy Haas... the French Umpire's pronunciation made it sound as though Federa was playing 'ass'... 'advantage, Ass!' etc provided a source of unceasing joy! Oh the childish delights of a silly sense of humour!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Last night we went to an 80's Flashdance party!

Claire (a friend from the 20's group) and her flatmates had decorated their home with ridiculous pictures of 80's fashions and slogans, there were 80's films and NES computer games available for the boys and the girls (and some of the braver men!) had the delight of an 80's disco (where we all learnt how to do the running man dance!). Ed and I had the disturbing impression that we might well have been the only people there who actually lived throughout the whole decade...!
It was fun to dress up - Ed went for the Miami Vice / Wham look while I 'got physical'... it's funny to think that the people I met will never recognise me if I introduce myself to them in the future! What fun!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Having a balcony in the sunshine is a dangerous thing... because there is a great temptation to not explore California at all but just stay home and soak up the rays...

And, although we had good intentions, basically, this weekend that's exactly what we did!

We had good intentions Monday morning - put on our hiking boots and mentally prepared ourselves for a day of exploration - but when we got close to where we were heading, we saw that the ridge was covered in cloud - so, undeterred we amended our plans and decided to hike around a reservoir (which looks beautiful from the road) instead...

Unfortunately the rest of the world was there and so, rather than peaceful majestic beauty, it felt rather more like Butlins - and the lake was fenced off so for most of the time it felt like we were caged animals... We took a couple of nice photos and then... "retreat to the balcony" we cried... and that's exactly what we did!
Over the weekend we bought a little lemon tree... we've named her 'Lucy' and have a bet going about how many lemons she'll produce by the end of August (there is currently no sign of any buds)... I have said 3 while my pessimistic husband has gone for zero... I know you'll all be so excited to know who wins!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Did my usual bank holiday weekend thing and hadn't shaved since Friday... We had excellent weather today and now, having just shaved before going out for dinner with Nicci, to my horror, I have 'sun-tan beard'. Ah gee....

Friday, May 22, 2009

SO sorry for being a negligent blogger over the past week or so...

Let me update you on what's been happening...

Last Thursday I noticed that 'Shen Yun for the performing arts' were going to be performing in San Jose the following evening... there were rave reviews and it looked like it might be good, so I booked the last 2 tickets that were available and on Friday after work, Ed and I headed for San Jose (do we know the way to San Jose?... yes we do!)

When we arrived we found ourselves submerged in an ocean of Chinese faces and language... and the show itself was a cultural experience that we will never forget... lots of short dances/recitals punctuated by an American host and Chinese hostess telling us about the 'Spiritual roots of Chinese culture' (?)...

One dance showed an idol maker who got tired of crafting idols and 'ran out of ideas' so fell asleep, but in his dream the idols came to life and encouraged him so that he woke with renewed enthusiasm for his 'sacred' work... Ed and I couldn't help but see the irony... praise God that we worship the LIVING God who has not been crafted by human hands!

We did giggle when the host said at another point "please welcome the Mongolian Chopstick Dancers"... I mean, that's a phrase we're unlikely to EVER hear again!

We left at the half way point...glad we'd done it, but having had enough!

On Saturday we got up early and cycled from our home all the way along the edge of the bay to the San Mateo bridge... absolutely beautiful. Apparently the trail goes for miles so there are options for whole-day cycle-rides in the future!

We spent the rest of the day (and most of Sunday too!) relaxing in the sunshine on our balcony... what a blessing to have our own private space in the sun in total peace and quiet. Glorious!

For Sunday lunch we met up with our 20's small group and went for 'Dim Sum' (a popular Californian lunch option - basically Chinese Tapas)... Ed and I avoided the chicken feet! It was enjoyable, but probably not something we'll be queuing up to do again!

For the last 3 Mondays I have attended a short course in the 'Homiletics' method of breaking down a passage of Scripture... a really useful tool in preparing bible studies and talks. Monday was the final session and I had been nominated by my group to give my talk to the whole room... which I did... it went really well and I received really positive critique... it has re-ignited my love of teaching the bible!

Which leads tidily onto what I did on Tuesday (!) The lovely 'Miss Erin' (she calls me 'Miss Nicci') came round with her gorgeous girls (Kelsie and Allie)... it was great to see them and Erin and I read the bible together for the first time... we've decided to work through Mark's gospel together... it was a really encouraging time. What a blessing to have found someone to read the bible with so early in our time out here!

Freeway has been active this week... we have rockorded 2 new songs which are sounding surprisingly good (given we're rockording them 'virtually' using Internet software packages)... keep an eye on the website (http://www.freewayband.co.uk/) for them... they should be on there soon!

Yesterday afternoon and today I am helping Claire (she's SUCH fun!) make a duvet cover that she has been wanting to make (but she doesn't have a sewing machine, or know how to sew!) for about a year! The task was made slightly more challenging when we realised that the piece of material she'd bought was not big enough to cover her duvet! Some quick creative thinking was needed - but I think we're going to be ok!

Last night at 20's I had a great chat with a Kyrgyzstani lady called 'Asella' who is having a tough time. We are going to meet up for lunch together next Tuesday. She has never had any contact with Christians before and so I am hoping to have the opportunity to explain a bit more about Jesus...

Ed's work is going well... it's been a busy couple of weeks but generally he is able to be home by about 6.30pm. He's enjoying the challenge of a bigger role and likes his colleagues. He has already designed a few new funky reports (i've seen them - they look good!), which are proving helpful to the teams and it all seems to be going well.

Ed moved offices this week - he used to be on the 1st floor and now he's on the 2nd floor - he prefers his new desk position because he has more space and it's lighter... also, the extra flight of stairs is a good thing to counteract the effect of all the fantastic foods EA provide in their staff canteen!

I think that pretty much brings you up to speed with what we've been up to...

We're looking forward to a 3 day weekend this weekend (for memorial day - Ed's Dad asked 'what is it a memorial for?' - we have no idea, but we're looking forward to the extra day off!)... we'll try to take some photos to include in the next blog posts!

Bundles of love...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I am pleased to tell you that some toothpaste made it through!

AND some chocolate (in the same parcel - crafty use of the term 'confectionery' in the description of what was included foiled customs I think! Good job Liddieski!)...

I can now enjoy Cadburys chocolate (scrummy) and then, be able to brush my teeth with unsweetened toothpaste!

Actually, although I REALLY appreciate all your efforts - I have to confess that I have managed to find some unsweetened toothpaste in the shops out here... so the panic is over... but thank you!

I did phone customs and it seems that its only really meat and soft cheese that they really won't let in (as well as any bomb-making equipment!)... whenever they are unsure, the post is delayed while they 'check' it - so I might get those other parcels after all - i'll let you know!
Ok, this is getting silly... this morning, to seal the envelope of a card I was sending, I licked the strip (as you do)... but to my surprise even THAT is flavoured with sugar out here!

Is there no end to the sugary lengths these Americans will go to?

I have to admit, I kinda liked it... does this mean i'm loosing my grip?
'Mama said there'd be days like this...' that was the tune for yesterday... I am usually quite an organised person (don't giggle!), but yesterday, it all went pear-shaped...

I was in the shower when Sally came to pick me up for Bible study (she was a bit early, but still!), then, at the end of bible study I left and came home, forgetting that I had agreed to go for lunch with Natalie (I think she has forgiven me for standing her up).

Feeling tired I sat down and closed my eyes - and woke up an hour later having missed my weekly God-mummy phone chat time with my gorgeous God-daughter, Miss Lizzie Jones (thought i'd give you a specific shout out!)... she was very gracious and phoned later on - I was SO glad not have missed it altogether!

I then went and booked our behind-the-wheel driving tests and, had Ed not questioned it, I would have turned up on the 9th July having missed the appointment I had booked for the same date in June... I had written it in on the wrong month...

I mean, what was going on?

Thankfully, today seems to be going more successfully - although I couldn't find golden syrup at the supermarket, so thought i'd replace it with Molasses in Suzy's famous fridge cake recipe (i'm taking some for the 20's meeting tonight!)... not sure it tastes as good... oh well!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Yesterday, while having dinner, we saw a SKUNK run past our window on the road below... tail held high! How amazing! We decided not to go and have a closer look!
In our 'Xenophobes guide to the Americans' it states that Americans find it hard to differentiate between different nationalities - you're either American, or you're not...

Well. this week, the steriotype has proved acurate!

A mother, worried her son would not be able to understand my accent, said 'oh I think it will be ok because he knows someone who is south-african - and you sound the same!'

In IKEA, after speaking to me, a staff member asked how you say 'thank you' in Swedish!

We are often asked if we are Australian... 'you sound the same'...!

I mean, honestly!
Yesterday's technical problems have been resolved and I was able to watch the game. Ah, gee..... Already got one piece of gloating email from Horrocks. Sundays@7 would have been terrible this week what with Rocks and Simpson rubbing it in - probably for the best that, for this week at least, we are 5000 miles away.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Let me tell you the story of when Nicci strayed into the 'hood'...!

Last Tuesday I had arranged to meet Lee (wife of chap Ed went to primary school with) in SFO to go to the MOMA (Museum of modern art), which offers free entry on the first tues of every month... I had intended to take the Caltrain from San Carlos (I did this last time and it worked well), but as I arrived at the station, my train pulled away, so I was left with the option of driving into the city...

I thought, armed with 'Cindy' (the name we have given our American sat nav) I can't go wrong... but oh dear, wrong I went! Before I knew it, I was completely lost and decided to just park in the nearest car park and walk... the car park looked dodgy, but there was a guy on the gate, so I figured the car would probably survive the experience...

I started walking, asked for directions and, to my relief, although it was going to be a bit of a walk, it seemed fairly straight forward - 'just carry on straight down this street and then take a right on 3rd'... so off I went... I was going to be on time for Lee... and this was going to be a success... Ed was going to be so proud of me...

I walked for a bit and all seemed fine. But then, as I looked around, I realised that my white face was definitely in the minority... the girls were not wearing very much and I am not convinced that all of them WERE girls and there were, what my Mum might have called 'unsavory characters' everywhere I looked... to my horror, I realised I must have strayed into one of the 'no go' zones of the city... go back? I was so close to where I needed to be... so 'head down and look moody' I thought (Robin, you'd have been proud: "you're soooo moody!")... Although I got a few smarmy comments, it was all ok... and I found out later that although you wouldn't go there at night, it's probably not that bad to walk through in the day time... I think I probably won't do it alone again though!

Yikes! The rest of the afternoon was great - although I didn't have much staying power at the MOMA - I just don't get that kind of art... sorry Ru, you'll have to guide me through it one day!
The weather is sweeeeet this weekend! Nicci blew through her household budget this month buying some 'essentials'... among which, items I do agree to be essential here, two reclining sun loungers which are now positioned on our balcony facing the sun. I've jumped into the shade to avoid melanoma and to update you on what's going on. England blitzed the West Indies. And I'm hoping Quins will have brushed London Irish aside, but the Setanta-i service has let us down again and so I have to wait for technical help before being able to access the game. I figure my chances of not being told the score before I get to watch it are much increased over here, as there isn't much interest in Rugby Union (although when I tell them it's American Football without the pads, some seem to show a degree of interest, but zone out when they hear you can't throw the ball forwards).

This morning we drove to Capitola. Nicci had been there a couple of weeks ago with some girls when on the CPC womens retreat and wanted to show me. It is a lovely seaside place. We wandered round some cute little shops. We bought some more 'essentials' (two pairs of flip-flops for Nicci, one pair: silver with a silver flower on top), and enjoyed some fish and chips on an open terrace looking over the sea before walking along the beach and back to the car for home. Some folks were obviously doing some sort of civil engineering project as a very complex and deep sand thing was under construction - they seemed to be having fun.


Last night I'm afraid I left Nicci at home alone with another man. Luke is the 18mth old son of some friends from church whose regular baby-sitter had bailed at the last minute, threatening to kaibosh their date night. Nicci gladly stepped into the rescue, as I had taken up the offer of a work colleague to take his extra ticket to go to see Keane in concert at Oakland. We left straight from work - the venue was a large theatre, but big enough to hold a pretty big crowd. We got there early enough to get a place pretty near the front (about 8 people back). I was familiar with their first album and I recognised some of the songs from the second album, but it was just brilliant! The leader singer seemed to be having an amazing time - he looked to be genuinely bowled over by the crowd's response: perhaps a sign that they could 'break into' America and make it very big. This was the first night of their US tour, but he said it was going to be hard to beat the 'vibe' of last night.
Most people who I told I was going to a Keane concert had never heard of them, but Chris from work is an avid fan. And after last night, having previously been a moderate supporter, so am I.