Thursday, March 27, 2008

Happy Easter!

OK, so this post is a little late, since I finally finished taking all the photos I want to include for it, today.

Easter for me was pretty busy - I was singing most of Holy Week (Tues and Maundy Thursday and Saturday and maybe Friday?) and working at my part-time job (which is rapidly approaching fulltime, argh) the rest of the time. On Easter Day the church was packed, and I had to stand.... totally forgot about the people who come because it's culturally expected, twice a year. They're easy to spot: they're really dressed up and wear actual "Sunday dresses" (even by Nob Hill wealthy white people standards) and they leave around Communion. So rude. At least wait until the end of the service, it's only about another 30 spoken/sung lines, if that. I sat on the floor for the sermon.

Maundy Thursday service - choir about to start processing into the church from the back left.

Choir POV - View from the choir stalls behind the altar

On Saturday night the service was really dramatic: it started with everyone in the dark. We stood in procession outside in front of the huge bronze doors. They swung open, and in the dark, a huge fire in the baptismal font roared and crackled at the ceiling. We had handbells for one song - hilarity ensued when my friend next to me, holding a candle in one hand and a bell in the other, swung the wrong hand and nearly set my hair on fire!

Easter for Brendan was laid-back, and accompanied by a trip with me to various supermarkets including a closed Costco, with our Cali-girl friend and her even more Cali-girl gay guy friend. ("So, then she was like, 'Blah blah blah' and I was like, 'Totally!', and then she was like, 'Blah blah...' ") Cali-girl friend was planning to buy Cadbury Cream eggs in glorious 12 boxed bulk. (I really prefer not to shop on Sundays, actually, and shopping on Easter Day just seems sacrilegious. But we'd kinda promised our friend....) So later Brendan and I went to the beach down by Ghiradelli Chocolate Factory and grabbed free chocolate and enjoyed the wonderful sunshine.

So here (and above) are some photos from recent events vaguely summing up our Easter:

After the Easter service I went out to the park, where everyone had congregated. It looked something like this:

Herbs and Spices in bulk at Rainbow (man they'd kill me if they knew I was taking pictures - but because I love Rainbow. It's like the Organic Shop in Wellington. It even smells the same. Whole Foods is kinda even more similar as well, but Rainbow is better priced and has awesome bulk food. Whole Foods is nicknamed "Whole Paycheck" for good reason. I'm really going to miss the awesomeness that is Rainbow. I mean, spices, teas and all sorts of various herbs in bulk? How can you not love that? The other day I bought 20 clove heads. It probably cost me around 20c.)

A walk on the beach (or rather the pier by the beach):

On Monday after work, I went to Walgreens and found some Easter Eggs, so that we could actually have some since we couldn't find any on the Sunday. We're still eating them almost a week later.

Happy Easter - I hope you all had a relaxing weekend!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Overheard in the Marina today....

An older guy on a cellphone on Chestnut Street telling someone, "Listening to my jokes is way better than having sex with boring people..."(and I think he continued on with, "who might not be any good in bed")!

I wonder what the context was?

I started my new retail part-time job today, yay! Hectic, but I love hectic so no bother. Although I still want to get a full-time PR or admin job until we leave.

Easter in 1 week - wow! Where did the time go?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Sonoma, Napa and Calistoga....

Sonoma and Napa: wine country. Tourist hotspot. The place to go for San Franciscans.

Anyway, even before we arrived here people have been recommending this area to us. Go, they say - the wine is amazing. The vineyards are lovely. It's only an hour away. (Practically down the block in America.) And, did we mention, the wine is amazing!

However, when I got out the guide book, all I could find to actually do in Napa and Sonoma, is:

1.) Visit vineyards.
2.) Drink wine (aka "wine tasting"). Pay between $5-$15 for the equivalent of one glass.
3.) If you're feeling adventurous, wander around the vineyard and have a picnic somewhere on the grounds, or tour the winery.
4.) Buy vast quantities of, admittedly (comparatively) cheap, local wine.
5.) Repeat until sozzled.

Hence most people usually take the bus. The roads are 1-lane most of the way, and winding.

The only other things you might actually do in Napa and Sonoma, are:

6.) Visit the shops and eat lunch at the gourmet restaurants.
7.) Oh, it's really pretty.

In other words, just like Martinborough / Blenheim / other wine region of choice.

OK, so I sound a bit detrimental. It is a very nice area, and the wine is really well-priced if you love wine. It's just not something we're really into - we like it on occasion, but we keep on buying wine and giving it to our friends, so there's no point. I was more interested in taking photographs.

So our day went more like:
1.) Cross Golden Gate Bridge.

2.) Play "Hunt the cheap petrol" in Sausalito, just north of the bridge.
3.) Find the cheapest petrol there is $3.79 / gal. Get back on the freeway. (Petrol in SF has already hit the $4.19 mark on the 5th and Howard St station, our benchmark for overpriced petrol.)
4.) Get off the freeway to play "hunt the cheap petrol" in San Rafael. Guidebook says, "Don't even bother stopping here." Drive around a while before realising all petrol in San Rafael is priced $3.55. Fill up. San Rafael is the largest town in Marin County, and exudes a very wealthy air.
5.) Miss our turnoff to Sonoma County. Go to Gundlach-Bundschu Winery. Wander around grounds and take photos. Maybe see a rattlesnake after Brendan joking about being bitten by them. Weather is warm and beautiful even though it's only early spring- too hot in jeans. Watch girls walking around in pretty dresses and high heels, de rigour for wine tasting. Talking to them, they are all from San Francisco.

6.) Get back in the car and drive the hour-long drive north to Calistoga, to see the "Old Faithful' geyser. (Click on the link - the pictures are spot on!) Petrol back at $3.79.

7.) Arrive at 5.07pm. The sign on the gate says 'Open 9-5". Luckily for us, it's still open.
8.) Watch the geyser - it's very cool, if a little small. The water around it is so warm.

9.) Pet the fainting goats and various other goats. Very soft and cute. All together now: Aww....

10.) Drive home through Napa.
11.) Tina goes to Benny Benassi concert at Slide.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Muir Woods.... the tale of an incredibly visionary man and a forest

Today we went up to Muir Woods, about 15 miles north according to Google Maps. It's an ancient coastal redwood tree stand, the last 'old forest' in the area.

The story of Muir Woods is the story of an incredibly visionary man, W. Kent, a Congressman, who purchased 611 acres of the woods in 1905 for $45,000. He donated 295 acres to the State in 1907 to thwart the plans of a company who wanted to take possession by court order, so they could dam the creek and flood the valley. He was actually very ahead of his time: when the culture of the day was all about "progress" and "industry", he saw ahead to keep the woods safe for future generations. He reportedly told his wife, who was questioning the expense, "If we lost all the money we have and saved these trees, it would be worthwhile, wouldn't it?"

Theodore Roosevelt, then President, wanted to name the woods after Kent, but he refused, saying that his "five good husky boys" should be able to keep his name alive, or it wasn't worth keeping. He instead asked that they be named after John Muir, who was very pleased. (Unfortunately I can't remember where this part of the story came from!)

In 1945 the United Nations gathered in Muir Woods for (I think) the first-ever meeting - Theodore Roosevelt had died about a month before, who was supposed to open the meeting. Here is the spot where they met: (Yes, it's tiny. I'll bet the fence wasn't there, so that would have made it a lot bigger, but it's still really small.)

Here is the commemorative plaque on the other side of the grove.

We really enjoyed just pottering around and taking photos. The redwoods are not as big as their Giant Sequoia cousins, but still pretty huge. After a forest fire, they all spring back into life either from a burl (bug lump filled with dormant tree buds) on the side of the tree, or the huge underground root system grows new buds. So many trees which look like several growing close together, are actually one huge tree many centuries old.

The bridges across the stream were pretty - I do wonder if they were made with the wood from here?! In all the parks we've been to so far, the bridges are usually pleasant to look at as well as useful. The sign next to me says, "Help keep the creek clean. Do not throw coins into the water." Not exactly something I would have thought of. I think Kiwis are generally better-schooled in how to appreciate nature - Americans seem to need multiple reminders, an overabundance of trash cans, and fences everywhere. Or maybe the park rangers just don't trust people as well.

Here is a hole in a tree which you can walk into - I love how it's paved for wheelchairs. There were quite a few large trees with holes like these. Forest fires sometimes burn the insides out of the trees., and all the trees we saw had charred areas from a fire last year.

It was also surprisingly quiet for such a small area - the woods absorb sound well. Everything was lined with wooden fences so you c/wouldn't go off the trail. IMost of the trails were very easy and paved with wood or tarseal - perfect for wheelchairs. All around were lots of gorgeous flowers:

Redwood Sorrel

and in white;

As we were leaving, we found a sign by the restrooms:

We're really not sure what that means, because the First Amendment refers to personal freedoms. So does that mean it's the place where you can protest, in a little area about 12 m2, by the restrooms? And if so, doesn't that contradict the idea of the First Amendment anyway? Weird. We asked an American family and they didn't know what it meant, either. (They were from New Orleans, and very nice. They said "y'all" a lot. It's how you can tell who's from the Deep South.)

Afterwards we went down to Muir Beach and had a BBQ (well Brendan did - except the problem with spur of the moment trips is that we forgot the BBQ utensils!) and I made hot tea using the espresso maker. The sunset was gorgeous.


So things have been a bit screwy recently with lots of visits from "Murphy" - firstly, last month we had a nasty shock when our tenant for our other house in San Jose ran away and left us to pay her rent for the next 3 months (since we're still on the lease and can't get out of it )! We can't seem to find a new person for two months despite Craigslist advertising, so it's a little frustrating to be paying for an empty house.

Then two weeks ago my company lost a client and let me go (not because of anything I'd done!). So feeling a little stretched financially since I need to find a new job. I'm worried because of the US (soon to be global?) recession - US companies are reluctant to hire people because the economy right now is taking a hit. At least I'm happier now - it was a toxic workplace.

Hopefully something good will happen soon!