Wednesday, 22 February 2012


Tired and carrying 3 small bags, 3 massive bags, a stroller, a carseat and a baby, we dragged ourselves back to Brixton. P bore up very well in the day, having a couple of naps and yet staying awake when she was supposed to.

Once the suitcases were emptied and the washing on, I however fell asleep in the bath.  So C let me grab a couple of hours in bed, as I clearly couldn't function.

So when I got up I was pretty productive, especially in completing a massive sort out of Penny's clothes (well overdue!)

Uncle Andrew popped round in a very jolly mood, and shared some fajitas with us. 

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Going Home

Said goodbye to David at Austin Bergstrom Airport, having said goodbye to Justina earlier as she had left for Louisiana for work.  P was a bit grumpy on our 40 min flight to Dallas airport, but we were hoping she would get it all out of her system before the big trans-Atlantic flight home.

A very quick transfer at Dallas (duh duuuuuh, duh duuuuh, du duuuuh dennannaaaanaaa etc.) which was helpful as we only had 40 mins to get to our next flight.  Pleased to see that we were put just behind the business seats, giving us lots of space.

Charlie slept a little, P slept a little more than that, and I slept zilch.  A grumbly tummy and general discomfort was enough to keep me awake, so instead I watched a documentary about Pearl Jam.  Very interesting, but would have been better off sleeping.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Sunshiny Birthday

Awoke at about 7am to see the burning sun just outside our bedroom window ... perfect 32nd birthday weather!

Charlie looked after Penny so I could have a lie in, then popped downstairs to open cards and let Penny play with the envelopes.  So kind of people to send cards, plus various nice online messages.

Justina couldn't bear the idea of us having cereal, and so made biscuits (southern US style biscuits, kind of like English muffins) with mushroom sauce and egg style tofu ... again, so yummy!  Charlie also popped out with David to have a ride on his Ducati motorbike, and I think he really enjoyed the adrenalin.

Then we spent the day driving round in the sunshine, with the boys playing ball in the park, popping into a few shops, seeing where D&J will soon get legally married, then finishing high up at the Oasis to see the burning red sunset.

A great day, finished off by watching a film 'Friends with Benefits' (cheesy but fun) in the hot tub with beer and birthday cake ... oooooh yeeeeeeah!

Saturday, 18 February 2012

The Rain in Texas falls mainly in the Hot Tub

CHUCKING it down with rain, are we really in Texas???  Though David made it all better by cooking yummy choc chip pancakes with raspberries!

Saw various bits and pieces in Austin, from the Farmers Market to Anthropology, to Paper Source.  Lots of fun shops, and we stopped for a rainy lunch in Wholefoods, where they had amazing ice creams (mango & avocado ... mmmmm!) and Charlie and I shared a slow roasted brisket sandwich ... yum!

Got a kind Skype from Theresa, Erika, Demetris and Anna while we waited for Justina in the car, I was totally weirded out that it was already my birthday in the UK ... had not even occurred to me!

More great food from Justina, this time a vegan Thanksgiving dinner (again, totally delicious).  Then we watched the film 'Rio' before bed ... very sweet!

Friday, 17 February 2012

I Left my Heart in San Francisco

Although very excited about seeing David and Justina in Austin TX, I was very emotional on leaving Pam's in the shuttle bus, and of course leaving San Francisco.  An excellent choice of home for our little adventure, and everything went so smoothly and calmly.

All the emotion drained away at the airport as they said our bag was very overweight and so we had to pay $100 ... eep!  We had expected this, and had almost decided to just pay it, but at the last minute we bought another bag for $30 as we would still be within our 4 bag allocation.

The flight was ok, though Penny flickered between being good as gold (especially with the friendly stewardess, very impressed with United) and being a whingy noise-bucket!

Pleased to arrive, even though we were met with rain, and so great to see David and Justina who are still as bright and sparky as ever.

Justina had made some fabulous tortellini, so we spent the evening tucking into that and a delicious salad. She makes being a vegan look both easy and delicious, I think maybe they must have better vegan ingredients in America!

Thursday, 16 February 2012

A Glimpse from the Bridge

Once we had gotten our heads around the big Expedia/US Airways/United Airlines debacle that seemed to be our flight to Austin, we finally got out of the house and wandered along the Golden Gate Bridge to say our last good byes to the city of San Francisco.

Such amazing views, we had glorious conversations about the engineering and the art deco, along with more morbid ones about the many people who jump from this bridge every year.  Does the beauty of the bridge add to their depression, or does the fantastic setting actually dissuade lots of people who otherwise were intending to jump, but instead turn back to their cars and go back home?!  Who knows!

We wandered along the coast for a bit, exploring the western edge of the Presidio and gazing out over the ocean.

Spent the remainder of the day finishing off the tidying, eating pizza, and watching more Lord of the Rings.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Second-Hand SF

For all those who know me, I am a second hand addict.  A great way to get quality clothes, unique items, both at a lower price and in a more sustainable way than the normal high street routes.  And coming to the US is a chance to get my hands on some great bits and pieces that would simply be nabbed or overpriced back home.

So below is just a precis of what I have discovered during my short stay here in San Francisco:

Community Thrift
The store I remembered from my last visit to SF almost 4 years ago, on Valencia Street.  Loads of fun little bits and bobs, or Tchochkes, to delve through.  Clothing is hard to decide on, as there are no changing rooms, but items are priced very reasonably.

Crossroads Trading
My first lucky find on this trip, I ran across the larger of the two stores I went to as it is right by Church Station, where I was getting out on my way to Valencia Street.  Well selected, a wide variety of quite special clothes at both shops.  The other is on Irving and 8th.

I spotted this one on a bus journey to Van Ness (it is at the intersection with Mission), and came back another day to investigate.  Mostly shopped for shirts for Mr Fish, so didn't really get to grips with the ladieswear section.

Thrift Town
Certainly the best organised thrift store I have ever been in, racks and racks of well labelled very organised clothes.  A real treat upstairs, which is full of furniture, frames, vases, anything you might want.

Out of the Closet
Although their standard orange labels were disappointingly close in colour to their $1 only red labels, this was a fun little shop with plenty of rummaging to be done.
I visited the store on Church Street, San Francisco, but they have plenty of locations shown at their website below:

Chloe's Closet
Great second hand kids clothing, divided neatly into age and gender.  Irving and 8th.

Alameda Flea Market
The king of all second hand markets and shops everywhere, this is held monthly on Alameda island over the other side of the bay.  Worth a visit even if only for the spectacle, rather than the bargains (hard to pack in a suitcase.  Especially for furniture and 'Americana'.

Monday, 13 February 2012

The Best Aquarium in the World Ever?

After about 5 independent recommendations, we finally decided that driving the 2.5 hours to Monterey to see the renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium would be a good day out.  And what a day out!

After a quick Skype with Granny & Grandad, we headed off into the rain.  We took Route 1 south, as there would be no point in driving along the beautiful Pacific coastal highway after dark on our return, and it was blowy but still wonderful as always to see the vast crashing waves.

We stopped for a hamburger lunch at a retro diner in Monterey before going in, a bit of a treat!

Then inside.

Favourites were the big red octopi, jellyfish, seahorses, the big wave machine and the hands on section, where you could touch a starfish, a crab and a squooshy sea cucumber!  We thought P would be best off with a piece of kelp to investigate, and she seemed pretty happy with that.

And of course the incredible Open Water exhibit, with Hammerhead Sharks, Sea Turtles and even a Sunfish!  They are so weird and wonderful.

I love aquariums for the beautiful patterns in the marine world, a plethora of unique colours and textures!

A long drive home through the dark and fog, though a little quicker as we went the direct route.  Not keen to drive off the edge of the continent into the Pacific!

For more aquarium pics, see my Tumblr page.

Sunday, 12 February 2012


Penny was lovely in the night, yelling for milk at 7am, then happily sleeping with us till 10 ... yay!

Went for a run around the nearby reservoir, was impressed by the unexpected views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Sutro Tower and the white crested waves rolling in from the Pacific.  Made it much easier to keep going :) Not quite like running up to Stockwell tube, then to Clapham North like I am used to ...

Charlie went out to his board game club for the afternoon, so P and I went downtown to check out some of the mainstream shops.

Love love love Anthropologie and Sur la Table.  Very underwhelmed by Macy's, was like a bad John Lewis.

Then over to Oakland on the BART to have Mac 'n Cheese with Keller, Joe and Kristina at Homeroom, along with their friends Steven and Vanessa.  Delicious food and wonderful company, really good to see them all again ... a really lovely evening.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Crabby New Year!

C was underslept and I was grumpy this morning, but after declaring a truce we went on to have a wonderful day in San Francisco.

We headed for Ghirardelli Square, home of the famed chocolatier, and managed to find a splendid fish restaurant overlooking the bay, with a table right by the window.

Container ships both full and empty travelled through the water in the growing sunshine, as we sat warm and happy inside.  We decided that we were splashing out on a treat, so I ordered the crab.  And what a crab!

Being a crab virgin, I was not sure what to expect, but it was amazing.  Seriously, one of the best meals of my life!  The meat was succulent and prawny, and the citrussy broth underneath was a flavour explosion.

We finished off our meal with thick shakes from the chocolate shop.  Delicious, but sickly after a while.  So, now it is 10pm, we are still not hungry.  I think after all the junk food it is now time to start running again and go on a detox ...

Made our way along the bay, then on a crowded trolley to downtown for the Chinese New Year parade.  Decided not to wrestle with the 100,000 people there, so took some pictures of bands, flags and dragons from a safe distance, before sneaking through to Market Street to catch the L train home before everyone else had the same idea.

A busker in the trolley queue had mentioned that Whitney Houston had died, and sadly he was right.  So we have spent the evening revisiting some of her best songs ... 'How will I know', 'I wanna dance with somebody', 'I have nothing', and my favourite below:

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

To the Beach

After a frustrating afternoon spent fixing the puncture in the car tyre, we rewarded ourselves by going out in the blazing sunshine to the Pacific beach to see the sunset.

Only a 10 minute L train journey to the far west coast, we had a fun time.  Walking in the sand with Penny, collecting sand dollars, watching the people out playing with their dogs and seeing the birds peck at the wet sand.  Irreplaceable moments ...

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Museum of Modern Art

Lo and behold, it turned out there is a MOMA in SF, not just NYC.

We pootled along on 'Free Tuesday', and enjoyed our wander around.

We very much appreciated most of the art, though as always with such place, we found ourselves questioning the artistic merit of some pieces.

An exhibition about equality, a photography section and various 'famous highlights' from Klee, Picasso, Miro etc.

Good also to see enthusiastic school groups being shown round.

Some more of the art on my Tumblr account.

Also popped into the Museum of Cartoon Art, which had some great new comic strips, plus some original drawings from some of our favourites ... Calvin & Hobbes, Garfield etc.  I wish I could draw ...

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Alameda Flea Market - An Infinity of Treasure!

So, the day started a little slower than we hoped.  C had been up in the night with P, so we decided he needed a little more sleep.  Then, just as we were moving the signs from the waterworks outside so we could get the car out, I noticed that we had a flat tyre!  Gutted ...

So, hastily printed off directions to get us (via L train, BART and Oakland bus 31) to the Alameda Flea Market.

Oh ... my ... god ...!

1 - I have never seen such a big carpark, it took us at least 10 minutes to walk from the carpark entrance to the entrance of the flea market.  And the market itself was enormous, apparently over 800 small stalls from happy individual vendors.

2 - SOOOO many exciting things.  As always when you are in a foreign country, the things most people are used to, are so special and exciting as an interloper.

3 - A panoply of beautiful things.  Exquisite furniture, crazy Americana such as gas pumps (the whole stand and pump),

Very cool to see people walking away with the furniture for an entire lounge on a trolley, taking it back to their car.

And what did we get?  Minus not only a car, but also a container ship and a massive house to keep it all in, we decided not to go crazy (though it was tempting).  So we stuck to a couple of very cool looking old games, a couple of 'Life' magazines, with lots of cool ads inside and the 'E' key from an old American typewriter.

Very tired on the way home, especially as we dashed for the bus and because I was yet again a little sunburnt from the lovely weather (surreal to think that it is snowing in the UK).

A relaxing evening in.  With no tv, did not watch the Superbowl, but did check out a couple of the adverts.  Taking it easy, drinking lots of water to combat the dehydration.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

The Passage of Time

Charlie and I have been compiling our photos albums for 2009, 2010 and 2011, which has involved me trawling through this blog to make sure I hadn't missed anything.  And what a collection of years!

We used to have so much time, busy with work, with seeing people, and doing whatever we pleased.  Then, for me, everything changed when I fell pregnant.  I was blissfully happy to take care of myself, resting at home and preparing for this abstract little person who had set up home in my abdomen and would shortly leap into the world and change our lives forever.

And then Penny came, and 10 months of maternity leave has gone by in a flash.  Making new friends, my lovely NCT girls who have all been so supportive, as I hope I have been to them.  Rejoicing in Penny, so many cuddles, kisses, songs and new experiences.  And taking her to see London, the unique city she was born in and lives in ... the V&A, National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Science Museum, Brockwell Park, British Library, Green Park, Harrods, Natural History Museum etc.

And of course, making sure life stayed as normal as possible.  Still going to Secret Garden Party, C pulling little P across Austria by bike, and where we can, going out for dinner and round to friend's houses.  One of the bits I am so grateful for is that we have been just as welcome as always at our friend's activities, even with Penny in tow.  I love that she is now just part of the entourage, and everybody has been so tolerant of her, loving their Penny cuddles.

And the family has been so much closer too ... seeing my two big brothers go all mushy for this little baby has been touching.  And good to see the whole family more often too, being parents to Penny sometimes feels like being a bodyguard to Madonna ... she is prime property, the coolest thing since Air Jordans!

And so, when we get back to the UK, I will go back to work, and life will then morph again.  This time into a strange mixture of maternity leave and pre-Penny ... working for my paycheck, and hopefully enjoying it as I always did (despite the occasional bit of tension), and also waiting eagerly for that magical smile to greet me when I pick Her Highness up from nursery.

Onto the next phase of life ... with a smile and a wink ;)

Friday, 3 February 2012

San Francisco Zoo

On such a beautiful day, we just had to get out of the house, so P and I went to San Francisco Zoo.  Not far from our apartment, at the end of the L train by the ocean.  P and I took a little detour to sit on the beach for a minute to admire the great waves that were crashing into the beach, along with the adjoining 'Tsunami Evacuation Route' signs.

It was nice and quiet, and I became a little pink as the sun was so blazy, P was shaded in her pushchair.  was lovely just wondering around, admiring such beautiful animals, and playing with my new camera too.

Favourites were grizzly bears, otters, prairie dogs ... Penny especially liked the prairie dogs, as they were both close and mobile.  She does not see everything at the zoo, as when the giant silverback gorilla is sitting as still as a statue a good 20 metres away, she does not get that he is real.

The bears were so cute.  Apart from the odd playful altercation, as per the below, they were happily bathing, cooling down in their pool, playing with their feet and coming up to the glass to say hello.

Then lugged the pushchair back onto the L train to get home, via a quick grocery shop at the local Safeway.  A good but tiring day.

More zoo photos at my Tumbler page.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

To the Embarcadero!

Was up a lot in the night with Penny.  Still a little off her food, and not keen to be put back down when she wakes at 4am, she seems to be firmly in another (hopefully temporary) phase.  We keep catching her pressing her hand against her top gums, so perhaps the big front teeth coming through is giving her some trauma.  Let's just hope it doesn't last too long, as it is a tiring business!

As it was a lovely sunny day, once I had regained a bit of sleep in the morning, we headed out into town on the L train.  After a quick stop off to drool at the pretty things in the Apple store, I managed to get Charlie to join me in some of the great shops I found the other day.  And success, he bought a new pair of jeans along with 4 new work shirts!

We then decided to walk along Market Street to the Embarcadero, which we reached at sunset, watching the pretty pink clouds rise behind us over the skyscrapers and seeing the ferries ride out to Oakland.

We battled the public transport system on the way home, as not only was it rush hour, but the tunnel over to Sunset was out, so all the trains were cancelled.  So, a couple of challenging bus rides later, we got back.

Very pleased that Penny ate all her dinner, for the first time in a few days, and went happily to bed.

So we indulged in some more 'Half Baked' and sat in front of Family Guy for the evening before Skyping David.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012


After all the admin yesterday and our adventure out into the woods, decided to take it easy today.  Had a fairly productive time, managing to write 3.5k words, listened to lots of music and played lots of Scrabble with Mr Fish.  Satisfyingly, writing now feels more relaxing, almost like reading.  And it is so liberating to know that we are still here for another two weeks before going to TX, so there is no rush to do, well, anything!

P was a bit out of sorts all day, not keen on her meals and generally being a little clingy.  With all these new teeth popping up, I wouldn't be surprised if it is just that, but we will be keeping an eye on her nonetheless.

Fish popped out to the shops with her to get some fresh air, though we did indulge in pizza for dinner along with some more B&J Half Baked ice-cream (we had demolished a pot of their frozen yoghurt Half Baked already).  Delicious!