4th of July

SOOOOO  I have been a bad blogger who has been too busy going out to write! I now have $200 in my account at this moment -_-  because I keep spending money I don’t have!!!!! But I guess that’s living life to the full. But now I need to stop and save up for my road trip in October :). Anyway, I have done too many things to write about right now so I’ll just let you know how my 4th of July weekend has been and tell you that I hang out with Viktoria too much and we influence each other into spending money!

On Friday night I went for ice-cream with Viktoria and then we went too a Shisha bar. I had no idea what shisha was when Viki asked me to go and I asked her if it was the Russian food she’d told me about. It was not. In fact, it’s a type of smoking through water. Who knew? Probably anyone reading this! But not me. So the place was cool, with cushioned seats in sections and good music. I am someone who would never ever smoke. But since I didn’t really know what it was and we were there I partook of the watermelon mint shisha. It was an interesting experience and I was not good at it! I had a lot of fun but probably would never do it again, especially since I read about it and it’s actually just like smoking cigarettes, though it feels different and tastes nice.

On Saturday I went to San Francisco with Viki (Germany) and Marit (Estonia). This was an awesome day. We went to Haight-Ashbury, otherwise known as the “hippie street”. It was so cool. The stores there were so interesting and random. I wanted to buy everything! But I managed to resist. There were cool vintage stores with outfits dating waaaayyyy back. I wanted to get the prairie dresses. They were so gorgeous. They had some cool flapper outfits too. We then headed to the Golden Gate park and watched some people skating. There are some random people in SF! This one guy was so funny and was in a crop top and skirt. He was hilarious to watch, though he was so serious. We headed to Fisherman’s Wharf then for fireworks. They were the biggest fireworks I’ve ever seen and they lasted for 25 minutes! We did sit in our spot for 2.5 hours so we could get a great view, however, and we were bursting for the toilet after but had to wait in a long line and use a gross toilet! Also, it was so cold that I had to buy a hoodie. Some kind people helped us out at the bus stop when we realised there were no buses running and we had to catch the train home. They got us an Uber and we made it 2 mins before the 11:30pm train! A miracle.

The next day, Sunday, I went to the Muir Woods with Viktoria and Krissy (Germany). We ate lunch outside the entrance and then talked to Kayley the guide. She was so sweet and helpful. We saw a chipmunk – my first wild one. We were told about the different types of owl that live in the woods but were disappointed by not seeing any (since they come out at dusk). We wanted to head to the beach on our hike and the guide told us the path to take. We were doing great until we realised we’d been walking for 2 hours and still no beach. The signs at the woods were very poor and we’d gotten lost. Fortunately Google Maps helped us out and we made it back to the entrance wishing we’d used the Maps before then. Still, the walk was beautiful and we enjoyed singing ‘If You’re Happy and You Know It’.

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Great weekend

I had a really awesome weekend off. On Friday night, I went with Marina and Vicki to the cinema to see Jurassic World. Unfortunately the 10:20 showing and the 11:20 showing were both full. We had had to go late since we’d been working during the day. Instead of giving up, we went to the midnight showing and we didn’t get home until 3am, but it was worth it as the movie was so good. All of us thoroughly enjoyed it.

The next day I took a trip by myself to the beach. I forgot to pack a jacket and so was buffeted by the wind and my ears hurt. But I had a nice picnic of a tuna sandwich (Safeway’s best – really the best sandwiches ever) and a stroll along the cliff. Then I headed back and stopped at La Honda country fair. It was so cute and American. I got a present from my uncle – not being able to believe he was the first person I bought for in my whole family. It was hilarious watching this man dancing to the band, and I laughed but not in a mean way; it was just nice to see that sense of freedom being displayed, no matter how foolish it looks.

When I got home, I was picked up by Vicki and we went to her friend’s house to pick her up. We were going to Great America. Vicki bumped the other au pair’s host dad’s car when reversing out of the drive, though the damage wasn’t too bad. So, for her, the day was tainted a little with worry. Nevertheless, we headed with Vicki’s two friends, who were also becoming my friends to the theme park. We had an absolute blast there. We rode The Drop five times and it still wasn’t enough. We have season tickets so we can go back as much as we like though. We tried funnel cake which was pretty yummy. Again, I was home after midnight.

The next day I did not sleep in, however. Instead, me and Vicki went to San Francisco. We had a picnic in Alamo Square. I realised that the Painted Ladies were, in fact, houses and not a painted mural as I had thought. Next, we found (eventually) the house from Full House and took pictures. Then we headed to Union Sq where we’d get the cable car to Fisherman’s Wharf so we could take the ferry to Angel Island. Luckily, a man offered us a $5 limo ride so we rode in style to the wharf with a couple from Florida. The limo driver spoiled it a little by being very pushy about tipping. We made it just on time for the ferry, having to run a little to catch it. The day was cloudy and misty, but warm and sunny too. We had stunning views of the islands and SF but not the Golden Gate bridge. It was extremely windy. Angel Island was so beautiful. We ate strawberries in luxury as we looked out at the spectacular view, before walking to the Immigration site.

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After our boat trip we spent some time on Pier 39. I could have spent all day there. Everything we did, it felt as if we didn’t have enough time. I bought some presents for my sisters. They are nice but I feel I would have liked more time to look properly. Vicki got a jalapeño chocolate which spiced her mouth. It was utterly hilarious. I have not laughed so much in ages. We raced on foot to the train, making it just on time.

Because we’d loved the movie so much, we decided to go back to see Jurassic World and Marina came – it was her 3rd time! So another late night for us.

On Monday, I went wit my host mum to take my host dad’s car for a service and mine for a new mirror. Last week, when I was taking Daniel to school, a man opened his van door as I was driving past and my mirror got broken. Afterwards, we went to the pharmacy to collect some medicine for a skin condition I have developed (nothing to worry about), and for Elizabeth (3), who has diabetes.  While we were waiting, Anya bought me a Jamba Juice and then went into the store next door. I went in to look at the dresses she was trying on – all of them so beautiful. She said I should try some things and so I picked out two dresses, one of which I bought (yellow skirt and floral top – very summery). She  said for me to try a few that she’d picked out and she ended up buying me a beautiful white dress for $250. I was so surprised and thankful.

And the adventure continues …

It’s summer time.

Santa Cruz

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On Friday, I drove to Santa Cruz with Lina. Our new nanny, Alla, was feeling sick and so I helped out a little in the morning and we didn’t leave at our arranged time, 8:30, instead leaving around 9:00. The drive was stunning, with a view of the redwoods on route I-17. We arrived in Santa Cruz without even using Lina’s GPS on her phone. I followed the signs to the Boardwalk but when we got there the streets were all one way and it was confusing. We also didn’t know the best place to park and we got ripped off at a parking lot costing $15 for the day (we later saw one for $5). But we were there. We were safe and we were parked. We made our way to the Boardwalk (which is a fair ground). It was 10:00 and everything was closed! We went onto the beach and took in the view. The day was cold and windy, but not freezing. We decided to walk along the pier and soon came across some of the many seals which inhabit the area. They were so awesome. The pier held various gift stores, surf shops and seafood restaurants. It was really nice. I bought a really beautiful shell in one of the stores, with a mother of pearl effect.

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Next, we decided to visit the downtown area. On our way, we came across a marine museum and we entered for free. We learned about the area and found out about the underwater canyon, which I thought was cool. I was also sad to learn that it’s very rare these days to find whole shells on the beach and I remember finding shells as a child to take home. The area is home to whales and leather back turtles, as well as sea otters and seals. We left a nice comment and headed to downtown. We found an interesting café called, Saturn. The waiter was so friendly and it turned out that he was originally from England, though he moved to America when he was 8 because his father was in the military. Lina and I both had sandwiches and I got a yummy chocolate milkshake. The shakes here are just like drinking ice cream!

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Afterwards, we walked along the cliffs to the lighthouse turned surf museum. We saw surfers, memorials for dead surfers, a sea otter and some brown pelicans! I was so happy that I finally saw pelicans here. Also, seeing a sea otter was a big deal because, not long ago, they were thought to have been wiped out after being hunted for their pelts. They are protected by the government today. The museum was very small but interesting, showing surfing life from the 30s to present day.

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Then it was time for some fun at the fair. We spent $6 on one ride – the historical Giant Dipper, an old wooden rollercoaster. It was incredibly fun! It felt so fast and there were no breaks from the speed. Definitely a must-do if you visit Santa Cruz ever.

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We spent some time at the fair and I got a henna tattoo of a gecko. My feet were hurting because I’d been wearing flip-flops all day and I wasn’t used to them, but I didn’t get any blisters. I was glad to get back to the car and change my shoes. We drove to Henry Cowell Redwoods state park. We took a short walk there before heading home. What a great day.

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update

Ahh my Stanford classes have finished! I absolutely loved them and I am now in the middle of writing a novella (I think). My au pair friend, Marina was in my second class and it was great to go with her and discuss writing. I got A’s in both classes 🙂

I have hung out with Marina, and another girl, Vicky a few times now. We’ve had movie nights, played twister and been to the cinema to see Pitch Perfect. They are great girls and I hope we stay friends.

I’ve continued to walk often and visited the Rancho San Antonio Preserve, which is actually not far from where we live and we didn’t know about it. I went with the chess teacher. Later, he took me out to an Italian restaurant. The food was wonderful and the company was alright, but not exactly Beth and Jenny. The waiter was not the most pleasant man.

I am hoping to go to Santa Cruz on Friday so I will have something more interesting to write about 🙂

Friends

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On Saturday, I had my first Stanford class – Creative Expression in Writing. I absolutely adored it. The teacher is lovely and seems very switched on. She talks a lot, but usually it is interesting. We read a lot and talked as a group, discussing our experiences. The most exciting thing was the exercises we did which had us writing. I was amazed at how easily it came and how I really was able to create there and then. I even liked my writing. Of course, I explored the campus a bit as well. I got there early and had a look in the book store. I thought this would be a tiny, quirky place with hidden corners. But it was huge and sold merchandise, clothing, jewellery, stationary and all kinds of things as well as books. I really liked it. I got some new earrings and a postcard to send home. Luckily, I also bought a notebook which I used in class. I met lots of nice people, but one in particular stood out as someone I could be friends with. Her name is Gabrielly and she is also an au pair. We had lunch together and went up the Hoover Tower. It was nice to see the view when it wasn’t raining. She invited me to go to the Muir Woods with her on my next weekend off so I hope we do.

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I include the picture of me eating an elderberry cheesecake slice for breakfast from the book shop café because I am amazed at how long my neck looks. I think it is partly because I have lost weight and partly the angle of the photo. Anyway, I am a little giraffe-like. The campus is beautiful though and I am so lucky to be studying there.

Afterwards, I picked up some pizza and headed to Marina’s house. Her host family’s house is so beautiful. She lives in Los Altos, not too far from me. I did not see all of the house but I walked into a lovely hall with wooden floors. There was an open plan kitchen and TV room, where the kids were watching a cartoon and eating popcorn. The mom was nice. Marina’s room was downstairs. There was a huge space there, for playing maybe, and a cinema room lurked behind one of the mysterious doors. It was gigantic, like a real, super-comfy, private cinema. Marina’s room and bathroom were also very nice. We watched movies and ate pizza and chatted. I left after midnight, having had a great time but thinking I would be tired the next day on my trip to SF.

I was meeting Marit and Regina, who I’d met at the au pair school in December. Lina and Abril also said they would come. The plan was to take the same train but at our own stops. This worked well with myself and Marit, and I went to sit next to her. We had so much to talk about and I was so so pleased to be with her. Abril and Lina missed the train and we spent much of the day texting our locations as a result. Marit and I walked to Alamo Park. It was a fairly long walk but it was pleasant and pretty flat. We encountered some colourful sculptures on the way and some Chinese (I think) people who wanted to take pictures with us. Don’t ask me why. But they were very nice and took good pictures. 20150426_115058 20150426_115128 20150426_115223

Alamo Park was a great place to sit and eat strawberries and enjoy the view of the city. Afterwards, we tried to figure out the Muni system. We did not have a lot of luck but we got on the first one we saw and the driver was helpful. We got to our destination – Fisherman’s Wharf. We met Regina (from Mexico) and her friend, Georgia (from Italy), who had been in SF for only 2 weeks. She was lovely and it was nice to see Regina, though she was concerned that she had put on weight since coming here. We ate at the Hard Rock Café. We all had burgers. They were so delicious. We also shared cocktails which was fun. Lina and Abril met us here but, for some reason, did not eat with us, saying they would get soup served in bread bowls and meet us after or the boat cruise.

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Marit and I got Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and Regina smoked while we waited for the boat cruise and for Lina and Abril. They never showed. We went on the boat cruise without them and actually didn’t see them for the rest of the day. The cruise was windy but great. Afterwards we wandered Pier 39 before Marit and I had to catch our train. We missed the one we intended to get, but we met some interesting people on the bus on the way there. One woman worked at Ghirardelli and was eating a lovely-looking ice cream sundae. She was moving into her first apartment soon. Another man owned a café called The Gallery, opposite the tram museum. He was fun. We just took the next train. I didn’t want to leave Marit. We’d had such a great time. I could have talked to her for days and days. I don’t get like that with many people.

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life

So mostly I’ve just been getting on with life – playing/working with the kids and doing my job. I’ve had a lot of trips to the doctor due to a growing concern of Anya’s that I drink too much water and pee too often. However, all of the tests came back normal and so it doesn’t look like there is really anything wrong with me. I just need to stop drinking so much.

My au pair meeting was at an Asian karaoke place this month. I didn’t mention that I moved au pair groups when I moved house. I am not keen on au pair meetings as mostly people already have friends and it is awkward. However, I have met some nice people in my group (Saskia, from Germany, Ffion, from Wales and Marina, from Germany, as well as some others). Saskia was late and Ffion was not coming so I talked with Marina and Vicki mostly. It was my first time speaking with Marina, but we hit it off, bonding over our love of Taylor Swift. I had a refreshing passion-fruit smoothie then we all headed into the karaoke room. It was one of those places where each party gets a private room. There was about 30 of us, sitting in a square shape. Large screens were mounted on each wall so everyone had a view of the lyrics, and there were microphones handed out. Some of the girls didn’t participate and sat there awkwardly, but Marina, Vicki and I sang our hearts out. When Saskia came, she didn’t sing, clearly not enjoying the karaoke venue. At the end of the meeting we were told about our next au pair meeting which would involve us raising money to sponsor a child to get an education. I volunteered for face painting and tattooing, and also offered to create some art for the art sale (this sale is mostly children’s art). Later that week I tested my face painting skills with the kids. I did ok. Then they each painted me. Daniel actually did a great job of turning me into a ladybug.

On my day off I went to Shoreline Park with Daniel’s chess teacher. He is much older than me and had a daughter close to my age, and an ex-wife. However, I think that he likes me. He’s a nice guy and I had no objection to being a friend to him, especially after he gave me a free chess lesson. I thought we’d walk for an hour but we were there for 4 hours! This was fine but unexpected. Afterwards, he gave me some money to buy his ex-wife a birthday present. I got some skincare products and perfume. This was a big hit with her apparently. At home, I cooked an Easter roast dinner for the family. They loved it.

On the Saturday I went out with Marina. We did some shopping. I got some new dresses and jeans, managing to save $100 with vouchers and sale. I also got a bra from Victoria Secret – so comfy! We saw The Longest Ride at the cinema – which made me feel like I could find a cowboy to run off with. We ate at TGI Fridays. It was a great day.

It was Russian Easter a week after our Easter and we had some Russian Easter cakes and painted eggs. I think I prefer English Easter treats! But it was interesting to experience.

I took a day trip out on my last weekend off. I visited Boot Barn at Gilroy and bought some real cowgirl boots, which I love. Then I went walking at the beautiful coyote-bear lake. I saw a wild turkey there and some deer and eagles, but no coyotes or mountain lions or bobcats, which also live there. It was my friend, Abril’s birthday and I went with Lina to take her a cake and presents before we went  out to celebrate.

It’s So Fun

“It’s so fun!” Liza says. And she is right. I’m having so much fun here. There’s so much to enjoy.

Last weekend, we took a family trip to Half Moon Bay. We got stuck in traffic on the way there, but that was fine with me since the view was incredible.

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The road leads to a quaint place with Christmas Tree farms and flower shops. Our destination was Lemos Farm, where the kids were to ride ponies. The first thing we did was feed the goats. They were so funny. Liza was a little scared but she gave it a go. Daniel loved it. Next was the train ride. We travelled through fake scenery, laughing at the absurd things there and pointing out cows, gold mines, and tepees. Actually, Ilya and I both thought the pony was stuffed until it moved its head! When it came to the pony rides, Liza was scared. The man said he’d give her a lollipop if she got on and that seemed to work. Then she loved it! She was given a giant lollipop! Unfortunately, this would probably kill her if she ate it since she has diabetes, so she couldn’t really eat it, though she was allowed a taste at home. After the pony rides came face painting. Liza got ladybirds (or ladybugs here) and Daniel got a lion. They looked great. We visited the beach for a short time before picking up some flowers to take home for Ira (grandmother). We got beautiful red roses.

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On Friday I went to Shoreline Park with my friend Lina (the one I went to Jelly Belly with). It is really lovely there. I also got a chance to see the amphitheatre where I’d be going to see Lady Antebellum, Hunter Hayes and Sam Hunt! I’m so excited about that! Anyway, we took a pedal boat out onto the lake. This was such a great idea. I saw a pelican and asked Lina if she thought it was real, since it was so still, and she said it was normal. But when we got closer it was made out of wood – it was disappointing! Our boat was blue and sparkly – very us. We took in the sights and pedalled hard. Eventually we came to rest and took out our sandwiches. We’d bought them at Safeway that morning. We saw the most ginormous sandwiches ever there – family sized! We opted for the regular deli sandwiches. I had tuna with cucumber and onion. Really, it was like eating heaven (I never thought I’d say that about a sandwich). After the boat ride we went for a walk. There was a house to see but it was closed. It was gorgeous on the outside though. Then we sat at the edge of the lake. There were some squirrel-like creatures running around us. I am not sure what they were but they were so cute. I just Googled – they are ground squirrels. It turns out there are burrowing owls there too – I will have to go back to find them! There was a man sitting eating next to us and he didn’t give a scrap to the squirrels and it annoyed me. But we later saw a sign which said not to feed the wildlife so I let him off.

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Today I went to see the San Francisco Ballet performing Don Quixote. It was absolutely spectacular. I drove into the city myself since it was just me taking Daniel. I was nervous about parking, but we found a parking garage quickly and parked easily. This was lucky since we only had 5 minutes to get there since the traffic had been bad. We ran and made it on time. But the lady sent us to the wrong seats. This wasn’t so bad as there were 2 empty seats 3 rows from the front. We had to just sit down since the performance was starting. Daniel had trouble seeing and ended up on my knee. We moved upstairs to our appointed seats during the first interval. This was better for Daniel as the seats were tiered. We both utterly adored the ballet. Daniel is so sweet – he kept asking if I understood everything because if I didn’t, he would explain.

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I am loving my time here. I am currently sick, or getting sick and have a horrendous sore throat, but that cannot dampen my mood.don quixote5

San Diego

20150314_084634 I took a weekend trip to San Diego on my own. None of my friends either had enough money or that weekend free. But I was determined to do something – travel – see something. So I planned to go by myself, worried, but not too worried that I’d be ok. I left on the Friday night and arrived in San Diego around 8:30. I walked to the car rental shuttle area. Every other car rental company shuttle came by at least twice before mine turned up. But I was relieved to see it when it did. The man at the car rental place upgraded me to a VW convertible Beetle in red. It was very nice. I got a GPS, just in case, and was soon whizzing on my way to my hotel. I stayed at a Day’s Inn. It was not luxury, but the room was nice and clean, and the hotel was in a convenient location. It was just before 10pm. I decided that I would go on a short walk to explore the area. I soon realised exploring is better when you know where the nice spots to go are. I had lost my Vaseline on the plane/at the airport. This was a disaster for me because I am addicted to it. Fortunately, it was nearly empty anyway and I had 2 more at home. But I could feel my lips tingling for their saviour, so I bought a Chap Stick at a 7Eleven. Walking around on my own at night was scary. The number of scary-looking/crazy/alcoholic men around is worrying. San Diego also seems to be a bit of a party city. There are lots of clubs and bars playing live music. In this way, it is almost like Newcastle, with girls walking around at night in high heels and short dresses. I promptly went back to the hotel to sleep. In the morning things seemed nicer. I had the free breakfast in the hotel and took a banana and an apple juice carton for my trip. I was going to the zoo. I was sooooo excited. I put the top down on my car, set the GPS and was on my way. I arrived just after 8am. The roads were clear and the car park was empty. This would be rush-hour at home. The zoo opened at 9am so I went for a walk. The zoo is in the beautiful Balboa Park, where there are lots of walks, museums and interesting sights. I walked along, taking in a beautiful view, before I headed in the opposite direction and saw a bit of the housing in the area. Soon, it was time to enter the zoo. I handed my ticket to the girl and walked through the gates. I took a park map and tried to determine what to do first. There was a man standing with an Eagle Owl and so I admired him for a while. The zoo hadn’t officially opened yet. I then took a look in the gift shop. I later bought a cap which I should have bought then since it was so hot. I met a nice park assistant who told me the best way to walk the park so as to avoid walking uphill too much, and he advised me to take the bus tour. So, the first thing I did was take the free bus tour. It turned out, I think, best to have taken the bus first and in the morning. This way, I knew the layout of the zoo, what to expect and what I wanted to see most on foot. Furthermore, more animals were out since it wasn’t quite burning hot like it would be later, and I got good pictures from the higher vantage point. It was interesting to get information about the plants and animals before I started walking. The zoo is really amazing. So, after the tour, I started my walk around the zoo. I saw the rhino and the giraffes first, which was cool. Then my journey took me to Elephant Odyssey. I got to touch a real Elephant tooth. Did you know that when an elephant’s tooth is worn down it is pushed forward and eventually falls out as a new one replaces it? I found that pretty interesting and it made me with that humans could grow back teeth if their adult teeth ever fall out. I enjoyed watching the majestic creatures eat and roam around. 20150314_10372920150314_103941 The lions were also great to see. The male looked so sleepy and content. But I got to see the female make a jump from the rock to the platform. My favourite area was Northern Frontier. The polar bear attraction was splendid. There were three polar bears. The male kept going in circles in the water because he couldn’t mate with the female anymore. It was funny to see. One of the females showed off, swimming and playing. She was so close to me. I wanted to touch her. She was so beautiful and magnificent. I had my Coca Cola ready to take a snap, since Coke has a polar bear mascot. I stayed watching the polar bears for ages, just in awe and wonder. 20150314_110820 20150314_111033 20150314_111234 I had planned to go down Panda Canyon next but I somehow got side-tracked after seeing the eagles and ended up in the Lost Forest. But this was fine. The monkey trail was a bit confusing though, and I am sure I went around in circles several times. I ate at the Treetops Café, which wasn’t  as shaded as I would have liked, but it had a nice view. Then I got lost trying to find my way to the orangutans. But I asked a guide and he pointed me in the right direction. The orangutans were funny and I watched them for a long time. There was one who came up to the glass, like he wanted to make friends with us but couldn’t. He made faces and tried to touch us. Then he turned his bum to us and lay face down. 20150314_131110 I took the Sky-ride back up to the polar bears so I could walk down Panda Canyon. There was a long line at the Panda exhibit, in the blistering heat. By this point I was glad I had bought my cap. But I wished I had more sun-cream with me.  I made sure to have more the next day!. The panda was just sitting there being cute. Though I feel the name ‘Giant’ is an  over-statement. It was just pretty big. Overall, the zoo was superb and I had a great day. Afterwards, I wandered Balboa Park for a while, meandering through the Art village and visiting museums quickly, and seeing the architecture in the park. Then I drove back to the hotel. . I left the top up this time because the car had complained that I’d been going too fast with the top down on the way there. I decided to walk San Diego, now I’d done some research into where to go. I decided to go to the marina via the Gaslamp district. I saw the cool old-town. The marina was gorgeous. And I got  a good view of the beautiful city. My feet ached so much by the time I got there and I just sat on the pier looking out at the sunset and taking embarrassing selfies. 20150314_183653 20150314_183807Like these …

I walked along the marina before the sun went down and found The Kiss:

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I continued walking, headed for my destination: Little Italy, where I planned to eat. By this time I was in agony. My legs and feet hurt so much. I hired a pedlo and the nice lady biked me there. It was so worth it. When I got there I headed for the first restaurant I saw, Mimmos. Inside, it looked like a village, with the walls painted as houses and fake windows and even mini gardens coming out into the restaurant. Of course, I ordered a pasta bake. It was really yummy. I tought about getting dessert but knew I’d have to walk back to the hotel and I was already pretty full, so I passed.

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The next day, I went to Sea World! I thought it opened at 9am, but it opened at 10am, so I was really early. Luckily, there is a national park right next door, with a lake. I took a walk and decided I would stop at the picnic tables I could see across the way and read. Unfortunately, I was plagued by black flies when I sat down for more than 5 minutes. I think they were attracted to my sun cream. So I stood and wandered back and forth, kindle in hand (thank you again Jenny!!).

Eventually it was time to enter the park. At the entrance there were pools with fish that eat your skin and sharks that we could touch. I looked around the gift shop, scouting things I may buy later (I did this at every gift shop around the park to check which ad the best merchandise for later buying). What I did end up buying later was a chance to open an oyster and get my very own pearl. It was cheap to do and inside of the oyster could be and size or colour pearl. I got a cream with green which was quite large and very beautiful. I was happy. I had it set into a dolphin pendant so that I could always have a reminder of this trip. It’s beautiful. But I’ve gotten off track with my day…

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I first went up the Sky Tower. This gives a 360 degree view of the park. Then I heard a talk about otters. Next, I went to Dolphin Point. I watched the dolphins and was thinking of leaving when the trainers came to give a demonstration. We saw the dolphins to some tricks and I actually got to touch them! I never thought I would ever get to touch a dolphin. It was fantastic. Her skin was smooth and slippery. I loved that experience. I could play with dolphins all of my life and never get bored. I then went to the Shamu stadium as a show would be starting there soon. I watched the killer whales in their tank. They were showing off for the diners who were eating at the Shamu restaurant. The show started with some over-dramatic videos about the rescue of a baby (blue) whale. Then a lady in a green shirt started us off, answering commonly asked questions and being really cheesy. I would have preferred more trainer talk if there was going to be talking. But the whale demonstrations were awesome and I couldn’t get enough of watching those huge creatures jump out of the water.

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I ate a quick lunch before going to the dolphin show. This was unbelievable. I am not joking, my eyes were tearing I found it so beautiful and amazing. I could not believe that I was actually watching this. The show included birds, dolphins and orcas. I took a video of the whole thing (check out facebook!!! haha). I was over-awed. I actually love love love dolphins. The one critique I have about the show is that they could have done more with the birds. All the birds really did was fly once in a straight line. I know those parrots can do much more than that. There were also some incredible divers who did not fail to entertain. Seriously, if you get a chance to go to San Diego, go to Sea World and the zoo.

I travelled the rest of the park, touching sting-rays and star fish, riding the rollercoaster (which was exhilarating after not having done it in a lone time), taking the cable car over the bay, looking in aquariums and meeting penguins and polar bears. Finally, I went back to the dolphin show. I couldn’t get enough. This time, I just sat and watched, rather than take videos or photos. It was slightly different this time, but ten I guess it probably is every time There was also a baby dolphin who joined in.

After Sea World, I drove to Mission Beach. This is a fun place. I got a definite party vibe. And it is true that people roll skates, ride bikes, just basically roll along the sore path. I was concerned that I may get it. I saw some beautiful parrots. The sun was setting and it gave the beach a gorgeous light. There were so many beautiful people – men with muscles and women in bikinis. There were bars and seafood restaurants and queer little colourful buildings packed with people. I got a hot dog and some ice cream for $7. Not the healthiest of things, but scrummy. While waiting in line, we saw a guy who had driven his car over a curb and couldn’t get it back over. The wheels weren’t even touching the ground/sand. At first no one would help him, and some guys just laughed and took pictures. But soon it became a spectacle of manly bravado and a pile of guys heaved the car back over the curb. Before this happened, one of the women in line shouted out that they should pile in the back seat so the weight would tip it back over the curb. But they didn’t listen and we girls discussed how men don’t listen to women.

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It was time to go home. When I got to the car rental place, there were road spikes in the entrance. I didn’t realise you could just drive over them in that direction. So I became a spectacle while traffic built up behind me and the car rental guy looked on. Furthermore, my flight was delayed until 10:25 from 9:30. But I made it home safe and sound and didn’t really have much to complain about. I loved my trip and had the most wonderful experiences that I will treasure forever.

Jelly Belly

Last Friday I went to the Jelly Belly factory with my friend Lina. I drove, which was daunting because it is an hour’s drive North of San Francisco. We live half an hour South of San Francisco. To start with, I got lost on the way to Lina’s house. This is ridiculous as I have driven there many times. Sure, I was driving from the new house for the first time, but still, I knew the roads. For some reason, I got disorientated on this one road and drove up and down it trying to remember the name of the street that I had to turn down. I arrived at Lina’s house at 9:30, after planning to arrive there at 9:00. We got gas and stopped at the 7eleven for snacks. I got some Cheetos and some Pepsi Max, as well as some mini Twixes (these actually melted in the car and I ate them the next day as a delicious bar of mushed Twix – I’ve been thinking about buying more ever since).  We set off at about 10:30 for the Jelly Belly Factory.

We crossed the Bay Bridge, which was exciting because, firstly I’d never crossed it before, and secondly because it is a double-decker bridge with the cars on the bottom going one way and cars on the top going the other way. The only disappointing thing about it was that you couldn’t see the view of the bay because the girders were so tall. I’ve also never seen so many car lanes on a bridge before! Lina spilled her Pepsi on her jeans, but that was the only hiccup on the way. The traffic wasn’t too bad and we made steady progress towards the factory, arriving before noon.

The first thing we noticed was the Jelly Belly cars and trucks. They were so cool! So, of course we snapped tons of photos in front of them. Then we went inside. There was an orange and a green Jelly Belly motorbikes, which were also awesome. We first went into the photo booth for a quick sesh before the free tour. Yes, I said free! As you go in, the room is decorated with giant jelly beans and figures hanging from the ceiling. There is also a lot of Jelly Belly mosaic art, which was extraordinary to see and to imagine the artists placing each bean individually. The room is open plan, with a large shop, café and tasting bar. We were expecting Jelly Belly ice-cream but there was none. This is something I will have to invent.

The tour started in the upstairs art gallery, where there was more mosaic art, including an amazing Santa Claus. We passed a chocolate and wine tasting room (being near Napa Valley this was expected), though we didn’t go in. We were given a handful of mango jelly beans to eat and told the rules (no photographs in case we are candy spies – true story! – it reminded me of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory) before we headed into the factory. The factory was huge! We were on a top walk-way where we could see down onto everything that was happening. The guide explained the processes and we watched videos about the history of Jelly Belly. We also got to sample each stage of production. It takes 2-3 weeks to make a jelly bean and there are 4 main processes – liquid ingredients, spinning bins and coated in sugar, expanding, and then polishing and putting on the logo. The second stage sample was lemon and it looked and felt like a Jelly Tot. The third stage bean was Very Cherry, and looked like Turkish Delight, but small. I was amazed that all of this was free. At the end of the tour we got two packets of Disney Jelly Belly. Yum!

In the shop, we sampled several flavours of bean. I was unsure about the chilli mango – tasty but weirdly hot. Then Lina bought us some caramel chocolates. They were heavenly. There were no good t-shirts unfortunately. But I did manage to get some presents for my family.

We started to get hungry and decided to go to the nearby mall. This was the first real mall I’d been to in America. It was beautiful – clean, polished and pleasant. It even had a merry-go-round! I had Indian food and Lina had Chinese food. I also got some rather disappointing ice-cream.

After a while, we decided to go to Napa. The drive was gorgeous. There are vineyards and churches and wine-tastings. There was a sign, when we got to Napa, for Lake Bodonessa, but we didn’t realise it was an hour’s drive. We headed that way, even waiting in traffic for ages, taking the beautiful scenic drive. It was really spectacular. It was one of those roads which winds up and down the hills/mountains. But soon we realised that the lake was too far and we turned around, going back to Napa. Napa is such a cute, American city. There are lots of restaurants and wineries, and there was a lovely indoor farmer’s market. It was so pleasant just walking around there.

It started to get dark and we headed home. There was a lot of traffic, and Lina’s phone, which we had been using as GPS ran out of battery. We were ages from home with no GPS. I had to rely on signposts and my memory. We made it to the Bay Bridge fine, which looked beautiful lit up in the dark. But on the bridge I got stuck in the wrong lane and ended up going towards Birkley! I was stressed! At that point it was all highways and ramps, and it was very busy. I managed to take the next exit and find the way back to the bridge though so it was all good.

It was a great day.

Tomorrow I am heading for San Diego. I am sooo excited!

Moving Home

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We moved house a few weeks ago. The family decided that the other house was too small for so many people, and that we needed more bathrooms. They are building their own house, which will be finished in 2 years. We moved to a rental property in Los Altos Hills. I wouldn’t say I was happy about the move. I had grown used to the other house and I didn’t want to move from a location which allowed me to walk to the train station and to the shopping centre. I knew I would have to drive everywhere at the new house. But I didn’t really have to do much except pack my own things, and some of the kids’ things. We had movers to do the hard work.

The new location is beautiful. And the new house is beautiful, though not without its problems. It is very open plan, light and I have my own room and bathroom. There is also a swimming pool. My shower didn’t work for two weeks and we got a plumber in to fix it. We also had no wi-fi for two weeks – this was worse than no shower! We live next to the highway, which is convenient. We’re in a spectacular place for walking/hiking/biking. The hills allow for magnificent views – you can even see the ocean. There is also an abundance of wildlife. I’ve seen rabbits, eagles, hawks, hummingbirds, geckos, and deer.

Another exciting thing that has happened, is that I registered for two Stanford continuing studies courses – Creative Expression in Writing and Exploring the Middle Grade and Young Adult Novel. In light of this, I have started to write and am enjoying it very much. I can’t wait to start my classes!

I am planning to go to San Diego on my next weekend off in March. The zoo and Sea World are supposed to be amazing. I hope that they take care of the animals – I have always thought keeping animals in confined areas is cruel, particularly the large sea mammals. But I do love to look at animals and I think I will enjoy myself very much.

Thank you for reading.