Married on the third day of December in our backyard, Canberra, Australia.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Where do Squirrels go in the Winter?

Our friend Tonya is looking after some orphan baby squirrels. They are large enough to release, but because it is winter they can't be released yet. Squirrels build nests in the trees during Autumn, to keep themselves out of the cold. Since all of the autumn leaves have been cleaned up, they can't be released until it gets a bit warmer.

Presidents Day

Today was Presidents Day, the day when America celebrates George Washington's birthday. The Wikipedia article explains that in the 80's advertisers in many states expanded the theme of the public holiday to encompass Lincoln and Jefferson, although the state of Virginia (Washingtons home state) stuck with "George Washington Day". Following in the tradition of the Queens Birthday celebration, today is not Washington's birthday at all. Happy Birthday George!

To celebrate having a day off, we went to Carmel, current home of Clint Eastwood. The shopping district runs from the CA-1 down to the waterfront. It is a cosy town with tight streets, nice houses and lots of trees. There are lots of expensive cars in the streets, people walking dressed up dogs, inns and nice shops. I was looking at diamond rings in through one shop window, and I noticed that the 6 digit numbers on the tags were prices, not part numbers.

The Carmel beach has beautiful white sand. The sun was out and there was barely a cloud in the sky, but it was windy and cold, so we didn't stay out on the beach for too long. The people flying kites appreciated the wind.

We had lunch at The Cottage Restaurant. Having passed a few artichoke fields on the way in, we tried their Artichoke Soup. It was delicious, with the consistency of pumpkin soup and the flavour of artichokes. If you visit Carmel, we recommend stopping at The Cottage for soup and salad.

We also found a wine shop that specialises in southern hemisphere wines, appropriately named Southern Latitude Wines. Their prices seem to be the same as you would pay on, which is suprising for a physical store in a town like Carmel. We have been looking for a wine to keep for a few years, after Malcolm advised us to drink the 2003 Mont St John Pinot Noir we had set aside for that purpose. We picked up a Yalumba Barossa Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 2002. We don't know that much about wine tasting, but the wine advocate gave this wine a good score. We also got bottles of Sauvignon Blanc and Rose' from New Zealand.

On the way back we passed a sign for "Capitola/Soquel", which I misread and thought "Why is there a street sign up for venture capitalists Sequoia Capital?" I guess we've been in the Bay Area for too long :)

Sunday, February 11, 2007


Louise has made a new batch of scrapbooking pages for you to enjoy.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Ski Trip

The ski trip was fantastic. Andrew drove an Aussie visitor, Eric and I up to Squaw Valley on Monday morning. My room wasn't ready so I left my luggage and headed out onto the slopes.

Last year I had some basic ski lessons, so this year I decided to go without. Once I got up their I changed my mind, but it was too late unless I wanted to go back down the mountain and buy a ticket. Instead, I spent a few minutes skiing past the lessons that were underway to pick up some refreshers. I'm glad I didn't actually do the lessons this year, but rather spent the time going up and down the beginners slopes, as it all came back to me. The rest of the group went off to ski some blue slopes.

I met up with the group again at lunch time. For lunch I paid $10 for a tuna salad roll and a soft drink. There isn't that much competition amongst the cafes up on the mountain so the prices are high. Andrew and I then set out to ski 3 miles back down to the village, catch a cable car up to another point and ski down to the resort. I lost my nerve on some of the steeper slopes and slid down them on my butt, which was pretty funny.

By the time we got back to the resort my legs were pretty tired.

Andrew also visited Squaw Valley in January, his photos from his earlier trip are at

Sunday, February 04, 2007


Whilst we took the fast and wide I-101 highway south, we took the CA-1 back north.

The CA-1 is a winding road that follows the Pacific along the cliffs. If you have played computer games where you drive along the edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean, you might be familiar with this road. It is kind of California's version of the Great Ocean Road, but without guard rails along the edge.

Driving in the hills near our place, we've learnt that the locals are not too sure where the edges of their cars are. They tend to drift into the oncoming lane or off the edge of the road on corners. Mostly, this isn't a problem, as highways have barriers down the middle, but hill roads don't have dividing barriers. We were nearly been run off the road by a car coming around a blind corner in our lane a few weeks ago.

We pulled off the road to take some photos from one of the lookouts along the road. There was a friendly squirrel there to welcome us. We noticed a steep road down to the beach, where we found people surfing.

While we were driving back along the CA-1, we came to a set of traffic lights, signs ("Rough Road", "Slide Ahead") and cones blocking off half of the road. We stopped at the red light. Some cars arrived behind us, including one that honked, took off through the red light and around the bend. Thirty seconds later oncoming traffic arrived and eventually the light went green. The genius who had jumped the lights had pulled over just around the bend. There is a picture of him below.

Further down the road, we spotted a few cars stopped beside the road. We pulled over to have a look. People were watching two whales swimming along the coast. Louise saw them blowing water into the air, but I was looking in the wrong direction. We tried to get a photo, but whales are difficult to catch on film!

When we got home Ebony was very happy to see us.

The Tea Cozy

On Sunday we found this aborable little place called The Tea Cozy. Sean and I had the Duchess Tea, which included a pot of your favourite tea, a sandwich cut into 4's with the crusts cut off. My sandwich was Chutney and Cheese and this reminded me of Nan. Sean's was egg salad. But the best part was the tea!!! They had a selection of around 60 teas available. I had Earl Grey with Lavender and Rose petals in it and it was simply divine!!! I can't believe I drank the whole pot, (3 cups worth)!!!

The Tea Cozy doubles as a British Grocery Store, like the Aussie Shop but for Brits.

Elephant Seals

Elephant Seals were visiting the San Simeon beach at the same time as we were. The gigantic males were frequently fighting and chasing each other around. The females had recently had pups, so there were lots of pups on the beach too. We stopped a couple of times to watch the seals, this is where we took the sunset photo in the earlier article.

There was a lot of noise and excitement on the beach, and surprisingly not too much smell. Unfortunately sometimes the pups get crushed or seperated from their mothers in all of the excitement. The males are huge, and bump their way through the crowd if they see another male getting too close. Thanks to the small cliffs the people were kept well clear of the action.

Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle, near Cambria on the Californian Coast, was built by the Hearst family, who made their money in mining and media (newspapers, movies, magazines including Cosmopolitan). The castle (or ranch, as William Hearst referred to it, since his real castle was in Wales) has three large guest houses in addition to the main building. Unlike the Windsor Mansion, it has a consistent (mediterranean) theme throughout. There was also once a private zoo on the grounds, complete with polar bears, zebras, and elephants!!

William Hearst used to have guests at the house, including Walt Disney, Greta Garbo and Clark Gable. They could use the indoor or outdoor pools (some tiles around the indoor pool have gold leaf on them) as well as the tennis courts. Each evening, William would watch a newsreel and film with his guests (who were sometimes the stars from the film) before retiring to his office where he worked until 6am each night.

The castle is now a Californian state park and open for tours. There are 3-5 tours to choose from depending on the time of year. We went on introductory tour one on the Saturday afternoon, and tour two of the upper floors on the Sunday morning. Because of the rare and light sensitive artifacts throughout the house photography is only allowed if you turn off your flash. The windows also have UV coatings to help with the preservation.

Being preserved are huge tapestries that are hundreds of years old, a library of books, Persian rugs and antique furniture. William Hearst collected ceilings and doors that were also hundreds of years old. None of this compares in age to the busts and statues, including four Egyptian pieces aged 3,000-3,500 years.

Since the castle is on a hill top, and the road is very winding, we had to park at the guest centre at the base of the hill. The only traffic allowed up the hill is the tour buses and the tour guides cars. At the visitor centre there is also a National Geographic theatre with a screen similar in size to those of IMax. The tour tickets come with a ticket for entry to the theatre, which shows a short film introducing guests to the history of the castle.

Weekend Away

With our Christmas money we had a weekend away. We went 4 hours south to Cambria and the San Simeon area. Over the course of the two days, we took two different tours of Hearst Castle, saw Elephant Seals calving and mating, had high tea and spotted whales. We took a total of 300 photos (now the battery in the camera is nearly flat), some of which were OK.

Rather than publishing a bunch of stories all at once, we'll publish one per day for a few days. Keep your eyes open for those.