Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Paul's New Job

I think this is going to be a real tough job that Paul's starting. Yesterday was his first day and he's already behind in his emails. He sat down in his office for the first time and was surprised to have 16 emails waiting for him with info about projects that need sorting out. He's supposed to fly out for a meeting next week, Tuesday morning and come back on the red-eye Friday at 6am with the expectation that he's going to come straight into work from the airport! I don't know.... seems over the top to me.
Meanwhile, since Paul now has the car to do his 1.25 hour commute, I am hoofin' it to work. Well, more like peddling. It only takes me about 15 - 20 minutes to get there, so it works out great! Only bummer is that it is really quite cold in the mornings now so that I need to wear gloves, two pairs of leggings and layered long-sleeves with a windbreaker, and just change into work clothes once I get there. Many folks at work have volunteered to pick me up in the mornings on their way in, but I will wait until I really need to take advantage of their generosity (once the ice and sleet set in). Anyway, I'm in the field so much that I will probably rarely need to ride to the office.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

An Indulgent Day

Indulgence is all relative. To some, our day yesterday was a mere walk in the park, to others it may have been extravagant. Call it what you will, but to us it was deliciously indulgent, and slightly extravagant.

Backing up a day before our indulgent day, I think I mentioned that I had taken Friday off since I had already worked 60 hours by Thursday and really wanted to have an extra day off with Paul before he starts work. On Friday, we headed out in the rain to go just to the post office to see if they had the Yoda stamps that Paul wanted for his Star Wars collection, but by the end of the day we had gone to 2 consignment stores that sold antiques, a garden shop, hardware store (to look for parts to construct a traveling spinning wheel), McAllister's for lunch and the bike store to check on the status of my bike. Other than lunch, we didn't buy a thing, which was good. My bike's getting serviced because as of Monday I'm riding my bike to work. Paul gets to take the car since his job is faaaarr away compared to mine. It was a great day and we love the rain.

I had to include this picture of Paul dressed for the rain on Friday, complete with his plastic hat cover made for cowboy hats (I've never seen one, though, have you?).

When we got back we quickly dressed and went out to the apartment complex Halloween party to see if we could meet some neighbors. We met a few, but it was mostly kids and parents playing with their kids. We watched the kids, ate pizza, chatted a bit and came home.

In case you couldn't tell, I dressed as Wednesday from the Addam's Family and Paul went as "The Crow."

Ok so back to our indulgent day. Our plan for yesterday was heading to Asheville for the Southeastern Fiber Fair (Paul was kind enough to come along for this) and to the Biltmore Estate to spend the rest of the afternoon there. I was planning on taking Paul to a nice dinner to celebrate his new job and so thought the Biltmore Estate would be a great place especially since we got annual passes last time.

We packed a picnic lunch, hot chocolate in our travel mugs and we were off. The kitchen was a disaster, but we didn't care because the day was for us and not our kitchen! Asheville is about 2.5 hours away and we got lost since I was the navigator, and the driver I might add.

We finally got to the fair and it was fabulous! It was sensory overload seeing all the booths set up and the folks spinning, weaving and all the things for sale- oh my! We met the gentleman who designed the Fricke drum carder, saw the "Fricke Finest" in action, and met many angora rabbits and llamas too.

The rabbits... I feel like one of the rabbits here in my pink and with my bunny face on.

The booths... always plenty for sale!

The spin-in where you can plop down with your wheel and meet other spinners while you spin...

The fleece judging of fiber from alpacas, llamas, sheep, rabbit...

In case you think that this looks like a pelt (skin and fur), a fleece is merely the hair from an animal getting a "hair cut". The animal still has it's skin and is fine and healthy after the ordeal.

The stars of the show!

As we were winding down and about to leave, we saw a traveling spinning wheel that a lady was selling. She has 6 wheels and is trying to downsize and so was selling off some of her fiber stash, wheels and miscellaneous spinning trinkets. This wheel is the infamous Hat Box wheel by Louet which was made years ago and has not been made for years. It's now a collector's item I think, as I had heard about them quite a bit when I was a part of the Greater Los Angeles Spinning Guild. Now, I have to admit that it isn't the prettiest wheel out there, but it is small enough to take on a plane as a carry-on and it will be much easier to bring with me in the car with all my field gear when I travel for work. Plus, it is such an ingenious design with simplicity at the heart, that it is just dang cool! Anyway, we spent most of the rest of the afternoon giving it a test-spin and deciding whether we could afford it or not. Pleased to say, we came home with it.

All buttoned up in it's hat box case

2 seconds later, it's ready for spinning!

After we left the Fiber Fair, we had some tense moments trying to get to the Biltmore Estate. The map we got from the internet led us to the wrong location and after a phone call to the estate we finally found our way. The traffic was really bad in Asheville, and it was not fun at all driving through there. Two separate people shouted out the window at me that I can't drive, or "Is that what they do in California?" since we still have our California license plates on. I guess people in Asheville don't like U-turns because that's what I was doing both times when I got shouted at. Anyway, we got there slightly ruffled and nearly late for High Tea that we were scheduled for at 4:30. They said they'd wait for us until 4:45 and so we were running up the steps to the Inn and we made it there by 4:40. We were treated like royalty once we got there, though, and so we were relaxed in no time at all.

Paul was really looking forward to this since last time he had High Tea was at the Empress Hotel in Canada, coincidentally the last place where I had High Tea! Grandma and Grandpa took me there when I was about 10 and Paul went to the same place with Mum when he was in his 20's. This was just like how it was served at the Empress, complete with the British traditional English cucumber sandwiches, scones, clotted cream, lemon curd and all that good stuff.

I had a mint herbal blend and Paul had some fancy black tea concoction called Assam Goldleaf.

After tea we went for a walk down to the Biltmore Winery for a tour and for Paul to do some tasting. Along our walk we saw a wedding taking place at sunset.

After the wine tasting event, we had our dinner at the Bistro, also on the estate. It was good food, but I think the ambiance of being on the estate is what you pay for.

What a day! We began our drive home at 10:30 and had to swap drivers a half hour into it because I was really fighting to keep my eyes open. Luckily Paul was wide away and so I nodded in and out of sleep the whole way home. This was a day to remember.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Returning from Fayetteville

Fayetteville, NC was where I was this week. I got back last night, a day early, and by golly it's good to be home! I am taking today off to spend with Paul since I've already worked plenty this week and he starts work on Monday. At the moment we are sitting by the patio door listening to the much-needed rain and sipping hot chocolate, while he and I do our "interneting" on separate computers. I guess it's quasi-romantic?

I liked the job site in Fayetteville. I have so far worked in prettier places since working with my company, but there was so much open space where we were working that the sky and clouds seemed to be within reach all the time. That's what was neat about it. We were in a large, grassy field and it was us versus the sky which kept marching on as if on a large conveyor belt, bringing in showers, followed by sweltering humid heat complete with blue sky and fluffy clouds, and then the low blanket of rain clouds again. The mast of the drill rig seemed to touch the clouds at times, they were so low. We had to keep our eye out for lightening in case we needed to head for cover, because it looked like we were asking for it with our giant lightening-rod looking drilling equipment reaching up to the sky in the middle of an empty field. But lightening never came, and we were safe. The sunsets, as you can imagine, were breath-taking every day because there were always some clouds upon which the sun cast its magic. Whoever said that California gets all the sunsets?

I never got to post these pictures this week because my internet connection was down in my hotel room. Here are the most recent photos that Paul took of our home construction:

I don't know what the green paper does, do you?

This is taken from the kitchen looking into the gathering room with the fireplace.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Fort Darling

Wouldn't that be a cute name for a home? In England many of the old houses don't have a street address, just a name. When we've visited historic towns in England, some of the houses had a name plate where the address would be. Paul thinks that you can still register a name for your house with the post office so that it is official. He used to do a newspaper delivery route when he was young and the street addresses would go something like: 1 Bennett Place, 2 Bennett Place, 3 Bennett Place, Eliza's House Bennett Place, 4 Bennett Place.... etc.

On Friday, I was beginning the journey back to North Carolina from Richmond and didn't get far before I saw a sign on the freeway saying "Fort Darling next exit." Intrigued by all the Confederate/Union history here, I figured it would be worth seeing this fort before getting too involved in the drive. I wish I could say I felt more energy after work to do more sight-seeing, but I don't. so ending the day early was all the better for seeing a new place. After a few wrong turns and a consultation of the map, I found the fort at last. The ranger gave me a detailed history lesson (I think he was bored and I was the only one there) and then I made my way along the short trail to the fort. The night before I had just watched a scary show on the Travel Channel about ghosts that are supposed to be still haunting these old battlefields. To feel more safe, I called Paul and talked with him along the walk.

Fort Darling itself is not much of a fort anymore. All that remains that I could see was the cannon that fired at Union battleships coming up the James River. That was neat, but I guess I had envisioned an actual fort complete with stone walls and turrets.

I still like the name, though, and if you ever come to visit don't be surprised if you see "Fort Darling" written on the curb where the address is supposed to be.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

House Update

Paul's gone to see our house this week and took some more pictures so I thought I'd better post the pictures that we took two weeks ago before I post the most recent changes! Things are moving along pretty quickly despite some setbacks with the wrong brick being used.
Back yard view of house

Front view from the street

Also, some good news is that Paul accepted a new position as program manager at an aerospace company and will be starting a week from Monday. He's now in busy mode ironing shirts, getting his car serviced and other last mid-day chores. It'll be sad seeing my house-husband going back to work because it has been so nice having him home over the last three months and he's been doing really great at keeping up with the chores. He has definitely earned his allowance!
I'm still in Virginia working this week and look forward to coming home sometime tomorrow. I am pretty tired and ready for a day off, but Sunday I leave again for the next project so I'm not going to get too relaxed.. it is easier to stay somewhat busy.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Vagabonding in Virginia

I'm not on vacation, but my spinning wheel is! We made the trip together up here to Richmond, Virginia so that I could do more field work for a different site, and have some relaxation when I got back to the hotel. I chose to drive instead of fly this time and loved every minute of the 5 hours of greenery, slight color changes in the trees and lack of traffic. My Majacraft wheel rode shotgun.

I was so excited to find this comfy armchair in the hotel room. I'm staying in a very country-style decorated place and so I'm sure they thought nothing of it when I walked in with my spinning wheel and wool. Fun thing is the wool that I'm spinning right now for Trish matches the bedspread in the hotel room and has colors of the armchair in it too. When the wool's on the bed, you hardly see it. This picture was taken on my cell phone so the colors don't show up too good, but you get the idea.

I'll be here through Friday so brought plenty of spinning to do as my hours on this project won't be as long as a normal sampling week. I'm acting as a site contact for a contractor who is using fancy instrumentation such as elaborate metal detectors to search for buried treasure. Ok, more like buried waste that was buried half a century ago by folks that didn't know any better back then. But it's still interesting all the same. I never thought I'd get to work on so many interesting projects!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Biltmore Estate

Although I arrived home late on Friday night, I was really excited to keep with our plans to go with Tracy (from work) and her mom the next morning to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. We had heard a lot about it and Tracy and Elizabeth had annual passes there last year, so off we went! Tracy and her mom packes us all a wonderful picnic lunch to eat once we got there so long as we brought the blanket-- what fun people they are.
The Biltmore Estate was built in the late 1800's by George Vanderbilt, and is supposed to be one of the largest private estates in America. Even though the place was packed, once you walk away from the house itself, the grounds swallow you up and not a soul can be seen. Here is our secluded picnic spot:
The more manicured garden section has several greenhouses and specialty areas

Paul surveying the backyard

The Biltmore House itself
(we could not take pictures inside)

On the drive home we ended up finishing our lunch by way of a tailgate party/picnic.
We were in the parking lot of Bi-Lo, which let to one or two comments about ourselves as being a bit "red-neck" as the saying goes. Not that anything's wrong with that.... :-)

We ran low on buns so had our sandwiches open-faced, like a halfway In-N-Out Burger's Protein Burger: each person got a bottom or top bun and a lettuce leaf to act as the top bun to hold everything in. It was pretty dang chilly, but note that the Englishman still doesn't need a jacket.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Tentatively in Tennessee

I know, it has been quiet from this front, but with good reason: I'm traveling in Tennessee for work. Yes, I can still write my blog but 1) our client does not allow cameras on site (and I feel a picture says a thousand words) and 2) I'm working most of my waking hours. Without pictures or time, I feel I'll bore you. But here's a synopsis just in case you're still interested:
We are groundwater monitoring and having an interesting time of it. Our sample containers arrived two days late, half of our equipment never turned up, the rental car company did not give us the four wheel drive vehicle we needed (initially, but they fixed the problem) and things just have not been in our favor this week in general. On the upside, we are working hard to make up for it, and we have been very inventive to make due with what we have.
The weather was gorgeous today and I kept thinking to myself: "If only I had a camera." Because even though we are on a "site" it is still pretty with lots of wildlife all around. I've seen lizards, butterflies, great blue herons, red-tailed hawks, wild turkeys and bugs, bugs, bugs. It's been in the 80's with moderate humidity, but tomorrow it is supposed to be a high of in the 60's - Yikes! My California blood is still thin, and anyways, it's been so warm here, too, that we haven't had to dip into fall/winter clothes.
Have a good evening-- I'm heading to bed!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Painting Nancy's Ceiling

Nancy Edwards from Prudential is our real estate agent, and a wonderful lady. She and her assistant, Ana Smith, have seen us through our first visit to Charlotte, Ana taking a whole Saturday to show us the area, homes and the scenery, packing us a picnic lunch. We didn't even know if we were going to be able to move to the area at that time. Since then, in May, we had our heart set on Charlotte, and Nancy helped us locate recruiters for work, sent us info on new aerospace companies moving to the area and of course, found our dream home. We were blessed to be able to move here upon me getting a job with URS and now we are getting ready to move into our home in January!

We have had a lot of fun working with Nancy and talking with her on a personal basis. After many visits with us to the model home of the floorplan we have chosen, Nancy decided that she wanted to have her ceiling painted like the dining room in the show home. I said, "I can do that for you," and a few weeks later the three of us were back at the model home and down to Home Depot to get the paint.

Yesterday we began work! Although we haven't finished the ceiling, we have a good start and will return in a few weeks when we all have a Saturday free to finish up. Paul and I did the painting and Nancy kept us comfortable. Paul and I decided we were definitely the Dynamic Duo with our teamwork. It's going to look great! I'll show more pictures when it's finished.

Friday, October 5, 2007

The Splendor of Niagara Falls

Believe it or not, but I was sent to Niagara Falls for my annual Hazwoper refresher course (Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response)! Normally this is an eight hour class reviewing when we would need to wear certain gear such as a full respirator, tyvek suits, and stuff like that. Also we cover how to read hazardous waste labels, how to respond to specific conditions and general safety on a job site, not necessarily pertaining to hazardous waste. It's a lot of common-sense stuff, but you'd be surprised how much of it goes unpracticed until people are more informed and aware.

Anyway, the class was cut down to 4 hours with 4 hours of online training prior to the class meeting date. Which means that I had the morning to explore before attending the class at noon. I didn't waste much time. I arrived on Wednesday night and found to my excitement that my hotel, The Comfort Inn was literally 100 feet from the park entrance to see the American side of the falls. So after I ate dinner I walked down to the river (a two minute walk) and found loads of people milling around taking pictures. And then the falls themselves were all lit up with lights that kept changing colors-- it was really spectacular. I got pretty drenched but since it was like 80 degrees out, it didn't matter.

American Falls by Light

Then next morning I woke up at 6:30. Ok, I'll be honest. I initially woke up at 6:30 but got up at 7:00 and got ready as fast as I could, did some boring work emails and then grabbed breakfast, my passport, my camera and my purse and headed out along the park to figure out if I could walk over to Canada. The bridge leading across wasn't far, but I didn't enjoy driving around the area the night before, getting lost, so figured I would have better luck walking.

It was really easy. A sign at the bridge said, "Pedestrians to Canada," you walk across, answer a million questions, show your passport and then you're there! I made it to the other side in about 15 minutes and then let my camera fly. I had such a good time and although the lighting wasn't the best for pictures with the sun shining towards us, it was still great picture-taking time. It was almost magical walking along the perfectly manicured park with mist falling constantly in the sunshine. The plantlife growing there never lacks for water!

American Falls view from Canada

American Falls and Horeshoe Falls in the distance

Dressing for work is not the best attire for closeup falls viewing-- oh well.

Horeshoe Falls up close

And closer still!!

I got back in time for training and the rest isn't really worth mentioning other than I had a nice flight back reading, "The Time Traveler's Wife." I bought this at the airport because our plane was delayed and I had loads of time on my hands having finished my Spin-Off magazine on the flight over. I'm only a few chapters in since I read slow, but it is great so far!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Cheese and Bread Alfresco

Yesterday was a perfect day for outdoor dining, but our dining room table doesn't maneuver to the patio as well as it did in our California apartment. We used to fit our table half in/half out the balcony door, light the candles, bring out the fine china and sit on the part of the table that was on the balcony. We had many a fine dinner out there. Since our apartment faced the front gate, though, we mainly overlooked the traffic coming in and out, the horn-honking, etc. It was entertaining though.

Our outdoor dining in Chatsworth, CA

Well, here the way the apartment is set up, it just wouldn't work without rearranging everything. So instead, we had an afternoon fancy-snack of Ciabatta bread fresh from Trader Joe's with English coastal chedder, English onion cheddar, New York cheddar and pepper-jack cheeses on our patio, served on our china platter, on a stool. It was pretty good, the view is much better here, and much more peaceful. My only recommendation for change is that personally I think that crackers tend to complement the cheese flavor more than the bread. Although that ciabatta bread was out of this world.

Alfresco snack- Charlotte, NC

In case you were wondering why I look patchy, I was experimenting with the Paint program. It looked great in large view but kinda not so great here. Plus, please excuse the PJ's.