Sunday, September 26, 2010

Half Moon Bay

Half Moon Bay is approximately 17 miles from where we live, and the drive there is one of the most beautiful drives ever. Although there seems to be one main road that goes to HMB, and as I experienced when I was leaving there today, on a lovely sunny day it can be a nightmare, I was fine as I was leaving, but the traffic coming into the area was at a stand still on the main road.

Im officially declaring the beach at Pillar Point Harbour in Half Moon Bay our second favourite beach that we have visited since we moved here. The dogs love it (as you can see from the photo), the views are amazing, the wildlife is amazing, we got to see seals swimming near the shore again, seems we get to see them every time we go there. Although you do have to watch out for dead seals on the beach too!! The smell was disgusting, it was so strong you could practically taste it, luckily I managed to keep my two away from it, but other dog owners weren't as lucky :(

This is also a very popular place for surfers, there were tons of surfers there today, and each year a large surfing competition called Mavericks is held there, which attracts surfers from all over the world, and certainly isnt something for beginners. I don't think Ill ever attempt to go there for that event as I imagine the traffic is a complete nightmare.

As you come into HMB there are lots of farms and garden centres, and there is a huge children's play farm, it always seems very popular there, and at the moment as halloween is approaching the fields are filled with pumpkins, it is such a magical sight, unfortunately I was unable to stop for photos, so Ill have to save that for next time. There are also lots of stalls at the side of the road selling local produce, you cant go wrong with 8 fresh corn on the cobs for 99c now.

Half Moon Bay can be a bit foggy at times. When I arrived there at 830 this morning it was a bit cold (not like England cold though!!) and very foggy, but by the time I left at just before 11 the sun was out and the fog was clearing, it was definitely going to be a gorgeous day there. 

There are tons of restaurants there, I've eaten in the Half Moon Bay Brewery and can recommend the fish n chips (although they are nowhere near as nice as UK ones), there is also an English pub/store there called Cameron's which even has a London bus parked outside, but I haven't eaten there yet.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

So beautiful

I was just sat here eating my lunch and looking out of the window, when it occurred to me I live in such a beautiful place.
The trellis above our decking has beautiful pink, purple and red flowers at the moment and there always seems to be hummingbirds out there - before moving to the US I had never seen a hummingbird. The street we live on is lined with trees and you constantly see squirrels and a variety of birds when you walk down the street.
Our grass in our garden is a slightly different matter!! We seem to have gophers or voles living there, so each morning we get up we have a new mound of dirt in the middle of the lawn, much to the dogs liking, as they rush out there straight away and proceed to dig down to try and find the critter!! Working on reviving the lawn and maybe eradicating the critters is on my to do list (all suggestions will be gratefully received).
Today I walked along the San Francisco Bay trail, which is a 10 min drive from my house, Ive done this lots before but today i really spent my time admiring my surroundings. It was a beautiful sunny, non foggy day, and i could see all the way to the East Bay and could even see as far as the city and the Bay Bridge as well as the San Mateo Bridge, the part of the trail I walk along you get a full view of San Francisco airport, and its quite interesting watching the planes come into land, they always seem to look so close together too!
The wildlife i saw today was a variety of birds floating on the bay lots and a few squirrels, the dogs seemed to find a few critters that they tried to dig to get to, but I never actually saw anything. I guess my eyesight isn't as good as a terriers. The other day when I walked the same part of the trail i saw sea lions, and I always find it so spectacular seeing them in their natural habitat. Yesterday I went to Half Moon Bay and whilst walking along by the ocean we saw a pod of dolphins and more sea lions, every time I see them I'm amazed and could sit for hours and watch them, I just hope that feeling of amazement never wears off.
I think this area is definitely the most beautiful place I have ever been to, and I am so lucky to be living here and having all spare time I have to go and explore all these gorgeous places. (Thanks Babe xxx)
I never take my camera with me when I walk the dogs, but am going to from now on so hope to be able to share some of the beauty of this area with you soon.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Westies in California

As most of you know when we moved over to the US last year we bought our two west highland terriers, Jess and Bluey with us.
When we found out we were moving over here, there was no question as to whether or not the dogs would come with is, it was a definite YES :) To come into the US they didn't need any vaccinations (as rabies isn't present in the UK), all they needed was a certificate from our vet to say they were 'fit to fly'. Coming the other way they would normally be subject to quarantine, and this was a concern of mine if we suddenly had to return to the UK with them. So I went ahead and got both of them a pet passport. This basically involved them having a rabies vaccination, then a few weeks later they had to have blood tests to check they had an adequate amount of the vaccine in them, only when the blood test results came back and were good enough were they issued with passports. This means as long as they receive regular rabies vaccinations and their passports are kept up to date they can enter the UK without quarantine.
They both seemed pretty un-phased by the whole moving process, I on the other hand was a wreck! We flew here with virgin and the dogs were on the same flight as us, they had to travel in the cargo hold in crates, they also had to be in separate crates too. We dropped them off at cargo at 7am that day, filled in all the paperwork and said our (very tearful) goodbyes, their crates were secured and would not be opened until they were reunited with us. Luckily the flight was on time, and I made sure I told every virgin person I saw that I needed to know my dogs were on board, I wasn't getting on the plane until I knew they were on board. Once assured by three people they were on board I boarded the plane, I then had two separate people from the ground crew board the plane and confirm with me the dogs were fine and on board. By the time we landed I was stressed and eager to see them and if i'm honest, confirm they were still alive - I had trawled the internet prior to the flight and found a few horror stories of dogs dying on flights!! Once we had cleared immigration and customs we had to go and collect our rental car, then off to cargo we went, we had to pay a release fee and then we got given our customs forms which we had to take to another building so that the they could officially be stamped and cleared into the US, once we had this we were back to the cargo and finally reunited with them. They were so pleased to see us, they had been in the crates for a total of 17 hours, they had peed but luckily not pooped (not feeding them 12 hours prior to the flight had been a wise move), so other than being a bit damp they were fine. We then drove to our house and they were able to explore their new surroundings, they were a little quiet that night but other than that there were no side effects from the journey.
One of my main concerns about moving here was dog parks, again I had trawled the internet and found the horror stories of dogs who had been mauled in the dog park, luckily that doesn't seem to be a common thing, and we have been to various dog parks in the bay area and not had any problems. Dog parks are definitely a good idea, especially as you aren't allowed to have your dog off leash in any public place.
We go to the beach most weekends and my two love it, they are constantly racing around, and they have made so many new dog friends here. People are constantly stopping us to ask if they can pet the dogs and tell me how cute they are. That is another good thing about being in the US, every child we have met has asked if they can pet my two before approaching them, which I think is fantastic, children in the UK don't seem to have any respect for dogs, and no wonder there are so many child related dog bites. My two love children and are always happy to oblige and be petted, especially Jess who loves attention from anyone.
I would say approximately 80% of the friends I have made here so far have been people I have met whilst walking my dogs, at the dog park or at other dog related events.
Jess is going to be turning 4 this Sunday and as she is now a Californian dog, she is going to be having a doggie party, she has 8 dog friends coming over for cake and cookies - i'll be baking a special chicken and bacon dog cake, and apple and cinnamon dog cookies.
If anyone is reading this and concerned about shipping their dog abroad, don't be, as far as Im concerned they are part of the family, you wouldn't leave your kid behind, and as my two have proved, they have adapted so well, and especially here in California there are so many things you can do with your dog too, as it is so dog friendly.
One more side note to mention: dog insurance is a must here, Jess has had surgery twice, once on her knee and once on her bladder, its cost about $8000 in total, and luckily we have been able to claim $6000 of that back, however you do have to pay a copay with most policies (typical american money making!)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The visa from hell

Yes thats what they call my visa...
When we moved over here Dave got given a H1B visa which allows him to work here for 3 years, and then apply for another extension of 3 years I believe, I get the spouse visa H4 which sounds good until you read the small print. Im allowed to be here living in the US but am not allowed to work, again that sounds fantastic at first, but after a while when you cant work it can become a bit boring, so you have to find things (other than spending all day on facebook and reading blogs!) I guess a lot of people who get H4 visa are spouses with children so there days are filled up with the kids, but as we don't have kids I have a lot of spare time. 
Luckily we have two dogs so when we moved here with them I was able to get out and about and meet people with the dogs, and most of the friends I have made since moving here I have met that way. Also I discovered a great website called Meetup I have joined various groups on here and also created some myself and met other friends that way. There is even a British Ex-Pat group in my area that I found via this site.
Although the dogs can take up a lot of my time, along with all the baking I do, i still have lots of spare time, so I have signed up for various volunteering projects, you are allowed to volunteer on the H4 visa, as long as you are not doing a job that someone would normally be paid to do, and that you are not receiving anything in return for your volunteering.
So far Ive signed up for three different volunteering positions

I help out as a reading tutor at a local elementary school with children that are one to two grades below in their reading, this is through a scheme called Reading Partners. I do this two mornings a week and work with two children.

I help out at a local homeless shelter through the Shelter Network, and I spend two afternoons a week helping out at the homework club there.

Ive also just signed up to be a mentor through YMCA, I am currently doing a five week training course, then i will be matched with a mentee who i take out once a week for 1-3 hours, doing various activities depending on the child and their requirements.

So for me being on this visa has been good, as I am able to go out and help the local community and do things I enjoy doing, also when you volunteer you can be flexible with your hours and normally change them around to suit you, so when people come to visit I can step down from volunteering for a week or so. Yes at times it would be nice to be working, although I would never ever return to an office job, and yes an extra salary would be good too, but the satisfaction of helping out others less fortunate them myself is very rewarding. So between my volunteering, going to the gym and taking the dogs out to the beach and other playdates during the week, and of course not forgetting the housework!!! I pretty much keep myself amused most of the time :)