Friday, December 30, 2005

Photos from the US

We've finally got ADSL which means I've finally been able to upload my photos!

So you can now go to Sarah and Andrew's adventures in the US (aka our photo website...) to see what we've been up to.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005


Walls here seem to not be smooth, they're all stucco type non-smooth walls. Because of this it makes our favourite wall hanging method Command Adhesive kind of non efficient.

We've hung 8 things up using Command Adhesive and only 3 are still hanging. In the US you seem to be able to make as many holes in walls as you like when renting, I guess this is because it's the only way you can hang things!!

So we're going to have to resort to putting lots of holes in walls to hang things. That's a shame!

Monday, December 26, 2005

Heart update

I had a cardiac MRI just before I left Australia which is supposed to be the most comprehensive heart scan that can be done, showing the most detail.

I finally got the report from it back a little under 2 weeks ago now I guess, and from the way it reads, it looks more likely that I may have the same thing that killed my dad and aunt. I haven't seen a cardiologist yet over here as you need health insurance, which we can't get until Andrew's social security number comes through (that's a whole other drama..). So I haven't had it all properly analysed, but if nothing's wrong when one of these things, the final report bit says "Nothing noted" or something along those lines.

This report basically said parts of my heart were enlarged. This had me worried so I rang my cardiologist back in Australia, who said it was nothing to worry about and I was in no danger. I don't believe he actually had the report at that time though. The initial scans done said that at the sinuses of valsalva, the measurement was 39mm which was at the upper limits of normal. The latest report says that same measurement is 41mm. I know 2mm doesn't sound like much, and there is a slight margin for error but it means either 2 things. Either the first test which isn't as accurate was a bit out and the measurement was actually a bit bigger than reported, or it has gotten a bit bigger since the first scan. And if it has grown 2mm in size in 6 months then that is a bit worrying I think.

Anyway, so at the University of Texas, through research they've been doing, they've identified a gene that causes aortic aneurysms and dissections. I contacted then a little while ago, and they said I was welcome to be part of the trial if I wished. So I contacted them again a couple of days ago and said I was now in the US, I am interesting in being part of the trial, and attached the report from the cardiac MRI they could get an idea of my situation, and decide for themselves if they thought it was nothing.

Her response was "This increase in your aortic size suggests that you may be a carrier for the same gene which predisposed your father and aunt to aortic aneurysm/dissections."

So now I'm not sure what to think. She's an expert in aortic aneurysms, and my cardiologist has never said that the heart measurements are still in the normal range, he's always answered my question asking if that's "normal" in saying that I'm in no danger at the moment, but to keep taking my pills and not to do any strenuous exercise. For the moment though, she's sending me a saliva collection kit, so I can send some saliva which they can do DNA testing on, and see if I have this same gene that they've already identified as being a cause. It's unlikely that they'll be the same apparently, but that's what research is all about - lots of testing! I won't take the researchers comment as the final word though give that she does not have my full history.

I certainly do believe I'm in no immediate danger of having a heart problem as such, and it has to grow a fair bit more to be in the category of needing surgery, but my fear is more that it's looking more and more likely that it's going to turn into an aneurysm, and not being able to do anything about it. Once it is at the size that it is considered an aneurysm, there's still nothing you can do until it reaches an operable size which frustrates the hell out of me. I don't like the thought of just sitting back and monitoring it until it reaches this magical size, and not being able to do any sort of strenuous activity because it might cause it to dissect split.

For the moment though, it just means a lot more monitoring to figure out if it is growing in size, or if it's just big for some strange reason.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas day post

Merry christmas everyone!

Today I cooked my first ever Christmas dinner! We got our sea freight delivered yesterday which was nice because it meant we could invite people over and not sit on a cardboard box dining table, and we had everything else needed to do a Christmas dinner.

So yesterday we spent the entire day unpacking our 110 sea freight boxes so that the place would look reasonable. There was a few stressful moments when we couldn’t see a lounge room set up that didn’t involve couches being in the way, the TV being too far away from the only cable tv outlet, or worrying about a configuration that meant expensive speakers would not be able to be used. Legs for the coffee tables had also gone missing as had bolts to put them on, which was a bit frustrating, but things were eventually found (in boxes that had nothing to do with the dining room!). After going out to the shops to get a few things and clear my head, I got home and almost immediately saw a lounge room configuration that would work and things were looking a lot more under control.

So Christmas morning this morning felt very non-christmasy as it was only us and we had too much to do to really think about Christmas too much!

We’d invited Michael, and another recent Aussie Google hiree also named Andrew and his wife Margaret to join us for Christmas lunch, so I started preparing about 11am (it was going to be a late lunch). I thought this whole lunch thing sounded easy. Put together the ready to go stuffing, stuff the turkey, cut some vegies, cook it all, and voila Christmas lunch! There seemed to be a lot more involved. Christmas lunch/dinner was ready at about 3:30pm I think, and I was in the kitchen most of that 4 ½ hours! It wasn’t too bad though. I enjoyed cooking for the first “dinner party” in our new place, and I tried doing Yorkshire puddings for the first time using my nan’s recipe.

So the others brought stuff and we had a combined traditional American/Australian/English Christmas dinner with turkey, cold ham, roasted and steamed vegies, Yorkshire puddings and gravy, and for dessert we had plum pudding (bought especially from the Aussie shop in San Jose) with custard (surprisingly hard to find, and what we got was some slightly odd Jello custard stuff....), and pumpkin pie, which we were a little worried about, but turned out to be quite nice. The pumpkin pie was interesting to cook. It was a frozen Sara Lee type pie, which you normally just throw in the oven for a bit then eat. This one was “Homemade” and uncooked as opposed to cook and reheat, so took 1 ½ hours to cook, then was suppose to cool in the fridge for 2 hours!!! Instead we threw it in the freezer for 10 minutes and ate it semi-cooled.....

I really enjoyed it – it was nice to have a quiet Christmas after having so much happening over the last couple of months. It was also nice to have cooked most of it myself! I just told my nan about the Yorkshire puddings and she’s very proud :)

We’ve also got pretty good weather at the moment. I mean it’s been raining a bit, and the next few days say rain, but it’s certainly not all that cold considering it’s the middle of winter! We really haven’t put the heater on at all. Before our doona arrived, I was putting it on in the bedroom for 10 minutes before bedtime and closing the door just to heat the room up, but even now I’m waking up too hot with the doona, and I don’t think we’ll even bother with it. On the warm days I can walk around in jeans and t-shirt and be comfortable, and I’m someone who really feels the cold.

Our place is also looking reasonably unpacked and livable, so that’s also good! We’re happy with our townhouse and the area, and are already feeling very settled which is nice.

Andrew’s got the next 2 days off, so we’ll have to make sure we take a break from unpacking to go and see some of the local sights!

I hope everyone else had a good Christmas and isn’t too stuffed with food! :)

Monday, December 19, 2005

Weird country and bikes!

We moved in to our new townhouse yesterday which was quite exciting. So today I spent all morning packing away the clothes that yesterday I'd just dumped out of the boxes and onto the floor.

Anyway, so because we had no food and can't use our benchtops (they resurfaced them and are still drying) I decided to get a burger along the way to my volunteer work at the animal shelter which started at 2pm.

So I toddled along to the local Carls Jnr (kinda McDonaldsy for those back home), and order a low carb burger which I thought sounded exciting. I got to the car and opened it and there was NO BUN!!!!! That's what makes it low carb! There's no freaking bread involved!!! It's just wrapped in a crapload of lettuce with lots of paper around it which makes it very messy to eat! How many people would knowingly go get a burger and demand to have no bun with it???? Obviously crazy Americans!

Oh well. So my road bike as well as Michael's mountain bike came in our air shipment on Saturday, and tonight we picked up Andrew's new mountain bike from the bike store and set about setting Andrew's bike up with clipless pedals and putting my bike together. Andrew's never used clipless pedals before, so there will be much giggling from my end and frustration from Andrew's end and probably a crash or two until he gets used to them. That's what happened to me anyway, Andrew might be less uncoordinated!

So tomorrow I'm going to ride into Google with Andrew and Michael as we explore the bike path and the boys attempt cycle commuting for the first time. Hopefully it won't rain...

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Email address

I now have my email address over there ----> under my profile if anyone wishes to email me. I may not email back particularly promptly at the moment, but I'll get there.

Thanks to Andrew it has some funky JavaScript thingy so evil spamming people can't actually see my email address when they do whatever it is that they do. Hurrah.

Birthday dinners

Andrew and I had a lovely dinner last night at a restaurant called Nicolino's to celebrate our birthdays (which are less than a week apart). It's an Italian restaurant down the road that was recommended to us.

The food was very delicious (and heaps of it!), they had live music all night with pianos, violins, and clarinets - including the young music students of the main guy who was playing. The music was a bit loud at some points - the guy with the violin had a microphone to pick up the violin sound, so it drowned out everything else while he was doing that which made it hard to talk. It was very pleasant though!

We move tomorrow into our new place which is a little exciting. We even got our air shipment delivered today!!! Woohoo!! We have clothes! So I'll probably be without internet access for a few days while we get that sort of thing sorted, so I probably won't be responding to many emails any time soon (yes, I'll be even slower at replying than I am at the moment!!).

Tomorrow we also pick up our new bikes, so it'll be good to go for a bit of a ride to check out what's around.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The almost 2 week mark

Ok, so I’m well and truly overdue in the way of updating life so far in the US! I have lots to say, so this is just kind of a brain dump of everything that’s going on.

As of tomorrow I will have been here for 2 weeks. I have discovered that my work permit will take 3 months to get processed (they’re currently processing permits submitted in September). That means that I can’t get a social security number until I get my work permit. This has caused all sorts of problems as the entire country runs on their social security numbers. To get a California drivers license, you need a social security number (SSN). Because I can’t get an SSN, I just need proof that I’m not eligible for one. I thought that’d be pretty easy. I rang the social security office, and they said they can’t just do something saying I’m not eligible yet, I have to actually apply for one and wait for it to be knocked back, then show the rejection letter to the DMV. Sheesh! And given that Andrew’s been waiting for his SSN for 4 weeks now, it’ll probably take at least that for mine to be rejected once I put it in, so I’m trying to decide if it’s worth it. Apparently you’re supposed to get a CA drivers license within 10 days of entering the country if you’re going to be a permanent resident – ha!

So anyway, I’ve just spent my time so far just pottering around the shops, getting stuff sorted out. I’ve been to various bike shops trying to decide which mountain bike to get – I decided on the Specialized Hardrock Pro Disc.

Andrew got a nice Iron Horse mtb, and we get them properly fitted on Sunday and will also get all the accessories then as well (clipless pedals, shoes etc), so we can both go out riding together, and Andrew can cycle commute to work, so that’ll be good.

I’ve also been to a few car dealers just to see what’s around, and what sort of price things are. We’ve still got an ’06 Prius on order, but I wanted to see what we could get new and second hand and for what price.

A couple of days after I got here I also had a rental tour with a guy that’s organised through Andrew’s work to help us settle in. I was still incredibly jetlagged at the time, and this guy was very full on and quite excitable, so that was quite a full on day – especially as we were looking at places from 10am – 4pm! The good news though was that we found a place we liked, and we signed a lease for a 2 bedroom townhouse which we move into this Sunday. The townhouse is very nice, similar in setup to our place in Watson, Canberra. You can get an idea of what the townhouse is like at the Central Park apartments website So last weekend Andrew and I went out looking for housey things we’d need. Namely lamps. For some reason, this crazy country has an aversion to lightbulbs in ceilings. They have lights in hallways, kitchens, bathrooms, and that’s about it! Everything else is lit by lamps. So we now have lamps so hopefully we won’t crash about too much in the dark when we first move in!

On the weekend we went to check out the bike path that’s near our new home so we could figure out the best route for Andrew to cycle or roller blade to work, and discovered that the cycle path is beautiful! It runs by a little creek, goes right near our house, and takes you most of the way to Andrew’s work, which is great! There was heaps of squirrels running around, people out walking, cycling, rollerblading and taking pets for walks. We realised we were very lucky to choose a place so close to the bike path, and love the entire Mountain View area. We went walking around downtown Mountain View on the weekend and were very pleased with what we saw. I think we will really enjoy living here.

Driving on the “wrong” side of the road has been fine. I still find that if I’m walking towards the car and I’m on the right hand side, I head towards the right hand side of the car to drive, then realise I have to go to the other side and probably look quite silly!

I’m still not sleeping well. Probably a few reasons for that – I don’t have a schedule for my days, so can sleep in until whenever, and I’m going to bed late, so sleeping in until fairly late (for me), then going to bed later because I’m getting up later and so on. I’ve probably also got a fair bit running through my mind, and I’m also not really doing any exercise, so not wearing myself out at all. So I’m going to try to get up earlier, and go to the gym in the morning for a bit (there’s a gym in the complex we’re in right now, and there’s also one in our new complex), then do whatever I need to do after that. Hopefully that’ll help!

To keep boredom at bay on a more longer term basis, I’ve put my name down to do some volunteer work at a couple of places. Today I had my first day working at the local animal shelter with the pussy cats. I’ll be with the kitties a couple of hours a day, a couple of days a week, and also doing reception for them on Monday and Wednesdays for about 4 hours each day, then just on Wednesdays when one of the other volunteers comes back from holidays. It’s good fun, with the cats I pretty much take them out of their cages, and put them in big play pens and play with them, socialise with them, brush them and cuddle them to keep them happy and to also be able to get an idea of their personalities for potential new owners! I also clean out their litter trays when needed, and basically just make sure they’re doing ok. There’s a few kittens there who are incredibly cute, and the older cats are just adorable as well. Their website is very outdated, so I think one of the first things I’ll do is take fresh pictures of all the kitties and update their website!!! Once I manage that, I’ll post the link so you can all see my favourite pussy cats. :-)

The other volunteer work I’ll be doing is through the local Adult Education college and called “Literacy in the Classroom” – I think it’s just part of the Adult Education college as a way to advertise for volunteers. I meet with the lady on Thursday so I’lll know more then, but basically I think they give us a crash course in working with kids, and then we go to the local school and work with kids in grade 2 for a few hours one day a week doing reading and writing with them. Should be interesting!! Hopefully it won’t clash with the animal shelter shifts….

Not too much else happening at the moment. I’ve had a couple of days where I’ve just gotten frustrated with the system and the whole not being able to do anything without a social security number. Moving country isn’t the easiest thing in the world!! Luckily Andrew is wonderful, and now that I have some volunteer work to do, I feel a little more useful and can plan my weeks activities around that, so that’s great! We’re loving chasing around after squirrels – we’ve seen heaps and they’re very cute. They won’t stay still for photos though which is a shame!

The people we’ve met around here are really nice. You can’t talk to anyone on the phone though as they have no idea what you’re saying! I also had my first clueless American moment the other day. A car salesman asked where I was from , and I said Australia, and he thought about that, and said to me “that’s near the Czech Republic isn’t it?”. Just how do you respond to that???????

It’s amusing here in the “land of the fat” where everyone seems to be on one sort of diet that really isn’t any low fat options at the supermarket. We try to get low fat in everything we get if the option is there – milk, yoghurt, cheese, meat etc. Over here there really doesn’t seem to be any options for low fat, if there is they are quite difficult to find. For example, my “specialty” dish is a spinach and ricotta stuffed chicken breast on cous cous thingy. It took me forever to find chicken breasts for a start. There were massive turkeys, various bits of turkeys, chicken wings, chicken drumsticks and so forh, and finally a small section of chicken breast fillets. They were packaged a little differently, but I got them and moved on. Frozen spinach was very hard to find as well. There was plenty of creamed frozen spinach (I didn’t even want to see what was in it...) and I eventually found a wee box of plain chopped spinach. The ricotta is available in skimmed ricotta, but doesn’t quite taste the same as Australia ricotta, but that’s ok. Anyway, so I get home and start preparing the dish, and open the breast fillets to slice them open so I can stuff them with the spinach and ricotta mixture and there’s nothing to slice!!!! They’re chicken pancakes! Flat as flat can be. Very bizarre. There’s also a fair bit of fat on them which I need to trim off. What’s wrong with nice juicy bits of chicken?? I’m going to see if I can find a butcher so I can chicken which hasn’t been flattened to resemble a pancake.

The other meats are also very fatty. Everything you get you need to trim the fat off. I managed to get lean mince so that was one bonus! All the cereals are very sugary, you can buy big tubs of lard (ewwww) and everything in general is just sold in extra large portions. It’s very hard to buy a small pack of mince, or just a couple of steaks. No wonder everyone over here is so overweight!

One thing I do love though is the Starbucks in the Safeway supermarket. The supermarket trolleys even come with cupholders so you can get your drink and put in the little cupholder for while you do your shopping. Very cute :-) I have found it interesting that pretty much all the wine has corks here. In Australia many wines now have twist tops rather than corks, and personally I much prefer twist tops. I was looking for a Riesling and could not find one, in a fairly large selection, that had a twist top! A Sauvignon Blanc that had a twist top had a big tag around the lid explaining why they used twist tops and absolutely assuring that it did not affect the quality at all, as though they had to defend themselves for doing it! So there you go...

Anyway, that’ll probably do for now. I daresay most people have fallen asleep by now.... I’ll try to update more regularly so I don’t end up with massively long posts!

Ciao for now!

Happy birthday Andrew!!

Happy birthday to my wonderful husband who's 29 today.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

End of Singapore and welcome to the US!

Day 7 - Malaysia

Last day in Singapore was quite interesting! We went to Malaysia (S$2.40 each way on a bus!) and went through Singapore and Malaysian customs a couple of times to get in and out so now my passport has more stamps in it :)

We went to a city called Johor Bahru which is literally just across the border from Singapore. It was very different to Singapore in the way of cleanliness, and feel. In Johor Bahru I felt as though I needed to hold my bag the entire time. I had a small Kathmandu bag that goes over your shoulder and I'd been wearing in front of me, and just holding when I was somewhere busy, but in Malaysia I never let go of it. I noticed Mum, Nola and Vicki seemed to be holding their bags fairly tightly as well. There was taxi drivers trying to convince you to get in their cab and drive to you a particular shopping centre where all the tourists apparently go. They seemed to be charging a fortune for it though, and were there just as you got out of Immigration, and this shopping centre was not in our Lonely Planet guide for the area, so they seemed a bit dodgy to us, and we just kept trying to dodge them all.

We only went for a bit of a wander, and headed back to Singapore after only a couple of hours. The best part of Malaysia was the Immigration officers. They seem to like fair hair, and I got stopped going in and out as they were having a joke with me and laughing. The guy as we were leaving Malaysia was a scream, he was taking forever with people, and we were getting annoyed, but when we got up to him, he was smiling, and having a laugh at us because we were jostling to be next in line and telling mum how beautiful I was and singing to us! We had a good laugh with him.

After Malaysia we went back to our hotel and just finished off last minute shopping, got some more presents and backed our bags to leave.

Day 8 and beyond- Leaving Singapore and arriving in the US

We got up early to be at the airport by 6:30am, and went to our respective flights. I flew Singapore Airlines and they were fanastic! Great service, really yummy food, movies, tv shows and CD's on demand, so you can choose to start what you want when you want, and they had a huge range. I snoozed for maybe 45 minutes in the entire 17 1/2 hours as there was just so many movies to watch! I had two seats in my row, and we had a stop in Seoul, and from Seoul to San Fran I had the seats to myself to could stretch out a bit, and have both blankets and pillows which was a little more comfortable. Good thing too as that was an 11 hour leg or something ridiculous like that, and it was loooooong! Seemed to take absolutely forever before we finally made it!

Andrew had ordered a "limo" (which was just a nice car with a smartly dressed driver) to get me from the airport, and thankfully he was waiting for me, so could just get in the car and not have to worry abour driving or directions or anything like that.

When I got to our temporary accommodation I slept for most of the afternoon as I was pretty exhausted. The apartment is really nice and the bed is incredibly snuggly and comfortable. As soon as I get in, I feel as though the whole bed is wrapping itself around me, and I immediately fall asleep.

The next day I drove Andrew and Michael to work (the driving is nowhere near as bad as I expected!), came home, put some washing on and immediately fell back into bed and slepe for another 3 hours! I woke up at one stage and was still so exhausted that I was trying to force my eyelids open, bue I was still snoring!! I realised that waking up wasn't meant to happen so just fell back to sleep.

I've also been on my rental tour where I spent the day with out "relocation consultant" Rick who is an aboslute character - very talkative and exciteable (even by my standards!) and he showed me a bunch of apartments. Andrew and I went back today and decided on an apartment and put in an application for it.

It's only a few k's from Andrew's work, is a nice 2 bedroom, 2 storey townhouse (similar style to what we had in Watson), and less than we thought we might have to pay (but still ridiculously expensive...).

We also went to the dealership we're puying out Toyota Prius off and went for a drive in the '06 model like what we'll be getting and it was very cool! Very nice little car - great features, very maneouverable and still has plenty of power.

As Andrew and Michael have been working, I've been driving them to and from work every day so I can have the car and it's been so easy driving. Driving on the wrong side of the car on the wrong side of the road is easier than expected. Yuo tend to drift to the right hand side of the lane a bit as you're used to your head being in the right side of the lane not the left, and I reach for the hears to my left rather than the right, but that's about the only problems. The exits can be a bit scary as well. You take an exit, but at that same exit, people are coming on to the freeway , and the exit often has 2 exits to different roads, so you need to be in the correct lane to get to the correct exit (by reading the exit number/road name on the actual lanes), and watch behind for any cars trying to get onto the freeway who'll be cutting in front or behind you. Completely mad.....

The malls are pretty cool though, and American pretzels are sooooo yummy! The people are ridiculously friendly, and the areas around Andrew's work (Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Palo Alto) are just beautiful. The "downtown" areas have beautiful old shops that remind me more of a small country town (with more people!). The mountain ranges are also pretty impressive - I'll take pics soon.

I've put in my paperwork to apply for a work permit but apparently it'll take about 90 days to go through. I've got plenty of things to do still, and that doesn't even include sightseeing so that should be ok. There's plenty of other Australian Google wives around it seems, so I'm sure I can meet with others during the day to go sightseeing which is good!

Overall, I think we'll really enjoy it here - the people and area are great, and there seems to be a lot to do. So make sure you all come over and visit us sometime!!!!!