Saturday, 22 March 2014

San Francisco

Flying to San Francisco this morning we had a great aerial view of the snow - covered Sierra Nevada mountains.

We are staying at a rather quirky hotel, the Sir Francis Drake, which is on the left in the picture - our room looks out over the roof of Saks.  The hotel has doormen dressed as Yeomen of the Guard and a very elaborate bar and reception area. 

It is on quite a steep street that the historic cable cars run up and down, between Powell Street station and Fisherman's Wharf, ringing their bells as they go. Passengers are encouraged to stand on the running boards as well as inside and most that we have seen have been quite full.

This afternoon we saw a bridal party jump on one for a quick photo call..

This evening we had dinner at Sears Fine Foods, a quaint 1940's style diner opposite the hotel.

At the end of the meal, each customer was given a token to use in an old 'one armed bandit' machine with the possibility of winning a free meal.

Tomorrow we shall explore a little more of the city.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Bargain Loft Curiosities

Each week at the Bargain Loft there are new items to discover and a very eclectic mix of household and collectable items.  Today this item caught my eye...

The first sale this morning was a large framed certificate which I had not seen until it came to the till.  It was dated 1928 and confirmed membership of the 'Daughters of the American Revolution'.  I learned from my co-worker, a lady who was herself born in 1928, that it was (and is) a patriotic organisation open to those who can demonstrate that their ancestor was a Patriot in the American Revolution.

On a more frivolous note, also on sale is a very solid metal mould - presumably for cake, or jelly?  I thought that it would make world-beating sand castles on a Cornish beach..

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Garden Visitors

A day or two ago we were visited by a pair of red-bellied woodpeckers.  Above is the male..

.. and this is the female, considerably paler than her mate.

Tonight I put out some little apples that were past their best.  The first one was whisked away very quickly so David watched for the return of the 'thief'...

It is quite surprising what a single squirrel can carry away - he scampered off with it, holding his head up so that it cleared the ground.  We think he may have hidden it in the wood pile!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Evening in Reston

There is still a rather wintry feel about Reston town centre with the lights and residual snow.

However, it has been drizzly today so a little warmer and most of the snow is now melted away apart from where it has been ploughed or cleared and piled up.

We went into town for the hairdresser (open until 9pm) and a bite to eat at 'Ted's Bulletin' a new diner-style restaurant.

Whilst there we managed to tick one more item off our list of American culinary classics...

 ... Coconut Cream Pie..

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Fire(wood) and Ice

On Saturday afternoon when it was sunny and warm, David decided to split some of the large logs from the tree that was cut down in the Autumn so that they can be used for the fire.

He worked very hard and was rewarded in the traditional way..

..with a nice cup of tea!

The logs are burning well and on these icy days we are glad to sit by the fire, even though the first day of Spring is now only three days away.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Snowy St Patrick's Day

As forecast, the snow started last evening and it continued through the night so that St Patrick's Day dawned here with around six inches of snow on the ground.  It had come down as large wet flakes but then frozen during the night so that it was stuck fast to every surface, vertical or horizontal and remained throughout the day.

I hope that the crocus flowers are resilient as they are under here..

David set to work early this morning clearing the drive..

..or was he in fact auditioning for Strictly with a rather slender partner?

It carried on snowing during the morning and as it got a little warmer the icicles just grew and grew.  By this evening they were approaching two feet in length..

In terms of St Patrick's Day itself, the build up to this day in the shops has been quite long with a variety of items on offer..

These cards and party goods were on sale weeks ago..

In addition there have been cookies and cakes..

In Wegman's last week they were selling the ingredients for a traditional (Irish American) St Patrick's Day meal - joints of corned beef (I have only ever seen this in a tin but these were large pieces of beef brisket which had been cured in salt and sugar), together with cabbage - to be cooked sauerkraut style - and potatoes - to be mashed.  

The American Good Housekeeping magazine had ten different ideas for celebratory door wreaths of which I chose this one to share..

Happy St Patrick's Day!

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Festival of Nowruz

Today in Reston town centre there was a festival in celebration of Nowruz, the Persian New Year.  The main street was closed to normal traffic and there were many stalls representing different aspects of Persian/Iranian culture such as the Zoroastran faith, Persian hot food and drink, support groups for children in need in Iran, Persian rugs and  sweetmeats and biscuits.

We bought some Baklava flavoured with pistachio, rose and cardamom from this stall which had a display of items relating to the celebration of Nowruz.   It is traditional to have at least seven items beginning with the letter S and each has a meaning relating to hopes for the New Year, reawakening after winter and the promise of new life and new growth.  The symbols on display included the goldfish in a jar, the apples, the garlic, powdered sumac, growing wheat, money and the hyacinth flower.

Under the pavilion, the winter ice-skating rink has been packed away and there wasa stage with traditional singing and dancing in front of a large crowd and women in traditional costume.

There were many people of all ages and nationalities in town enjoying the festival including many Persian/Iranian extended families.  It was such a shame that the weather that we had yesterday - with sunshine and temperatures of 17C had given way to dull grey skies, a cold wind and temperatures of only 4 or 5C.  

This evening, as forecast, the temperature has dropped below zero and it has been snowing for several hours.  Hopefully this will be our last snowstorm of the winter, but 4-6 inches is forecast..