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Laura in CA

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Everything posted by Laura in CA

  1. A friend of ours had to get rabies shots in Central America (he was bitten by a dog), and they were the old-fashioned painful kind (in the stomach). He said that the kind of rabies shots he would normally have gotten here in the U.S. would not have been painful, but he couldn't switch types during a course.
  2. I'm learning a lot in this thread about front-loaders. It's especially interesting about making shorter cycles for American consumers. We always get a kick out of the super-long cycles in Europe – here are photos from the washing machine in our holiday flat in the UK last December we took to show folks back home. Who in the U.S. would accept a 2.5-hour cycle? You do have to plan ahead! ... we're used to popping stuff into the washer and expecting it to be done in, well, under an hour. When we lived in Europe the "Kochwäsche" cycles (95º C 😮 ) impressed me – pretty much steaming-hot water for cotton sheets and cloth diapers/nappies. Also the 4-hour cycles ... 😮 Oh, and Laura C mentioned a U.S. washing machine being brought to England. We saw a U.S. washing machine at a YWAM on the Continent. When it was installed the local handymen laughed and laughed at the hot-water line going in to the machine. Check out the precise temperatures in my lower photo – can't get that when you pretty much randomly mix whatever comes out of the hot and cold taps 🙂 ! Now that we're back in the States I do wonder, as a PP mentioned, how cold my "cold" setting will be (which is what I mostly use) when it's 100ºF outside ...
  3. Don't get me started on "low-flush" toilets that have to be flushed several times instead of once ... 😁 or the mercury-containing compact fluorescent light bulbs that cast a cold glow, give one a headache, AND don't last any longer for us – but are a pain to recycle (we do, of course) and presumably need a lot of handling to recycle, as they are hazardous materials (and who knows how many people do not recycle them, as it isn't made as easy for the U.S. consumer as I have seen in Europe and Asia). Edit: I've banned CF in our house (we use old-fashioned bulbs) until LEDs are more widely available. I'm all for electric cars and solar panels, very popular here in California, but of course batteries and solar panels are made with toxic chemicals. So they are not a 100% perfect solution. but the ultimate (I may post this in the other thread) is an article I read in the Times of London this evening about a woman killed by a metal straw. The details are rather gory but apparently she fell onto it, and it was one that was fixed in her drinking glass. The metal straw was apparently a birthday present.
  4. Check out this puppy in Manteca! Now I see why many people I know who work in the East Bay/Peninsula/SF/San José live in Manteca (& other cities such as Stockton, Modesto, Merced ...). A teacher friend of mine has a colleague who lives in Manteca and teaches in Dublin. She has to leave her house at 5am to have an "easy" hour commute to Dublin; if she leaves at 6am she'll basically never get to work. She arrives at her grandmother's house in Dublin at 6am and takes a 1-hour nap, then goes to the school to work. What a way to live ... BUT my friend says her colleague was able to buy a big house in Manteca for $350k; where we live in the relatively affordable East Bay the median price for a modest home is $700–800k. Here is the "heat map" for the (greater) Bay Area. You can see that it (surprisingly) transitions into green areas (!) relatively close to the jobs (SF, Peninsula, East Bay, etc.). Of course you have a monster commute. And the traffic snarls up our town as people pass through from the Central Valley on their way to points west. ETA: I'm looking at the heat map again, and, not surprisingly – the green areas (median listing price: $400k-ish and below) and yellow areas (looks like high $500ks and below) are either monster commutes* I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy (Manteca, Modesto @ $200k+ 😮) or gritty areas (Richmond, etc.). And Liz, sorry about my commute 😂. I don't really need to work but thought I'd enjoy working at our local public library; since I have vision issues I don't drive on the freeways at all (imagine that! a Californian who avoids the freeways!) and chose a job I could commute to by bike or a very short drive for those reasons. I know I am the luckiest woman alive 😊 * some examples of the monster commutes: NYT ("2:15 alarm" UGH) and NYT articles. Quote from the two-year-old "2:15 alarm" article: Long commutes are a byproduct of the region’s tech boom, which has given rise to a full-blown housing crisis. As home prices have escalated beyond middle-class reach, areas far inland have become an oasis of (relative) affordability. Ms. James wakes up in a city where the median home price is below $300,000, according to the online real estate database company Zillow. Prices rise steadily along her commute until she gets off her last train in San Francisco, where a typical home costs more than $1 million.
  5. LOL and I see why – we were pricing 1- and 2-bedroom condos/townhouses for my son who is moving back to the Bay Area. In our town you can get a pretty nice 1- or 2-bedroom condo for $400k or a bit more, which (boy, have I lost all sense of perspective!!) I was thinking was pretty reasonable – he should be able to save a 20%+ down payment ($100k) within 2 years on his SV salary (AND living at home and commuting, I hasten to add – we've emphasized that we are doing him a favor 🙂 ... a friend of his who works at Google is paying $2.8k PER MONTH for a 1-bedroom apt in Mtn View/Sunnyvale). Anyway, in Manteca (farther east, over the hills) for "only" $60k more ($460k) you can get a nice new 4-bedroom house with a 3-car garage. BUT you have to spend hours and hours every day on the road. Or drive to BART or the ACE train and fight for parking at the train station, then take the train and possibly a shuttle at the work end. But now I see why people do it. Luckily my husband and I have 5-minute commutes. Well, mine can be up to 7 minutes by car, 20 minutes by bike.
  6. Six figures are normal starting salaries, even for kids just out of college (& the OP's dd bought a house 5.5 years ago, so she must be a few years out of college). My 23yo son just interviewed at four SV companies last week, and it's absolutely crazy the kind of money that is flying around here (signing bonuses, stock options, etc.). Just crazy.
  7. ha, no worries about finding alternative providers in California 😉 If you want to PM me, I'd be happy to talk with more details about places to live. We are in the East Bay, which is relatively affordable; our son starts at a tech job in SF in a few weeks (he has been lured from out of state). He's not looking forward to the commute (on a bus and then BART), but the job seems perfect for him.
  8. jumping in late – but congrats! we have a 2001 Outback and love it for the snow. And rain. Our son bought a 2017 Crosstrek (he lives in Utah and it's all he drives in the winter; he also has/had a convertible and a motorcycle) and my husband is eyeing them also. We will probably buy our son's Crosstrek from him soon 😊 as he admits he doesn't really need two cars (he's moving to warmer climes).
  9. I was in New Orleans earlier this year for my first time ever, and I found these videos super helpful – riding the St Charles streetcar and this one. In hindsight I should have gotten off at the cemetery midway (Lafayette Cemetery No. 1) but I had a bad cold and was happy to just ride the lovely streetcar around. I would also be interested in tour ideas. Following!
  10. Food trucks are huge in California; I think they may have started with Roy Choi in LA. My brother took us to one of Roy's trucks (Kogi Van Verde) and I didn't see the appeal at first – we were all hunched over the car hood in the dark, eating (wonderful) food (Korean–Mexican fusion)! But since then I've become a convert. I think the advantage is the variety, especially when you have a bunch of food trucks. Everyone in a family can get what he or she wants; then you gather and eat, together, your widely different choices. And at many of these events there is seating, near the group of trucks. Places we've enjoyed the freshness, (usually) cheap prices, and variety, are: • our church, when it had 4pm Saturday services (they even had a truck that just did various grilled cheese sandwiches!) • The Royal BC Museum in Victoria, where I could get a fresh salmon burger and the rest of my family could get completely different food 😋; they have a beautiful courtyard with picnic tables. • our local high school had food trucks every Wednesday evening so families could gather and relax and socialize • UC Berkeley's annual open house has a lineup of food trucks – so much more convenient than a restaurant; the trucks are centrally located on campus and usually include burgers, Korean food, ice cream, etc. • Google's Mountain View campus, when we visited our son who had a summer job there – there was everything under the sun, including Indian food, Korean, Cuban (w/of course a Cubano – see the movie Chef mentioned above!), standard American fare, Middle Eastern, Mexican, etc. • a new food truck has appeared in our neighborhood next to the gas station – it has Venezuelan and Colombian food and we are hooked! As to why food trucks ... the cooks are a husband and wife from Colombia, and their son and daughter (who speak English) run the cash register and explain to people what empanadas etc. are. A great way for a hard-working immigrant family to start a small business. Here is a website telling you the schedule for various Bay Area food trucks – you'll see the huge variety among the over 100 food trucks listed – from Philly Cheese Steak, German, Hawaiian, to several Nepalese (!) trucks – & including KoJa! my favorite, which went from an itinerant food truck to having several locations in the Bay Area. Which is more convenient than chasing the food truck around the area! At least the Colombian one comes to us, and I can ride my bicycle over. Oh, I guess another advantage of food trucks is that a cook/chef can concentrate on just cheese steaks, or just grilled cheese, or just coffee, and do it very well, because s/he can just fill a niche. At the Bay Area food truck site I see Sri Lankan, Russian, Nepalese, Cambodian, etc. trucks – as a PP said, the owners/chefs can make their own schedule, and can also concentrate on their own ethnic cuisine, knowing that they don't need to please everyone in a group – maybe one person in a family will be adventurous and try Sri Lankan food, but the rest can get BBQ or hot dogs from a different truck ... At all of the events I listed above, there will be anywhere from 3 to 20+ trucks to choose from. When a cook/chef can concentrate on his or her passion, it is done well.
  11. The Oakland Amtrak station (at Jack London Square) is also an easy walk from the BART station – just a few blocks. We've done the walk lugging a small suitcase each.
  12. We've done the Coast Starlight 3 times recently, twice from Oakland and once from LA. I guess we've always gone north, and flown home from Seattle. The most spectacular scenery is definitely on the LA-to-San Luis Obispo (roughly) part. After that it goes inland. It's still pretty, but except for seeing Mount Shasta (around 6–7am northbound), which is beautiful and snowy, it's not "coast" and just normal farmland, hills, rivers, mountains, etc. Very pretty but not spectacular. We've had both a roomette (perfect for one person; cramped for two!) and a sleeping cabin. Even the roomette gets you the first-class perks available to sleeper-car passengers, although since they discontinued the parlour car (waah!), and with it the park ranger talks, wine tastings, movie room, etc. last year, there are fewer "perks" and personally I think I'd be fine in just a seat (which is cheap), especially as a young person. (I've taken the Greyhound bus from SF to Washington State and to New York, and the train is much nicer!) The annoying thing is that even for a first-class (business class?) seat, you don't get a reserved seat, so you should board ASAP and head for the seat you want (aisle, window, quiet car, etc.). ETA: I'm not sure about seat assignments .. this was just hearsay. We've always gotten at least a roomette b/c the trip is 24+ hours and hey, we're old! I haven't read all the replies, but just in case no one mentioned it, prices go up (for the rooms, at least) as the trip gets closer. Also, Amtrak is notorious for delays (although we had no problems the 3 trips we took recently), b/c they have to give freight trains priority, so he should have a Plan B in case he arrives several hours late. (I just took the TGV last week and oh my, we were going 200 mph. So nice!)
  13. My husband learned that stretch at Fleet Feet and swears by it! He's fine when he does that (and wears good shoes).
  14. Four years ago we did a river cruise with Grand Circle with my parents (who paid). There were wonderful things about it and some things that made me want to SCREAM lol. The fact that it was "free" made it all right. Our main frustrations were mainly a result of the age of the other passengers (99% were old and although active, slooow) and the usual inherent disadvantages of any kind of group activity, even when the groups are small, as on a river cruise (my husband and I usually travel independently). But the scenery (Budapest to the Black Sea) was amazing, the crew and staff were excellent, and they had interesting programs and tours lined up each day – almost too many. And it was a nice way to spend time with my parents and not have to deal with transportation and packing and unpacking – you just stay in your cabin for the whole trip. We've done long-distance train trips in North America and in Europe and would choose that – or a quick trip to Europe – over a river cruise (although we are still tempted by the glossy brochures!). We just got back from 12 days in France (Paris and Dijon) and are talking about going back this fall. Jet lag can be brutal but just follow the advice here. We were fine this trip. We also did a week in Louisiana and Mississippi 4 weeks ago and it was also fantastic. I guess we love to travel. We enjoy hiking and culture; a beach would not interest us (I guess we have them here in CA anyway 😄). In France we did museums but also lots and lots of outdoorsy things, such as walking along the Canal Saint-Martin; walking the entire High Line (Coulée Verte/Promenade Plantée) several times; spending hours in a boat on the Seine; I took a ballet class (in French 😉); outdoor farmers' markets; etc. ETA: just saw a PP. I've also been mulling over Mackinac Island – it looks so idyllic! I've been urging a friend of mine who wants to travel to just DO it. Even if it's just a weekend in London or Paris, it will get their feet wet and be a memorable experience. Happy anniversary!
  15. Haha, I've taken photos of our car at the airport! And we've had some bad experiences returning cars. At Heathrow last September we got gouged something like £500 for a microscopic scratch. A photo wouldn't have helped there, unless we'd taken close-ups of all the bumpers, I guess. Luckily this was a work trip so my husband's company paid most of it. And returning a car at Edinburgh train station last July, we left it there around 11:30am since we had a 12:00 train back to London. They said they'd process it right away. Well, it wasn't checked in until 18:00 so we were charged an extra day. 🤯😡 Some places really take advantage of tourists who are in a hurry to catch a plane or train ...
  16. and yes, get a small car. There was a thread in the Rick Steves forums in which someone was talking about rental car width in MILLIMETERS. LOL we don't do that in the States. In the UK and on the Continent we always get the smallest car we can, and usually stick shift (cheaper, and more exciting!). Sooo much easier to park, and to navigate narrow streets with cars parked half on the sidewalk/half in the street (!). And the streets are narrow to start with. And there are lots of cyclists. Oh, here's the thread – including this quote: "It was bigger than I wanted, at 2009 mm wide including mirrors".
  17. Thank you for the heads-up. We flew back from Mexico last summer and I had bought a few bars of chocolate, which I didn't declare. A VERY grumpy customs guy at PHX yelled at me and said chocolate needed to be declared and I should be "honest" next time. 😱
  18. Houses are certainly "staged" in our area to obtain the maximum selling price, but – and this is heartening since I dread doing that and our house has that "lived-in" look 😂 (luckily we aren't planning to sell, ever!) – in our crazy area many houses sell within a few days, so staging is not an absolute necessity. Even in the 1990s, the house we bought (and still live in) was on the market for only 4 hours (one afternoon). The people living in it had 3 kids, including a baby, and the house was full of their stuff (and a dog). This house in Oakland (my son used to run by it) was on the market for $400k last year and became a meme for insane Bay Area real estate prices – I just checked it out and oh my gosh it sold for $686k and is now valued at $795k (location, location ...). Obviously it was valuable only for the land and location. https://www.zillow.com/homes/for_sale/1091-Alcatraz-Ave-Oakland,-CA,-94608_rb/ Anyway, not trying to brag! haha. And my house looks a little nicer than this one. It's a big, big problem here (the sky-high housing prices), driving many people out of state who would prefer to stay, or giving others monster commutes (and clogging the freeways) b/c property IS affordable an hour or two to the east of the Bay Area.
  19. Definitely check out grocery stores. It's fun to see how people in other countries shop (mustard in metal tubes? 🤔; leeks very common; different types and colors of cheeses!), plus there's a good variety of items that make good souvenirs/gifts, and DON'T cost an arm and a leg as at tourist sights. I dearly wanted Christmas tree ornaments, too, but even in Oxford at Christmastime all I could find were either super expensive (like £12+ ($16) each), or just generic Christmas-y. I found that reusable (jute) shopping bags were very popular gifts and I love seeing these bags being used around town 🙂. AND the most expensive one cost ~$5 at Waitrose. In the pic below (yay, I did a photo! I didn't mean it to be so large, though ...) all the bags are from Waitrose except the lifeboat one (from a lifeboat station in Cornwall) and the bored-looking rabbit (from a bookstore in Romania), which my kids think is HILARIOUS. ETA: I use these bags all the time (I use different ones for each activity, such as music, the library, or the gym) and they are a lovely reminder of our trips each time. And the smaller ones are just as handy and easier to bring back. And 2 years ago I did find wonderful, affordable Christmas-tree ornaments at Marks & Spencer, of British icons such as red phone booths and red pillar (mail)boxes – but none were to be found last Christmas ...
  20. I second In Bruges, Roman Holiday, and Hot Fuzz, and got lots of ideas from the PPs. The “classics” for us include any Marx Bros. film The Awful Truth High Noon It Happened One Night Master and Commander Bend It Like Beckham Glory Waking Ned Devine Cold Comfort Farm A Room with a View adding: Gosford Park, Stagecoach (1939), Strictly Ballroom, Le Dîner de Cons (French, 1998), Le Magnifique (French, 1973), Henry V (Branagh), Back to the Future, Chariots of Fire, Arsenic and Old Lace, Gran Torino .... Oh, do NOT miss the Ealing Studios classics "Ladykillers" (1955) and "Kind Hearts and Coronets" (1949)
  21. I second (third) Rick Steves – his website has free videos (all of his TV shows, in fact, plus talks he and his sidekicks have given) on sights, packing, etc. Loads of information. And the Rick Steves travel forums are very helpful. Many first-time travelers post there with basic questions. In London (we've been 7 times in the last 3 years lol) we always try to do a London Walk. They are always fantastic, informative, and entertaining. A great value at, I think, £10. One of our recent walks was in the Rotherhithe neighborhood (I think it was the Brunel walk; we went by the Mayflower pub – if you pop your head in you'll see a poster showing the original Pilgrims on the ship and who was left after the first year) and one of the people on the walk was a native Londoner who was intending to do all the walks (over a period of years) to learn more about her city. The walks are nice b/c you just show up, so you can decide at the last minute based on the weather, your energy level, your location, etc. You can also slip quietly away if 2 hours of sights and information is too long when you're jet-lagged 🙂 @saw – please compliment your son on his website! I am definitely interested in seeing where the Liberty Bell was cast (not least b/c I've done some tower-bell ringing in England!); unfortunately there may be plans to turn it into a boutique hotel (!). I didn't notice Benjamin Franklin's house on his list ... And St Dunstan-in-the-West has some information posted about people from the church who settled in the American colonies; Lord Baltimore is buried there. Might be worth checking out! And we have been in London several times around Christmastime and were intrigued by the Christmas carol services at All Hallows by the Tower (what an evocative name!) but haven't been yet (too much else going on!). I will have to go sometime. Soror, you will have a wonderful time! I also recommend packing light. We look for light, unbreakable souvenirs and gifts. Some of the most popular have been CDs of music from churches (like St Bride's in London; Oxford churches; etc.) for people who like that sort of thing; key chains w/iconic local things such as Eiffel tower or Paddington bear (they were easier to find and cheaper than Christmas-tree ornaments, which is what I wanted to find); small children's books; posters or prints from museums; handmade soaps (from Dartmoor), etc. Oh, and from England – tea, of course. Because people all have different tastes in tea, I've gotten a nice selection (from Waitrose or Sainsbury's; places like Kew Gardens have their own brands, too, sometimes available in the grocery stores as well) and I made a "tea-of-the-month club" where I gave people a few tea bags of a certain kind every month – Twinings Earl Grey, Taylors/Kew Gardens organic Rose Lemonade, Clipper Snore & Peace 😊, teapigs super fruit, etc. Oh, funky pencils or magnets from the British Library or British Museum are affordable and fun. I will be in Paris in May and not sure what I'll bring back ...
  22. OP says both have to be in the same hobby. I picture something like, for example, open-ocean sailing – need more than one person, and not safe for just one person. Or ballroom dance. Or along similar lines, a hobby that is just really time-consuming to the exclusion of joint activities. I'm interested in the responses as well. No advice, b/c I am fortunate that my husband still likes to hike and travel (my favorites; although I could go – and have – with friends); I bike and do music (I play in several groups) without him, and he is supportive and accommodating. (He has even become the unofficial videographer for some of my music groups.) But who knows ... people change ... (And I would be thrilled if he would bike with me ... but I don't technically need a companion.)
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