John Muir House, Martinez

Celebrate the Father of the National Park Service

It is hard to imagine that the huge Italian style villa on top of a hill in Martinez used to be the home of nature conservatist and writer John Muir. In fact, if you go in there you can see an old drawing of a log cabin that Muir build when he lived in what is now Yosemite Park; that feels more like him.

You can learn about Muir any time of the year, 7 days a week, from 1- am – 5 pm.

Bronze sculpture of John Muir, John Muir House, Martinez

A good introduction on everything Muir is the 20 minute movie in the visitor center. The bronze Muir outside the screening room is a perfect photo opp.

John Muir's scribbling den, John Muir House, Martinez.

In the Muir house I found his scribbling den most interesting. Our ranger made an impromptu tour for us and told us about Muir’s hard time writing, in spite of the fact that he was a very productive writer.

Ranger in front of the John Muir House, Maritnez.

Also, the house was really in female hands. Muir’s father in-law, Dr. John Strenzel, had build it and lived in it, but when he died his daughter Louisa, John Muir’s wife, inherited it. Luisa died before John but kept the tradition of handing it over to the daughters alive. Muir only owned the house for two years, after he purchased it from his daughter.

It might just be a coincidence that Muir’s birthday is April 21st a day before Earth Day, but the Muir house will take these occasions to celebrate both dates on Saturday April 20th, 2019, 10 am – 4 pm, admission is free.

How are you celebrating Earth Day?




Sam's Castle, Pacifica

Tour Sam’s Castle

Have you ever noticed the castle up on the hills in Pacifica? It has a fantastic history and lots of stories and artifacts. They open the doors to Sam’s Castle once a month for a tour. I was very happy when I got invited by the Mazza Foundation to see the castle. The Mazza Foundation is a  private philanthropic foundation established by the estate of our founder and last owner of Sam’s Castle, Sam Mazza.

Sam Mazza's throne at Sam's Castle in Pacifica.

The castle was built by Henry Harrison McCloskey in 1908, as an earthquake/fireproof home. Pete McCloskey, former California congressman, learned about his grandfather’s former home while canvassing in Pacifica with his dad. But the true king of the castle was Italian immigrant Sam Mazza. Sam acquired the castle in 1958 and was also the main decorator who had a reputation for collecting eccentric pieces.

Light refreshments after the tour of Sam's Castle, Pacifica.


Our hosts Jeannette, CEO of the Mazza Foundation and Bridget, author of the book ‘Sam’s Castle’ welcomed us. After a short movie of Sam Mazza’s life as a castle owner we learned a myriad of stories, from ghost stories to historical tidbits and tales from contemporary witnesses while inspecting some of the rooms. The tour ended with a light snack in the dining room overlooking the ocean.

They also hold music salons and high teas as special events. Please see the Mazza Foundation web site for details.

Chandelier at Sam's Castle, Pacifica.

A perfect outing for history buffs and location junkies like me. The place is full of Interesting nicknacks – and to preserve these, no one under 18 is allowed inside. I loved the opportunity to see the interior of this unusual place and enjoyed the history.

Have you been inside Sam’s castle?

Disclosure: I was invited to see this place. My review is an honest recapture.




Hallway of the fifth floor County Government Center, Santa Cruz

Admire young artists

Animal sculptures from students of the Tierra Pacifica Charter School, Santa Cruz

The County Government Center in Santa Cruz might not be the first place that comes to mind if you want to see local art. But while you are in to get a marriage license or to register to vote I strongly urge you to wander the halls of the first and fifth floor and admire the youth art exhibit. 300 artists from schools and art institutes in Santa Cruz County present their local talent until May 10th, 2019.

Mark your calendars if you are inspired. May 3rd is a First Friday Reception where you are invited to make art yourself.

Posters from students of Scotts Valley High School, Santa Cruz

‘Make art happen’ is the slogan of the Arts Council Santa Cruz County, and they are the driving force for this exhibit. In fact they exhibit year round at this location and at the Simpkins Family Swim Center, Health Service Agency, and other County offices.

I enjoyed seeing the different styles, from elementary to high school. They even have sculptures in the glass cases. My personal favorites were the political action posters from students of the Scott Valley High School, making us aware of equality, mental health of veterans, and gang violence issues.

Hallway of the County Government Center, Santa Cruz

The indirect lightning of the hallways might not be ideal for viewing the art, but I do appreciate a glimpse into the creativity of Santa Cruz County students.

Are you a supporter of youth art?



Visit a tiny museum

Visit a tiny museum

This probably doesn’t deserve the title museum, but it is an excuse to visit the Los Altos Town Crier, the weekly local paper for Los Altos.

Town Crier Bell Collection, Los Altos

The bell exponents can be viewed from the outside and show an expressive array of different bells from around the world. There is the cow bell and the prayer bell, a dinner bell, and a souvenir bell. Bells from Portugal, Switzerland, Mali, and Indonesia to pick a few of the countries.

Different bells, Los Altos

You may go inside Monday to Friday from 8 am to 5 pm and look at the curious displays of former glories. There are a few typewriters, or as the sign says: “This antique contraption was a popular typesetter in the last century. It was superseded by chips made from sand.” My favorite exhibit was the rock labeled: “A hunk of history”.

'Hunk of history' at the Los Altos Town Crier

The hallway up to the offices is walled with posters of the old Town Crier.

Hallway of the Los Altos Town Crier

If you are in Los Altos, please stop by this little ‘museum’. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and makes for some chuckles. Or if you have grandchildren you can show them some of the things from the good old days.  

What is your favorite item of former glory?




A pair of red-tailed hawks at the Sulphur Creek Nature Center, Hayward.

Meet some local wildlife

The Sulphur Creek Nature Center in Hayward is not only an educational facility – thousands of school kids and adults learn about local wildlife and domestic animals each year – it’s main purpose is the rehabilitation of sick, injured or orphaned wildlife found by the public.

Owl at the Sulphur Creek Nature Center in Hayward.

On my visit I was able to see a couple of owls, some red falcons and a golden eagle. And that’s just the outside volaris! Inside the center are snakes, frogs and spiders.

The owls were hard to spot, kind of a where is waldo game. It was harder for me to find the first snake and talked to a staff member. He assured me the snake is comfy in its hiding place. When I understood that concept I was able to spot some more creatures.

Who made this nest? display, Sulphur Creek Nature Center, Hayward.

There is also a display of animal skulls and one of different nests.
Saturdays and Sundays (10 am – 3 pm) you can take advantage of the Animal Lending Library. If you ever wondered what it would be like to own a mouse, hamster, rat or guinea pig here you can rent them for a week ($28, cage and other equipment is provided).    

Golden Eagle at Sulphur Nature Center, Hayward.

Opening hours are from 10 am – 4:30 pm, admission is free, but a donation is encouraged. $3 a day for two to three months could rehabilitate a baby racoon, or $2 a day for one month could help a baby rabbit. There are multiple ways to donate, not only the cash box at the entrance. Check out their amazon wishlist, bring by some items like dog food or trash bags (see list on the website), or adopt an animal.

How close have you been to local wildlife?

Contemplate among bonsais

Contemplate among bonsais

Seek out a tree and let it teach you stillness.

Eckhart Tolle

Medium sized bonsai trees at the Japanese Garden in Hayward.

If you are looking for well-manicured trees I recommend the Japanese Gardens in Hayward. A large variety of conifers, but also a few deciduous trees are styled in medium height bonsai fashion and where possible were shaped into rounded heads.

Bridge over the koi pond at the Japanese Garden in Hayward.

The gardens are surrounded by the San Lorenzo and Castro Valley Creek. Thanks to the rain the creeks below are filled with water and the rush of water accompanies you in the quest for serenity. Another water feature is a koi pond with a waterfall. Many of the koi are huge and might be on a diet, because the feeding is prohibited.

One of the gazebos at the Japanese Garden in Hayward.

The gardens wind in a few loops and have multiple gazebos for you to rest. On a smaller loop I heard a frog croaking; birds are also part of the natural entertainment. Overall a nice place to walk, contemplate, and enjoy nature.

The Japanese Garden is open daily, 8:30 am to 4 pm. Admission is free. No dogs allowed.

Have you been to the Japanese Gardens in Hayward?

Resources

https://www.haywardrec.org/DocumentCenter/View/5425/Japanese-Gardens-Brochure?bidId=

https://www.eastbaytimes.com/2018/02/12/haywards-hidden-gem-japanese-gardens/amp/



100 block mural project, San Jose

See 100 murals

The 100 Block Mural Project is going for a Guinness record. They created 100 murals, each their own 3×3 space, as a large continuously collaborative mural. You can admire the artwork at 300 First Street in San Jose, across the California Theatre.

Some of the 100 Block Murals
Some of the 100 block murals
Some of the 100 block murals
Some of the 100 block murals

The creators of this, Exhibition District, are not only on a mission to beautify the city; their plan was to discourage graffiti. And, what is really amazing, they paid the artists for their murals.

Two of the 100 block murals

And given that women are present but not well represented in the art community, they achieved a great set of statistics. Of the 100 artists, 90% of the artists are local, 50 males, 40 females and 10 non-binary.

Each of the art pieces has a different feel. But it is not overwhelming, rather fascinating. The official unveiling was done March 1st, 2019, so you’ll be able to still get a fresh look at them. While you are out check out other murals around. The SOFA districts booms with murals. But clearly the 100 block is something special in the world of murals. It brightened up a rainy day for me. More please!

Have you seen the 100 Block Mural Project?

Resources:

https://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/Artists-Collaborate-for-Guinness-World-Record-Mural-in-Downtown-San-Jose-506468401.html



A prob of John Steinbeck in front of an image of a cabbage field, Steinbeck Center, Salinas

Celebrate Steinbeck

Steinbeck Center entrance, Salinas

Steinbeck’s birthday is February 27. He would have been 117 this year. Steinbeck grew up in Salinas and later moved to New York. The Steinbeck Center in Salinas celebrates their famous author all year. Only closed for mayor holidays the center is open 7 days a week from 10 am to 5 pm. The entry fee for adults is $12.95 – a steep price tag for a roadside attraction.

Growing up East of Eden, Steinbeck Center, Salinas

The Center is conveniently placed at the beginning of Main Street, 1 Main Street. And the downtown area has lately been revived with modern eateries, coffeeshops, and breweries moving in.

On the other side, Salinas is still a town of rural farmland, with a saddening rate of one in four kids considered poor. This makes Steinbeck as present and meaningful as ever.

If you have kids in tow, they might enjoy the scavenger hunt that is offered. Grab a printout and a pen from the entrance area and start looking for clues.

Cannery Row reading, Steinbeck Center, Salinas

I have to admit I haven’t read anything by Steinbeck before. We did listen to The Grapes of Wrath and a lifetime ago I have watched East of Eden. So, with this challenged novice knowledge I was pleased to watch a bit of East of Eden coming into the Center. The history lessons dispersed throughout the exhibits were helpful. The little movie clips I glimpsed at made me hungry for more.

Steinbeck was awared the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962, Steinbeck Center, Salinas

A very interesting man in a very interesting town. Both worth checking out.

Have you read anything by Steinbeck?

There is also the Steinbeck House. Maybe on our next stop in Salinas.

Interesting article about the situation of Salinas kids from KQEDs California Report:

https://www.kqed.org/news/11716780/for-many-students-in-salinas-homelessness-is-becoming-the-norm



Storefront of a gift shop in Los Altos

Shop for some gifts

Every town and city in the Bay Area has its distinct feel. It’s hard to describe, but that’s what I love about it, too. Los Altos, for example, is all about gift shops. There are candy stores, toys and book stores, and several shops for giving presents.

Gallery 9 storefront, Los Altos

If you like to give some local art work, gallery 9 might be a good place to shop. Originally founded by 9 artists in Menlo Park, it relocated in 1973 and is now the oldest art gallery in Los Altos with over thirty artists.

Current exhibit at gallery 9 features Mam-Weber's paintings and ceramics by Shigemi Sanders

Every month they feature different artists in the front of the gallery. This month you can admire paintings from Mami Weber and ceramics by Shigemi Sanders. Gallery hours are Tuesdays – Saturdays 11 am –  5 pm and Sundays from 12 pm – 4 pm. Since it is an artist collective you will meet one of the artists on your visit.

Ceramic figures by Shigemi Sanders at gallery 9, Los Altos

Gallery 9 also participates in the Los Altos’ First Friday with an artists’ reception.

Do you love to give gifts?


Rebekah Bowman's photography at KCI gallery, Los Altos Hills

Get a glimpse of the Cuban School of Ballet

Did you know that the Cubans are as serious about ballet as they are about baseball? In fact the school is so successful that kids come from all over Latin America.

Rebekah Bowman, a Mexican-American photographer from Berkeley, went on and off to Cuba the last six years and captured the intensity of the young dancers.  You can see her work at the KCI Gallery at Foothill College. Until March 21st, 2019, nineteen images are shown in the gallery. Ballet images are perfect for the round space with the handrails on both sides. If you want you could probably re-enact the poses.

Rebekah Bowman's photography at KCI gallery, Los Altos Hills
Rebekah Bowman's photography at KCI gallery, Los Altos Hills

I found the choice of the black and brown photos printed on bamboo paper represented the fragility of the Cuban surroundings and helped the objects to shine. And shine they do, in strikingly perfect poses, all muscles. Bowman also managed to capture the playful sides of her objects. I imagined joyful, dancing teenagers. Hard working, but also developing into adulthood.

You can own the prints, prices are $500 for the small prints  and $800 for the larger ones.

Rebekah Bowman's photography at KCI gallery, Los Altos Hills

Wednesday, February 27th, 2019 the Foothill College will show Horizontes (2 pm – 3 pm, Room 4006 KCI), a documentary about two dancers of the National Cuban Ballet.

Wednesday, March 6th, 2019 there will be a Gallery Talk with professor Ron Herman (12 pm – 1 pm, KCI Gallery).

KCI Gallery hours are Monday – Thursday 8 am – 7 pm, Friday 8 am – 5:30 pm and Saturday 8:30 am – 4 pm. To get to the KCI Gallery you should use the parking lot #4, parking is $3.

Have you heard about the Cuban School of Ballet?