The entrance of the children's bookstore Hicklebee's in San Jose.

Excited by children’s books’ artifacts, Hickelbee’s in San Jose

Hicklebee's where books come alive sign.

Exit through the gift shop, is not only an experimental documentary by street artist Bansky but the strategic reality of most museums. At Hicklebee’s, a quaint children’s bookstore in the lovely Willow Glen neighborhood of San Jose, that idea is turned on its head: a museum in a bookstore. 

The wall with authors and books artifacts at Hicklebee's, San Jose.

Hickelbee’s employee Carol Schweppe and her husband Steve brought their vision of children’s books alive with artifacts sprinkled around the store. Over the cash register a sign with their motto: Hicklebee’s – where books come alive. When I spotted the Nimbus 2000 I knew exactly what they meant. 

Don and Audrey Wood - Smoking Hot Pens - Original art created following a Hicklebee's signing in 1985.

In a display case on the left from the entrance, you can find more examples of literate artifacts. There is Harold’s purple crayon and an oversized acorn from Chicken Little. And, the authors themselves left their marks. Pictures of smoking pens from a signing by Don and Audrey Wood for example. In every nook you can find autographs and caricatures.

A wall of Hicklebee's with signatures and caricatures from authors.

With this much attention to detail it is no surprise that Hickelbee’s is a well stocked independent children’s bookstore. 

Have you spotted interesting artifacts at Hicklebee’s?

Another independent bookstore with a fascinating history, gives space to the counterculture of the 60s. See my blog post on Kepler’s in Menlo Park.

Paintings by Natasha Kramskaya

Celebrate ‘An American Mosaic’ in San Jose

Different salsas at the Chili Mole Pozole Festival.

The gallery exhibit from Works ‘An American Mosaic’ celebrates many firsts, first live gallery exhibit for this year, first collaboration with Mosaic America and School of Arts & Culture at Mexican Heritage Plaza. For me this was also my first time at the Mexican Heritage Plaza in San Jose. Last Sunday I enjoyed the Chili Mole Pozole Festival with live music, artisan vendors, and, of course, the exhibit of ‘An American Mosaic’. 

RGB by Tulio Flores at the 'An American Mosaic'.

The $10 entry fee was for the festival and it came with a bag of tortilla chips and a choice of salsas. My two salsas were both pretty spicy.  

Fourteen San Jose artists express their creativity and love for the Bay Area. As diverse as the artists are their works, with sculptures, painted bottles, and many different painting styles. It felt good to be experiencing art again and I enjoyed the multitudes of ideas and approaches. My favorite was Tulio Flores RGB.

This exhibit will tie in with the upcoming free Mosaic Festival on October 2. Mosaic America celebrates the diversity of America through art, performance, movement, and food. So, maybe this will be your first festival of the year? 

Artisan vendors at the Chili Mole Pozole Festival, School of Arts & Culture at Mexican Heritage Plaza.

If you are still a bit hesitant about festivals you can view the exhibit the next two weekends (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) from 12 – 4: except October 2nd.

The Silicon Valley Mosaic Festival is Saturday, October 2nd, from 12 – 6pm at the School of Arts & Culture Gallery at Mexican Heritage Plaza, 1700 Alum Rock Ave at King Road, San José

Admission is free.

How do you celebrate diversity?

artists:

Fco1980

'An American Mosaic' exhibit view.

Dan Fenstermacher

Tulio Flores

Force129

Richard Hoffman

Natasha Kramskaya

Jennifer Lay

Johanne Marion

Elizabeth Jiménez Montelongo

Betty Proper

Ally Spray

Kenneth Tan, The Lola x Kenneth Collaboration

Roan Victor

Yxaya

If you need more inspiration from San Jose artists try the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art (ISA) or the galleries at SJSU.

Stairs to Esplanade Beach, Pacifica.

Step down to Esplanade Beach, Pacifica

Shoes on Esplanade Beach with Pacific in the back.

Esplanade Beach was our most recent discovery. We grabbed some lunch from Rosalind’s Bakery (recently featured on a post about my favorite sweet treats) and drove down to Esplanade Beach. Street parking was plentiful. The first impression from above was not too thrilling. We parked near a chain linked fence that was obstructing our ocean view and left us with an uneasy feeling about the safety of these cliffs. The entrance to the beach is on Esplanade Ave, which has multiple apartment complexes. There were a few benches on a lookout above. 

Stairs to the Esplanade Beach in Pacifica

The real treat is the stairs leading down to the beach. This is quite a workout! I did not count how many steps or switchbacks there were but they kept on going. I would recommend slowing down for the last part because the sand on the stairs makes them slippery. 

Looking up at the stairs cliff side with sparse plants and netting.

You can tell that the stairs have gotten an overhaul recently. The plants to minimize erosion haven’t filled out the netting yet.
This is Pacifia’s only official off leash dog beach. We saw a few dogs enjoying the run. Visit Pacifica warns to check out the tide schedule since the beach can be narrow at high tide.  For the same reason,  you should probably refrain from walking here during stormy weather.

Looking up the cliff at Esplanade Beach, Pacifica.

If you are looking for a volunteer opportunity, September 18th is Coastal Cleanup Day. A great way to beautify these beaches and remove plastic pollution. If you’re really enjoying this you can help clean Esplanade Beach every 3rd Saturday of the month.

How do you step up for your local beaches?

If you relish an outdoor steps workout also consider Communication Hill in San Jose, or the Trailhead stairs in Saratoga.

Bench with spray painted Peace

Find Peace Hiking the Milagra Ridge, Pacifica

Entrance to a bunker with graffiti at Milagra Ridge, Pacifica.

Historically the Milagra Ridge was not known for peace, in fact several 6-inch guns were mounted here in 1948 as part of a project to protect San Francisco. In 1959, Milagra Ridge was known as Nike Missile Site SF-51. Surface-to-air missiles were stationed here and the entire area was fenced and patrolled by guards with dogs. You can still see the remaining bunkers, now spray painted with graffiti. 

View from the Miragra trail towards the Pacific.

These days Milagra Ridge gives shelter to threatened and endangered species, like the Mission blue and San Bruno elfin butterfly, and the California red-legged frog. This makes this park exceptionally vulnerable to human disturbance. Maybe this also explains the minimal parking, about six spaces off Sharp Park Rd. 

Nevertheless nowadays Milagra Ridge offers amazing views, weather permitting, of the Pacific. You can see the Pacifica pier from here. The hike itself was fairly easy. We did loop around for a 1.5 mile hike, and there were some steps involved. But if you are wheel-dependent there are also some paved roads. I was disappointed that the labyrinth was closed off due to butterfly protection efforts.

Labyrinth at Milagra Ridge, Pacifica.

Milagra Ridge is a 239 acres park of the National Park Service Open Space in Pacifica and part of the 119 square mile Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Where do you find peace?

Steps to an overlook at Milagra Ridge trail.

Another option to find a peaceful hike is the Land of Medicine Buddha in Soquel.

If you are looking for more hikes with steps I wrote the post for a hike in Saratoga: 

Climb some Stairs in Saratoga

Inside the orchetaria showing 3 electric pianos and some dining tables.

Dine and be Serenaded, Orchestria in San Jose

The Orchestria Palm-Court is a very special restaurant in San Jose. It serves great continental European cuisine, but the attractions are the many electric pianos. 

Electric piano with rolls of music and a poster for Golden Summertime.

You’ll be time traveling in this brick building from 1910. The decor is art nouveau with Tiffany lamps and Thonet’s No. 14 chairs. The music comes from the electric pianos, orchestrions (self-playing orchestras), and jukeboxes, all built around the 1920s. Our server moved around starting up the machines. He played jazz and classical music, and gave us a taste of the huge varieties of their electric pianos.

Popcorn machine at the Orchestria in San Jose

Partly the mechanics of the piano is exposed and you can see the rolls of encoded paper rolling around and pulling levers. The room is filled to the brim with machines and other paraphernalia, like the 1910 popcorn maker that butters every corn individually. We were encouraged to walk around and take a look at the machines. Since we booked an early dinner and, maybe also thanks to the Jazz Festival, the dining room was only occupied by us and one other family. For us, it was entertaining to guess which machine produced the music. 

A Poppy Dew from the vintage soda fountain at Orchestria.

We also enjoyed the food, they take pride in using all organic produce. I have to say, the vintage soda fountain drinks were my personal highlight. I enjoyed a Poppy Dew, fresh lime, orange sorbet and mint. But, let me tell you this was a hard decision. Parking was a challenge, so plan for that. Overall this is a true experience.

The Orchestria Palm-Court is located at 27 E. William St in San Jose, part of the hip SOFA district. They are only open Fridays and Saturdays for dinner. Please make a reservation ahead.

A box of music, Doin' the Raccoon.

Have you been to the Orchestria?

Near the Orchestria is the Institute of Contemporary Art and the Quilt and Textile Museum

I did not receive any form of compensation for writing this post.

Spray painted sign: J-TOWN

Dive into J-town, San Jose

Santo Market mural in J-town, San Jose.

Sunday I convinced my family to come with me on an augmented reality tour of J-town – Hidden Histories of San Jose Japantown. J-town, or Japantown, in San Jose is one of three remaining Japanese communities in California, the others are in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Augmented lotus of the hidden histories tour of j-town on a phone

I saw an announcement for the augmented tour and we printed out the map from hiddenhistoryjtown.org and downloaded the AR-vos app on ar-vos.com. Our first stop was Santo Market, a supermarket with a great mural. The app showed us pictures from farmers and when you clicked on a seed it turned into a green vegetable, best guess broccoli. 

Augmented Taiko. It reads: 1973 San Jose Taiko is dedicated to cultural understanding creative expression & rhythmic heart beat.

The intersection of Fifth and Jackson St has floating blue lotuses. If you walk over to the Issei Memorial you see more images and a short Taiko performance with animated characters. This, I think, was my favorite. But overall the experience might be for a younger audience. My teenager wasn’t impressed at all.

Plants and toys at Zonkey's.

While walking around we found a store that sells plants and collectible toys – Zonkey – what a great combination! 

Our last try with the augmented tour was in front of San Jose’s Buddhist Church. You could place Chattra Umbrellas on the sidewalk. I got mine to spin, my husband multiplied his. 

The real treat were the two chalk drawings left over from the Obon Festival. Beautiful. 

Chalk art mural in J-town, San Jose.

In conclusion, I would not recommend the augmented tour, but a real tour of J-town is well worth it. 

A few more tips if you decide on doing the augmented tour. We found that we had to restart the app for every station. Also, the maker of the app, AR-vos, recommend bringing an extra phone charger. And I agree, the app will drain your battery. Always be aware of your surroundings and don’t walk into the streets in order to view the art.

While you are in Japantown, I also highly recommend the Japanese American Museum.

Have you explored J-town before?

A sign at the Lower Guadalpe River Trail about Lupe the Columbian Mammoth

Excavate the Story of Lupe the Mammoth in San Jose

In 2005, Roger Castillo, a citizen scientist, walked his dog along the Guadalupe River in San Jose. He spotted some bones. First he thought they were cow bones, but a closer inspection led him to believe it was a different animal. He called a geologist from San Jose State. The UC Museum of Paleontology excavated part of a skull, a femur, some toe bones and a rip fragment of a young mammoth. 

The Lupe sculpture at the Lower Guadalupe River Trail.

Lupe the Mammoth, named after the Guadalupe River, was a juvenile Columbian Mammoth. It was a big revelation for the scientific community since these are the most intact remains of a mammoth ever found in Santa Clara County. Today the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose has the remains of Lupe on display. The museum also teaches kids about the works of ​​paleontologists, with a hands-on exhibit.

Mamu looking into the Children's Discovery Museums exhibit of Lupe the Mammoth.

There are two sculptures of mammoth in San Jose. Both depict adult size mammoths and are about 11-foot high. One is on the outside of the Children’s Discovery Museum looking into the exhibit made by Blue Rhino Studio. The other is near where Lupe’s remains were found. This statue is an 11-foot bent pipe sculpture by Greenmeme Artists Freyja Bardell and Brian Howe. The juvenile Lupe mammoth was probably 6-feet tall.

Sign for the Lower Guadalupe River Trail with the sculpture of Lupe in the back.

If you want to see the metal sculpture, parking is tight around there. I recommend you bike the Guadalupe River Trail. On your ride you can stop at both sculptures.

In a KQED video UC Berkeley’s Paleontologist Kaitlin Maguire

 explains the history of Lupe and her involvement of the exhibit at the Children’s Discovery Museum.

What do you know about Columbian Mammoth?

If you decide to bike the Guadalupe River Trail maybe keep on going to the Three Creeks Trail and see the iris garden?

Resources

About Mammoth

https://ucmp.berkeley.edu/mammal/mammoth/about_mammoths.html

Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose

https://www.cdm.org/mammothdiscovery/index.html

Castro Valley Marketplace sign

Meet up with some Friends at the Castro Valley Marketplace

Seven Hills Baking Co inside of Castro Valley Marketplace.

We are all ready to go out again to meet friends. I know, the mask mandate for indoor places has been reinstated. Nevertheless you could go to the Castro Valley Marketplace, shop and hang out at the many outside tables. This is a much smaller version of the San Francisco Ferry Building, but they both talk to the foodie in you. Castro Valley Marketplace has olive oils and spices, an artisan bakery, and a butcher, a sushi counter, and a brewery. All of this gets put together with a natural food store. Oh, and the basement has a cellar and lounge. You immediately get why their slogan is: “Only good things, only good food”.

Outside patio of the Castro Valley Marketplace.

We visited on a Sunday with the brunch crowd. There was a band playing outside and people were enjoying themselves. Nobody seemed to mind the 50 minutes wait for their food order. This space is made for gatherings. If you want to grab a quick bite you might choose the prepared foods at Castro Valley Natural Grocery. This, by the way, is Castro Valley’s first locally owned, independently operated, and certified green whole health market. Besides the tables outside there are a few tables upstairs. The upstairs right now hints at the potential for more gatherings with a pop out kitchen. Future plans are to have cooking classes and local makers to share their talent and products.

Formerly the Daughtrey’s department store, the Castro Valley Marketplace had its grand opening on July 9th, 2021.

Castro Valley mural inside of the Castro Valley Marketplace.

You can find the Castro Valley Marketplace at 3295 Castro Valley Boulevard.

I did not receive any compensation to publish this blog post. 

Remember my post from two weeks ago: Treat yourself to something sweet? If you were looking for the alfajores and did not have time to stop by the Wooden Table Cafe in Oakland, you can find them at the Castro Valley Natural Grocery store!

A cow is part of the climbing structures at Discovery Farm.

Discover a Farm – Martial Cottle Park in San Jose

Martial Cottle Park celebrates the agricultural history of Santa Clara County. The land was gifted to Santa Clara County by Walter Cottle Lester, who was the last of a 150 year farming legacy.

Trail at Martial Cottle Park in San Jose.

A visitor center presents the heritage; outside, information tables with a timeline put the development in perspective. Trails, picnic areas, and green spaces occupy some of the 287 acres. Jacobs organic Farm and community education programs occupy 180 of these acres. The UCCE Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County help with community education about agriculture and the environment. And, the 4-H youth development, and Our City Forest, also found a home at Martial Cottle Park. 

A tunnel for climbing at the Discovery Farm playground.

Appropriately named Discovery Farm is the playground at Martial Cottle Park.  Some challenging climbing structures, farm animals to scale, and a tractor are the attractions. There are a few rules for the 5 – 12 year olds posted at the entrance of the playground such as sufficient strength and coordination, advisable parental supervision, etc. Additional COVID-19 protocols are in place. The water feature is turned off due to drought regulations.

Climbing structure at Discovery Park, San Jose.

Martial Cottle Park 

5283 Snell Ave San Jose, CA 95136

Opening hours are 8 am till sunset. 

Parking fees are $2 per hour or $6 all day.

Have you been to Martial Cottle Park?

Coffee mug with cocohodo.

Treat Yourself to Something Sweet

Today my mother would’ve been 80. Being German she loved coffee and cake in the afternoon. I’ll definitely have a nice piece of cake and a strong coffee in her honor. In this post I picked five Bay Area bakeries with special treats I love. I am not affiliated with any of the businesses and have not received anything for posting this. (This is not to say I wouldn’t be open to a taste test.)

Pastelaria Adega – San Jose

Pastel de nata at Pastelaria.

One of my favorite sweets is pastel de nata, a Portuguese egg custard tart pastry. Pastelaria Adega in San Jose does it right. You can watch them making the tart and stirring the custard in a large copper pot. Besides the traditional plain they also have fruit versions. If you are not interested in custard, maybe try some of their donuts, or savory items?

Wooden Table Baking Co – Oakland

A display of alfajores at the Wooden Table Cafe.

Alfajores – You had me at dulce de leche; put two shortbread cookies around and you get this Argentinian dessert. For an extra indulgence try them covered in chocolate! They also have many gluten-free options.

Cocohodo – Sunnyvale

Machine making cocohodo at Cocohodo in Sunnyvale.

Cocohodo is a traditional Korean pastry, shaped like a walnut, filled with bean paste and a chunk of walnut. If I still had a small child this would be my go-to place. You can watch the machine that makes the pastry right there, while also enjoying their great coffee.

Mini Taiyaki Cafe – Santa Clara

A taiyaki waffle shaped fish.

Another Korean favorite are taiyaki – fish shaped cakes filled with either custard, hazelnut spread, or red bean paste. They are freshly made and come in four fishes. The cafe is actually a hair salon and due to COVID restriction not a sit-down cafe. The taiyaki are fun when they are warm, but they don’t travel well.

  • Mini Taiyaki Cafe
  • 5075 Stevens Creek Blvd
  • Santa Clara, CA 95051

Rosalind Bakery – Pacifica

Croissants from Rosalind.

The artisan bread at Rosalind is amazing, but their croissants are what I crave. The almond one is filled with almond paste, topped with shaved almond, and the crunch is music to my ears.

Where do you go for sweet treats?