Arizona Cactus Garden, Stanford

Unearth a different kind of superbloom

Cacti with flowers, Arizona Cactus Garden, Stanford

After ‘El Nino’ there is usually a superbloom. Southern California has more of these overgrown wildflower spots than we in the Bay Area. I was wondering if succulents and cacti also experience a superbloom right now. The answer is ‘Yes!’

The Arizona Cactus Garden in Stanford is my favorite hidden gem. Once there, you’ll be transported to a desert like area, with lizards showing you the way. There are huge plants with a phallic like bloom that easily spans 10 feet and cute little ground covers.

Blooming succulents at the Arizona Cactus Garden, Stanford.

A fuzzy cactus looks like a face with its little pink flowers. Succulents exude the most interesting flowers and colors.

You can find the Arizona Garden next to the Mausoleum on the Stanford campus.

Do you make the effort to see superblooms?

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?