The iris garden at the Three Creeks Trail in San Jose.

Bike by some irises

The water tower with the 3 indicates the entrance to the Three Creeks Trail in Willow Glen.

The Three Creeks Trail is a relatively new addition to the paved trail system in San Jose. It connects to the Los Gatos Creek Trail and the Guadalupe River Trail.

I love to find these small, hidden gardens. When we recently checked out the Three Creeks Trail in San Jose we came by the Iris Garden.

Snow Flurry, a white iris, in the iris garden on the Three Creeks Trail in Willow Glen.

This is a tribute to Ruth and Clara Rees who successfully crossed varieties of irises in the Willow Glen neighborhood. ‘Snow Flurry’ was created as a white iris with “broad, ruffled paddles, clear hafts, several buds in each spathe, good branching and excellent blue-green foliage.”

After some more research I found out that Clara really hit the jackpot and in 1939 grew “the most important iris ever created”.

Snow Flurry became the parentage of all modern TB irises. The iris garden used to be a much larger development in Willow Glen, and this little strip is all but an homage to them; honoring the botanist and flower lover Clara Rees.

Have you noticed the iris garden along the Three Creeks Trail? 

Resources:

https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/07/18/iris-gardens-return-to-the-reopened-three-creeks-trail http://www.historiciris.org/photos/snow-flurry-lm.html

https://www.historiciris.org/articles/notable-clara-rees.html

https://cbris.org/

https://theamericanirissociety.blogspot.com/2018/12/clara-b-rees-queen-mother-of-iris-world.html

https://theamericanirissociety.blogspot.com/2012/02/clara-and-ruth-rees-san-joses-iris.html

http://wiki.irises.org/Main/Bio/HybridizerReesClara

Dog walker and dog in rain coats.

Hike with your dog

Dog off leash at Pulgas Ridge Preserve.

The nice thing about the Bay Area is there are a myriad of options for hiking in relatively short distances from where you live. If you are a dog owner and want to bring your pooch with you on these hiking excursion, you might find that a lot of open spaces don’t allow dogs.To find a place that has an off leash policy is even rarer. 

End of the off-leash dog area at Pulgas Ridge Preserve. Sign reads: You are leaving the off-leash dog area. All dogs must remain on a leash beyond this point.

While the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space allows dogs in 11 of it’s 24  parks, only one – the Pulgas Ridge Preserve – has an off leash dog area. The 17.5 acre area where you can let your dog roam free in is located in the middle of the Preserve and is surrounded by the Hassler Loop trail. Your dog needs to be voice controlled and you should have a leash with you. And of course, you are always asked to pick up after your dog (only leave paw prints behind). 

Group of dog walkers at Pulgas Ridge Preserve.

For discoverers, the park is the former home of the Hassler Health Home, a tuberculosis sanitarium, some remnants of the building and stairs still remain.

Where do you hike with your dog?


Santa Cruz Warriors

Cheer on the G team

G team Santa Cruz warm up.

For some of us seeing the Golden State Warriors is out of the price range. A more budget friendly option I can recommend is to see the Santa Cruz Warriors – the G league team of the Golden State Warriors. 

Kaiser Permanente Arena in Santa Cruz.

The Stadium is, as the name suggests, in Santa Cruz, in the Kaiser Permanente Arena. Parking is tight, so arriving early would be the first tip. They usually hand out t-shirts or other cool merchandise and you can stock up on your favorite game foods and drinks, if you do.

What the seating chart doesn’t tell you is the first five rows are seats and the next eight rows are benches. I would definitely make sure next time we are in the blue seats. Nonetheless every seat has a good view of the court. You could still hear the squeaking of the sneakers from our 10th row seat. It felt very close to the team, but at the same time very local – the halftime show was adorable performed by a local dance class, the girl who sang the Star Spangled Banner was no older than twelve.

G Team scores.

We got to see the Warriors getting crushed by the Windy City Bulls, but left with the feeling we just saw a rising star with Bol Bol, who scored a career high 21 points for his Chicago team that night. But SC Warriors also might have a rising star: Smailagic, a Serbian native and the youngest player in the G league history. Three current SC Warriors players, including Smailagic, are also on the Golden State roster.  In fact, it is not unusual to see a rising star – and some now Warriors might even come and watch a game (we did spot Ky Bowman in the audience). 

Have you ever cheered on the G team?


Clive McCarthy's painting at San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art.

Get inspired by art

It’s always great to go see some art. If the admission is free and the art contemporary what holds you back?

Stephnie Syjocu, Total Transparency Filter at San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art.

The San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art (ISA) is located in the hip SoFa district. They regularly participate in the South First Fridays Art Walk, a self-guided nighttime tour through downtown’s art institutions.

Currently there are four exhibits running till the middle of March. 

Sense of Self – Bay Area photographers explore the subject of self. Artists are Marcela Pardo Ariza, Tammy Rae Carland, Erica Deeman, Jamil Hellu, and Stephanie Syjuco.

Electronic Paintings – by Clive McCarthy.

Chimera – by Stas Orlovski

LGBTQ+ Youth Space – a continued discussion about self and identity by the LGBTQ+ Youth Space. 

Mark your calendar: March 6th, 2020, First Friday will be co-hosted by the LGBTQ Youth Space and will feature performances, activities, and workshops around topics of identity, representation, and empowerment.

Clive McCarthy's painting at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art.

Clive McCarthy’s electronic paintings were my favorites. Large computer generated images, newly invented with each brush stroke of the pixel palette, creates a movie like assemble of an image. To mix up his generative art – art created by a computer algorithm – he will change the image sets every two weeks. You can even review his code in a separate room across from the lobby.

ISA is open every day of the week except on Mondays. Admission is free.

Where do you go to be inspired by art?

Walking in the cloud at the Devils Slide Coastal Trail.

Walk in the clouds

Sign for Devil Slide Coastal Trail.

The chances of fog are high at the Devil’s Slide Trail in Pacifica. The former Interstate 1 made hiking trail is a 1.3 mile stretch with ocean views on one side and a rocky hill on the other. 

At the Devils Slide Coastal Trail a warning sign: Step back steep cliff.

Numerous landslides made this stretch of Highway 1 a dangerous road. When San Mateo County proposed to have the interstate go over the Montara Mountain Ollie Mayer an activist and environmentalist fought successfully for a tunnel. The Devil’s Slide Trail opened in March 2014 as part of the initiative’s agreement. 

Since it is paved the trail is great for bikers, wheelchairs and strollers. When we arrived two moms just packed their babies into their cars. The slopes make it challenging for wheels and especially on wet days it can be tricky.

View of Egg Rock from Devils Slide Coastal Trail.

I particularly liked the story from one information sign of the reestablishment of the Common Murres colony on Egg Rock, a rock formation peeking out of the Pacific. An already diminishing bird population was erased by the Apex Houston 1986 oil spill. In 1996 a restoration project was started and the birds were tricked into recolonize by mirrors, decoys and broadcast murre calls, a method called social attraction. The Common Murres population grew from 12 in 1996 to 3200 in 2013! If you bring two quarters you can zoom in on Egg Rock with a telescope.

Exit of the south side tunnel at Devils Slide, Pacifica.

Parking is available on the north or the south entrance of the tunnel. Open from dusk till dawn. No parking fee. There is even a bus stop!

Where do you hike in the clouds?


Antique bottles filled with essential oils, at the Aftel Archive of Curious Scents.

Treat yourself to a smelling adventure

I usually try to find inexpensive things to do in the Bay Area. So I was reluctant to go to this little museum with a $20 entrance fee. But the sensory experience was totally worth it!

Little labels on the flasks tell you to Smell This, at the Aftel Archive of Curious Scents.

I’m talking about the Aftel Archive of Curious Scents in Berkeley. You can get tickets for this museum of scents online but they also welcome walk-ins. We were greeted warmly by Devon, who equipped us with some instructions, some strips to sample our own smells, and a wool cloth to neutralize our noses. 

Apothecary cabinet with elemi resin, dried roses, at the Aftel Archive of Curious Scents.

There are two apothecary cabinets with dried resins, woods and flowers. We spent most of our time here rubbing things and putting others up to our noses. The Elemi Resin, a dried tree sap, reminded my husband of the smell in an art studio. 

Book aficionados will enjoy the hundred year old books on fragrances and creating perfumes, and the window bench to relax and carefully turn the pages.

Not all smells are pleasing here – some Hyrax poop anyone? – but you learn that to create a perfume you have to have three levels of depth.

Perfume organ at the Aftel Archive of Curious Scents.

The centerpiece of the archive is the perfume organ, hundreds of little flasks filled with natural essential oils. You can dip your three strips into some oils to take home. 

The last experience is Mandy Aftel’s creation of edible essential oils that you spray onto chocolate, e.g. raspberry. These create the most amazing burst of flavor from the dark chocolate that is the baseline to the more floral or fruity oil.

The family business is only open Saturdays 10 am – 6 pm.  Admission is $20.

During the week Mandy Aftel is a perfume composer. You can buy her creations online or on your visit.

Have you been to the Aftel Archive of Curious Scents?

Gingerbread house, Los Altos

Find the gingerbread houses

The 32nd annual gingerbread exhibit in Los Altos had to relocate from its usual location, the now demolished Hillview Community Center. (It will be rebuilt). This year you can stroll through Los Altos downtown in search of the gingerbread creations. From December 10th to the 22nd of December, eight businesses and City Hall are showcasing locally made gingerbread houses. 

Gingerbread house, Los Altos

In each location, you can pick up a passport that lists all locations that have the gingerbread houses. But you have to find the first one! Once you find one, you can have your visit stamped. Some places let you hunt for it; some have multiple houses to show off; one had a little quiz.

Gingerbread house, Los Altos.

On December 19th, 2019, from 4-6:30pm, all participants, their families, and hosting businesses are invited to a Gingerbread Exhibit Crawl in Downtown Los Altos followed by a special reception at the Los Altos Youth Center. 

While I started out looking for the exhibit I stumped a few businesses asking for it. A lovely helper at Linden Tree bookstore called the city to ask where they were, I went to my first place, received the passport, but no edible house to view. It turns out the distribution wasn’t as smooth. (With such fragile deliveries, all needed to be done carefully, and hence ran a bit behind.)

Also the  Linden Tree store keeper referred us to a two-story, life-sized gingerbread house in the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. I’m sure that one is hard to miss.

Gingerbread house, Los Altos.

The four gingerbread houses at city hall are right by the entrance. I wasn’t able to get my passport stamped, as everyone was busy helping customers. If you can get all the stamps you can show your completed passport to the Recreation and Community Services desk (400 University Ave), you will be entered to win a gift card. 

Have you seen gingerbread houses around?


Dan Burnett Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge

Bike a bridge

If you have never biked the Golden Gate Bridge I highly recommend you do so. It is a great trip to take visitors to – go downhill to Sausalito, have lunch, and ferry back to the city.

Dan Burnett Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge, Cupertino

If you need a substitute scenic bridge, go for the Dan Burnett Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge in Silicon Valley. The bridge was  opened as the Mary Avenue Bicycle Footbridge in 2009. In 2010 it was renamed to honor the Cupertino City Councilman, Dan Burnett, an ‘avid cyclist and environmental activist’, who helped make this bridge a reality. He envisioned a bridge spanning over the 280 highway as a safe route across the interstate for bikers and pedestrians. 

The north entrance is right next to Homestead High and the south entrance is on Mary Ave. This cable-stayed bridge has an iconic look and makes for great pictures. In a cable-stayed bridge the weight of the deck is supported by a number of cables running directly to one or more towers.

According to Wikipedia, this is the only cable-stayed bridge across a highway in California. 

Two roads leading to the Dan Burnett Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge. One straight, one serpentine.

If you come from the north side you may notice the serpentine lane on your right. For people who prefer straight access, just stay on the path.

If you are interested in how this bridge was built, the builder, Golden State builder, has a cool video on their site: http://gsbridge.com/mary-avenue-video/

Do you have a bridge you like to bike across?

Rows of gifts at the Family Giving Tree warehouse.

Master your gift giving

If you belong to a church group, your kids are in boy scouts/girl scouts, or some similar groups, you might have your volunteer schedule for the holidays covered.

If you are still looking to give back this season I might have an idea for you.

Holiday Wish Drive cards from Family Giving Tree.

Have any of your coworkers displayed Family Giving Tree wish cards? Please grab one of these cards and give the gift of giving. I know that some large companies in the Bay Area have cards like these in the reception area and you would drop off your purchased gift with them.

You can also lead a drive. This means you will pick up these cards from Family Giving Tree and post specific wish cards in a well-traveled area, or give them out to your coworkers, friends, or family members . Then you would collect the gifts and drop them off at the warehouse. I don’t know why they don’t call it something like elf helper? 

Little girl wrapping a gift at the Family Giving Tree warehouse.

Since 1990 the Family Giving Tree (FGT) has provided more than one million gifts for Bay Area children, low income families and seniors. Their promise is to give an exact gift. If a person only gets one gift in the Holiday season, an exact gift, something he or she really wanted, can make all the difference.

Little boy playing with the gifts while his dad is wrapping gifts at the Family Giving Tree warehouse.


Last year I answered the call of FGT to help out at a warehouse in Santa Clara to wrap gifts. This was a two hour shift in a cold warehouse, but you just joined some people, made new friends, and shared some scissors and wrapping paper and off you went to beautify these gifts.

It was amazing to see all these volunteers; the volume of gifts warmed my heart.

Please consider volunteering this Holiday season.

Entrance to the Picchetti Winery, Cupertino

Taste some wine

It’s almost Thanksgiving and if you are looking for the perfect bottle to rise to the occasion you might want to consider going to a local winery and taste test some bottles/glasses.

Old barn at Picchetti Winery, Cupertino.

One of the oldest wineries in California, the Picchetti Winery, sits above Cupertino and its tasting room is open from 10 am to 4 pm every day. The Picchetti brothers, Secondo and Vincenzo, established the ranch in 1882 and first sold their grapes to local wineries. In 1896 they decided to produce their own wine. During Prohibition the wine production sunk dramatically and prune and apricot orchards replaced most of the grape vines. 

Entrance to the tasting room at Picchetti Winery, Cupertino.

In 1976 the Picchetti family sold 308 acres to the Open Space District, the Picchetti Open Space Preserve was established. Hiking on the Zinfandel Trail might expose you to the surrounding orchards and vineyards. Overall there are about 4 miles of hiking trails.

Since 1982 the District leases the winery back to winemakers, currently about 9,000 cases per year get produced, many of them award-winning.

Inside the tasting room at Picchetti Winery, Cupertino.

The tasting is $15 dollars for a flight of five wines. Wine bottle prices range from about $25 to $55, but a wine club is available. 

Picnic tables at Picchetti Winery, Cupertino.

The tasting room is nicely decorated, but you might want to enjoy your flight outside at the picnic tables. Maybe the peacocks will greet you.

Where do you go to taste test your wine?

Resources:

https://thepress.sfchronicle.com/review/picchetti-winery/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Picchetti_Brothers_Winery