Table setting at the Los Altos History Museum Silicon Valley Eats exhibit.

Foodies reunite in this exhibit

The last time I went to the Los Altos History Museum I came back with some old recipes. This time it was again a food inspired exhibit that spiked my interest: Silicon Valley Eats. Silicon Valley was formerly known as the Valley of Hearts Delights with orchards and canneries. This  is the natural starting point for this exhibit. I liked the different menus from restaurants in Los Altos displayed on the wall.

Place setting at the J. Gilbert Smith House, Los Altos.

There were a lot of information about new and inventive foods. Did you know that 80% of the world’s population eats bugs?

The J. Gilbert Smith House next door also has a Silicon Valley feel to it with its scavenger hunt-like exhibit about Gadgets Galore! Our guide pointed out different old mechanical devices. For example, there is an adding machine – and in fact, all it does is add.

Adding machine at the J. Gilbert Smith House, Los Altos.

In the spirit of invention, the History Museum can point to the walnut huller. They own the prototype and the actual working huller. All invented in Los Altos.

Part of the walnut huller, Los Altos History Museum.

Both exhibits run through early September and are free (donations are appreciated). The Los Altos History Museum is open Thursdays to Sundays noon – 4 pm.

This was our first group outing. Thanks to everyone who joined me! If you like to be included in future group activities contact me, or sent me an email under untilsuburbia@gmail.com.

Are you a foodie?

Rose bush at the Los Altos Nursery

Go plant shopping

By the rate I tell you about public gardens you must know by now that I do like seeing growing things. A nursery, a place where they grow plants and sell them, is the perfect outing if you just needed to see some greenery. I did end up buying some plants anyway, but enjoyed the view nonetheless.

Los Altos Nursery painted by Will Maller.

I learned about the Los Altos Nursery at Los Altos City Hall of all places. At City Hall, in the council meeting chamber, they exhibit local artists depicting some of their favorite places in the city. I was drawn to the image from Will Maller, titled Los Altos Nursery, showing a little bridge over a fish pond. The description revealed a much deeper history of this commercial business.

Accounts vary but by around 1915 the Furuichi family had bought 5 acres of land and began farming on Hawthorne Ave. By 1942 the Furuichi were forced out and detained to Heart Mountain, an internment camp in Wisconsin. George Furuichi served in the 422nd Infantry Regiment. Ironically, after the men were placed in the camps as a security risk , they were drafted out of the camps into the US army.  The 442nd was almost entirely comprised of second generation Japanese Americans; it is the most decorated unit in U.S. military history. Thanks to Frank and Marge Rossi, friends of the Furuichi, who protected their property, the Furuichi were able to return to their land, unlike other Japanese Americans who lost everything. In 1947 they established the Los Altos Nursery.

Koi pond at the Los Altos Nursery

The little bridge with the koi pond is still there. Hidden with bamboos and some buddha statues watching over it, it is the perfect entrance to this well loved establishment.

Buddha statue at Los Altos Nursery

Open from May to September, Thursdays – Mondays 9 am – 5 pm.

Have you been to the Los Altos Nursery?



Los Altos Farmers Market

Buy local produce

Every farmers market, like every downtown in Silicon Valley, has their own feel to it. In my opinion the most exquisite is the Los Altos Farmers Market. Every Thursday evening, 4 pm – 8 pm,  from May to September, State Street between 2nd and 3rd,  transforms into a community haven.

Naan bread in an oven, Los Altos Farmers Market.

I started my journey into the market at the intersection of State St. and 3rd. A waft of smoke from a BBQ grill was blowing in my direction. My attention got quickly drawn to the man with a stick, pulling out round flat loafs of bread from a circular oven. The bread was sticking to the sides. Seeing the line for the Indian food, that this bread was part off, was another indicator for a recommendation you don’t need to check your yelp for.

Woman pressing a tortilla at the Los Altos Farmers Market.

All of these food stalls were competing on the high level. The rotisserie chicken looked as amazing as the food from the Oaxaca kitchen, where a woman, in traditional embroidered apron, was pressing tortillas.

Twinkle Dee Star, kids entertainment at the Los Altos Farmers Market.

Behold, this is not only a food truck affair. You can get your regular fresh, local produce here, too. Everything from olive oil to meats, over to fresh cut flowers, baked goods, vegetables, and fruit.

Even the kids entertainment was plentiful. Face painting, Lego building, and music make it a relaxing experience for the whole family.

Squash at the Los Altos Farmers Market.

The Los Altos Farmers Market is certainly smaller than the neighboring Sunday Mountain View market, but it feels like a step up from the market hussle and bussle to a shopping delight for all senses and age groups.

Which one is your favorite Farmers Market?


Redwood grove in Los Altos

Take a forest bath

Shinrinyoku is Japanese and literally means forest bath. It’s about the relaxing effects walking in a forest can have, improving our wellbeing.

Redwood Grove Nature Preserve, Los Altos.

Forest hikes are plentiful in the Bay Area. If you live in Silicon Valley and need a quick dip in a forest I recommend the Redwood Grove Nature Preserve in Los Altos, right next to Shoup Park.

Looking up at at group of redwoods, Los Altos, CA.

The information at the entrance talks about how almost a century ago redwood saplings from the Santa Cruz Mountains were planted by Emma Halsey. Due to the lack of fog drip the health of the redwoods is declining and the risk of falling increased. Therefore this beloved park is going through a mayor overhaul. With the help of Grassroot Ecology, a non-profit in Silicon Valley, the Redwood Grove Nature Preserve has been replanted and restored with more locally appropriate plants. One of their achievements is the Adobe Creek Streambank Stabilization Project. An info table shows how they bioengineered the creek to flow in a slower pace.

Walkway through the grove, Los Altos.

The walkway through this little grove is amazing and in great condition. Calm sets in immediately. The path meanders through the grove with the Adobe Creek crossing a few times and adding the sound of flowing water.

Boarded up Nature Center at the Redwood Grove, Los Altos.

Nevertheless the rest of the grounds needs some serious TLC. I could not find the rose garden, even though it is advertised on the map and on the cities website. The Nature Center is all boarded up and some raised garden beds are overgrown.

If you take the steps up from the nature walk – part of it is blocked by a fallen tree and you have to crouch underneath it to get by. I appreciated the pink ribbon that marks the poison oak bushes. Also a boy scout troop has labeled some native plants.

Are you into forest baths?

Hidden Villa in Los Altos Hills

Uncover a hidden villa

All these road signs pointing me in the direction of Hidden Villa lets me question their name choice. Seeing multiple groups of school children confirms it, this isn’t a hidden gem, but a gem nonetheless.

Kids feeding chickens at Hidden Villa, Los Altos Hills.

Teaching children about farm living, letting them touch sheep and feed chickens is an invaluable resource in our Silicon Valley lives. Above the town of Los Altos Hills, Hidden Villa is a full functioning organic farm. You might get your CSA box from Hidden Villa.

Sign saying: Welcome to the Educational Garden, Hidden Villa, Los Altos Hills.

One of the little people highlights is the educational garden. For those able they can crawl in through a tunnel, the grown ups need to enter through the gate. I liked their colorful signs naming the plants we were looking at.

Sheep at Hidden Villa, Los Altos Hills.

At the sheep’s pen a cute moment was when a group of children was entering. One of the preschoolers held his nose. “I’m dying!” he complained. A grandmother looking lady replied: “You are not dying!” Bill their friendly guide, who I am sure heard this all before, assure them that this is all normal on a farm.

Over the summer Hidden Villa is busy with summer campers. Check out their website if you are interested.  

Bunny Creek sign post for hikers at Hidden Villa, Los Altos Hills.

Hiking for every level is available on the grounds. By downloading the Easy2Hike app you can experience the ‘Living History Tour’ explaining a bit more on the historical side of Hidden Villa.

Please either bring $10 in cash for parking or pay online.

Have you ever been to Hidden Villa?

Bay Quilts store, Richmond.

Quilt for fun

I don’t quilt. In fact I have a love/hate relationship with my sewing machine. Don’t ask, it’s complicated.

Fabric bolts a Bay Quilts, Richmond

But the other day I went into a place that might change my mind about quilting. Bay Quilts is in an industrial park in Richmond. They are a fabric store and art gallery; and they hold workshops. Bay Quilts also manages to spin a community around their store.


The extensive selection on fabric was mind blowing. Many colors to brighten up your day. One of the helpful staff members asked me if I needed anything. I declined, “just looking at these.”

Fabric bolts at Bay Quilts, Richmond

“Oh, let me show you something.” she said conspiratorial, and I followed her to the far corner of the store.  I was blown away by the color pallete that was presented to me in these fabric bolts (bales). All I could say was: “Pure joy.” and my store fairy agreed: “Yes, pure joy.”

A handmade fairy overlooking Bay Quilts store, Richmond.

They also have interesting handmade fairies for sale, and other things related to sewing. If you really don’t want to sew yourself but like one of the quilts in the current exhibit, you, of course, are welcome to purchase that (assuming it is for sale).

Their current quilt show is called “Wooly Wanderings” by Jennifer Landau and runs until May 28th, 2019.


Are you a quilter?


Tree swing and artwork at the Albany Bulb

Locate the Art of the Bulb

The Bulb, also known as the Albany Bulb, is a former landfill owned in large by the city of Albany. Now a public park, you can find the Bulb at the end of Buchanan St., beside & behind Golden Gate Fields. It is a long walk or short hike from the small parking lot to the actual Bulb.

Dogs ready for some treats at Albany Bulb.

For that short hike, the Bulb is great. We encountered multiple dog walkers, their dogs enjoying a swim in the Bay and an off-leash run.

Tree swings at Albany Bulb.

To find the art work, I had to ask some of the dog walkers for directions. On a left turn towards the water we were greeted by four tree swings overlooking the water. As we found out tree swings are best enjoyed by humans younger than 10.

Artwork at Albany Bulb.

Another time, I have to test out the uneven path that leads towards the art with my teenager. He will probably like the rugged feel of it. Anything besides calling it a hike!

 Driftwood art at Albany Bulb.

I myself felt the need for hiking boots to stabilize my ankles. So, I shot a few pictures from afar and climbed back towards the regular paths. Along the way we saw another makeshift art out of driftwood. This makes for an interesting conversation along your walk on the Bay: “Is this art?”

Two documentaries describe the homeless situation and evacuation in 1999 at the Bulb. A historical occurrence and probably a living reality.

What do you like to do at the Bulb?  


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.