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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com.
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.
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.
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.
Open from May to September, Thursdays – Mondays 9 am – 5 pm.
Shinrinyoku is Japanese and literally means forest bath. It’s about the relaxing effects walking in a forest can have, improving our wellbeing.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I don’t quilt. In fact I have a love/hate relationship with my sewing machine. Don’t ask, it’s complicated.
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.”
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
‘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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
The hallway up to the offices is walled with posters of the old 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.