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?




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?



Visit a tiny museum

Visit a tiny museum

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.

Town Crier Bell Collection, 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.

Different bells, Los Altos

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”.

'Hunk of history' at the Los Altos Town Crier

The hallway up to the offices is walled with posters of the old Town Crier.

Hallway of the Los Altos 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.  

What is your favorite item of former glory?




A pair of red-tailed hawks at the Sulphur Creek Nature Center, Hayward.

Meet some local wildlife

The Sulphur Creek Nature Center in Hayward is not only an educational facility – thousands of school kids and adults learn about local wildlife and domestic animals each year – it’s main purpose is the rehabilitation of sick, injured or orphaned wildlife found by the public.

Owl at the Sulphur Creek Nature Center in Hayward.

On my visit I was able to see a couple of owls, some red falcons and a golden eagle. And that’s just the outside volaris! Inside the center are snakes, frogs and spiders.

The owls were hard to spot, kind of a where is waldo game. It was harder for me to find the first snake and talked to a staff member. He assured me the snake is comfy in its hiding place. When I understood that concept I was able to spot some more creatures.

Who made this nest? display, Sulphur Creek Nature Center, Hayward.

There is also a display of animal skulls and one of different nests.
Saturdays and Sundays (10 am – 3 pm) you can take advantage of the Animal Lending Library. If you ever wondered what it would be like to own a mouse, hamster, rat or guinea pig here you can rent them for a week ($28, cage and other equipment is provided).    

Golden Eagle at Sulphur Nature Center, Hayward.

Opening hours are from 10 am – 4:30 pm, admission is free, but a donation is encouraged. $3 a day for two to three months could rehabilitate a baby racoon, or $2 a day for one month could help a baby rabbit. There are multiple ways to donate, not only the cash box at the entrance. Check out their amazon wishlist, bring by some items like dog food or trash bags (see list on the website), or adopt an animal.

How close have you been to local wildlife?

Contemplate among bonsais

Contemplate among bonsais

Seek out a tree and let it teach you stillness.

Eckhart Tolle

Medium sized bonsai trees at the Japanese Garden in Hayward.

If you are looking for well-manicured trees I recommend the Japanese Gardens in Hayward. A large variety of conifers, but also a few deciduous trees are styled in medium height bonsai fashion and where possible were shaped into rounded heads.

Bridge over the koi pond at the Japanese Garden in Hayward.

The gardens are surrounded by the San Lorenzo and Castro Valley Creek. Thanks to the rain the creeks below are filled with water and the rush of water accompanies you in the quest for serenity. Another water feature is a koi pond with a waterfall. Many of the koi are huge and might be on a diet, because the feeding is prohibited.

One of the gazebos at the Japanese Garden in Hayward.

The gardens wind in a few loops and have multiple gazebos for you to rest. On a smaller loop I heard a frog croaking; birds are also part of the natural entertainment. Overall a nice place to walk, contemplate, and enjoy nature.

The Japanese Garden is open daily, 8:30 am to 4 pm. Admission is free. No dogs allowed.

Have you been to the Japanese Gardens in Hayward?

Resources

https://www.haywardrec.org/DocumentCenter/View/5425/Japanese-Gardens-Brochure?bidId=

https://www.eastbaytimes.com/2018/02/12/haywards-hidden-gem-japanese-gardens/amp/



100 block mural project, San Jose

See 100 murals

The 100 Block Mural Project is going for a Guinness record. They created 100 murals, each their own 3×3 space, as a large continuously collaborative mural. You can admire the artwork at 300 First Street in San Jose, across the California Theatre.

Some of the 100 Block Murals
Some of the 100 block murals
Some of the 100 block murals
Some of the 100 block murals

The creators of this, Exhibition District, are not only on a mission to beautify the city; their plan was to discourage graffiti. And, what is really amazing, they paid the artists for their murals.

Two of the 100 block murals

And given that women are present but not well represented in the art community, they achieved a great set of statistics. Of the 100 artists, 90% of the artists are local, 50 males, 40 females and 10 non-binary.

Each of the art pieces has a different feel. But it is not overwhelming, rather fascinating. The official unveiling was done March 1st, 2019, so you’ll be able to still get a fresh look at them. While you are out check out other murals around. The SOFA districts booms with murals. But clearly the 100 block is something special in the world of murals. It brightened up a rainy day for me. More please!

Have you seen the 100 Block Mural Project?

Resources:

https://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/Artists-Collaborate-for-Guinness-World-Record-Mural-in-Downtown-San-Jose-506468401.html



Rebekah Bowman's photography at KCI gallery, Los Altos Hills

Get a glimpse of the Cuban School of Ballet

Did you know that the Cubans are as serious about ballet as they are about baseball? In fact the school is so successful that kids come from all over Latin America.

Rebekah Bowman, a Mexican-American photographer from Berkeley, went on and off to Cuba the last six years and captured the intensity of the young dancers.  You can see her work at the KCI Gallery at Foothill College. Until March 21st, 2019, nineteen images are shown in the gallery. Ballet images are perfect for the round space with the handrails on both sides. If you want you could probably re-enact the poses.

Rebekah Bowman's photography at KCI gallery, Los Altos Hills
Rebekah Bowman's photography at KCI gallery, Los Altos Hills

I found the choice of the black and brown photos printed on bamboo paper represented the fragility of the Cuban surroundings and helped the objects to shine. And shine they do, in strikingly perfect poses, all muscles. Bowman also managed to capture the playful sides of her objects. I imagined joyful, dancing teenagers. Hard working, but also developing into adulthood.

You can own the prints, prices are $500 for the small prints  and $800 for the larger ones.

Rebekah Bowman's photography at KCI gallery, Los Altos Hills

Wednesday, February 27th, 2019 the Foothill College will show Horizontes (2 pm – 3 pm, Room 4006 KCI), a documentary about two dancers of the National Cuban Ballet.

Wednesday, March 6th, 2019 there will be a Gallery Talk with professor Ron Herman (12 pm – 1 pm, KCI Gallery).

KCI Gallery hours are Monday – Thursday 8 am – 7 pm, Friday 8 am – 5:30 pm and Saturday 8:30 am – 4 pm. To get to the KCI Gallery you should use the parking lot #4, parking is $3.

Have you heard about the Cuban School of Ballet?


Video arcade machines at High Score, Alameda

Get a high score

We went to the Pinball Museum in Alameda before and I was surprised that they also have an Interactive Arcade Museum.

Playing arcade games at High Score, Alameda

High Scores on Park St in Alameda (or B St in Hayward) is another rainy day option. $6 buys you an hour of fun, if you plan to stay longer you might want to invest in a $12 day pass. Teach your kid who is boss in Mortal Kombat II or eat some dots and ghosts in the classic Pac Man. A lot of these games are multiplayer, so, bring a friend or a few kids. You can also celebrate your next birthday or organize a team building event. The atmosphere is loud and crowded, but on our visit there you could always find a machine to try a game.

arcade inspired art

I liked the arcade inspired artwork above the video games and the Donkey Kong photo opp outside.

Pac-Man arcade game at High Score, Alameda

Which one is your all time favorite arcade game?


BAMPFA sign, Berkeley

Explore the Dimensions of art

A rainy Sunday is a great excuse to go to a museum. I convinced my family that the Dimensionism exhibit at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) would be worthwhile.

On the first floor the Harvey Quaytman: Against the Static is on display till January 27th and an excellent beginning of a study of shapes, textures, and colors. There will be a gallery talk on January 24th, at 5:30: Artist John Zurier joins curator Apsara DiQuinzio for a multifaceted look at Harvey Quaytman’s art.

A new exhibit that was not yet open last Sunday still brought me a lot of joy by just peeking at it and I can tell this will be a new highlight. Unfortunately you can’t touch the furry creations of Masako Miki but MATRIX 273 opened January 9th and runs till April 28th, 2019.

All these forms, shapes and colors will introduce you to the next level (on the lower level): Dimensionism: Modern Art in the age of Einstein. The modern artists interest in science, named Dimensionism, includes Kandinsky, Miró and Picasso. I really enjoyed the works of Isamu Noguchi, his sculptures representing the cosmic view with pleasing shapes.

Harold Edgerton’s Milkdrop Coronet was fascinating, not only the image, but the fact that he in 1933 invented the stroboscopic method of taking photographs with stroboscopic light, creating the illusion of freezing an action.

Staircase in the BAMPFA, Berkeley

The blood red stairway up to the Babette Cafe felt like being captured in an Andy Warhol print. But the friendly staff and yummy cake were well worth the transformation!

Thanks to Discover & Go, a service our library offers, we were able to get in for free. Usually adults pay $14, but there are many discounts available. People under 18 are always free. On the first Thursday of the month gallery admission is also free. The museum is open Sunday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 11 am – 7 pm, Friday and Saturday 11 am – 9pm. Since everything can change, it’s best to check online.

What is your favorite Dimension?

Quarry Lakes, Fremont

Hike around a quarry

One of our New Year’s Day traditions is to begin the new year with a short hike. The first time we did this we ended up on quite a hill which had frost on the ground.

This year we went to Fremont and hiked around the Quarry Lakes. ($5 parking fee)

Around the quarry is a moderate hike, I would guess under 4 miles, with a mostly flat path. The view is spectacular with surrounding mountains and always a great view of the water. We even saw an egret. The San Francisco Bay Area is part of the Pacific Flyway and a welcome stopover for many migrating birds.

A word of caution for people depending on wheelchairs, most of the path is gravel and I assume tough to maneuver. The beach area offers beach wheelchairs on a first come basis and the fishing pier and some picnic areas are also accessible. We did see bikers and they did not seem to mind the gravel. In fact the park’s trail network connects with the Alameda Creek Regional Trail. You could hike/bike from Niles Canyon all the way to Coyote Hills and the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge.

Quarry Lakes park, Fremont

Besides hiking there are opportunities to swim, fish, and boat. Swimming wasn’t that popular, but maybe we will come back in the summer to check this out.

Do you have a New Year’s Day tradition?

What are your favorite short hikes in the Bay Area?

Happy New Year!