Coffee mug with cocohodo.

Treat Yourself to Something Sweet

Today my mother would’ve been 80. Being German she loved coffee and cake in the afternoon. I’ll definitely have a nice piece of cake and a strong coffee in her honor. In this post I picked five Bay Area bakeries with special treats I love. I am not affiliated with any of the businesses and have not received anything for posting this. (This is not to say I wouldn’t be open to a taste test.)

Pastelaria Adega – San Jose

Pastel de nata at Pastelaria.

One of my favorite sweets is pastel de nata, a Portuguese egg custard tart pastry. Pastelaria Adega in San Jose does it right. You can watch them making the tart and stirring the custard in a large copper pot. Besides the traditional plain they also have fruit versions. If you are not interested in custard, maybe try some of their donuts, or savory items?

Wooden Table Baking Co – Oakland

A display of alfajores at the Wooden Table Cafe.

Alfajores – You had me at dulce de leche; put two shortbread cookies around and you get this Argentinian dessert. For an extra indulgence try them covered in chocolate! They also have many gluten-free options.

Cocohodo – Sunnyvale

Machine making cocohodo at Cocohodo in Sunnyvale.

Cocohodo is a traditional Korean pastry, shaped like a walnut, filled with bean paste and a chunk of walnut. If I still had a small child this would be my go-to place. You can watch the machine that makes the pastry right there, while also enjoying their great coffee.

Mini Taiyaki Cafe – Santa Clara

A taiyaki waffle shaped fish.

Another Korean favorite are taiyaki – fish shaped cakes filled with either custard, hazelnut spread, or red bean paste. They are freshly made and come in four fishes. The cafe is actually a hair salon and due to COVID restriction not a sit-down cafe. The taiyaki are fun when they are warm, but they don’t travel well.

  • Mini Taiyaki Cafe
  • 5075 Stevens Creek Blvd
  • Santa Clara, CA 95051

Rosalind Bakery – Pacifica

Croissants from Rosalind.

The artisan bread at Rosalind is amazing, but their croissants are what I crave. The almond one is filled with almond paste, topped with shaved almond, and the crunch is music to my ears.

Where do you go for sweet treats?

An ice cream taco on parchment paper.

Experience ice cream tacos, Rocko’s in Santa Clara

Ice cream taco with white chocolate and pistachios.

Yes, you read that right, ice cream tacos. This is not your usual decision between cup and cone. If you insist on a cup you can get this here too, but where’s the fun in that?

Jars of sauces for the ice cream tacos and a bunsen burner.

The cones at Rocko’s are shaped like taco shells. You pick your flavor of ice cream. (By the way, they also offer vegan ice cream flavors.) Some liquid nitrogen makes sure this stays in place. Sauce? Sure! Three kinds of chocolate or peanut butter. For me white chocolate, please. For some fun crunch you can have this dipped into some nuts. Et voilà – an ice cream taco!

An ice cream taco gets a dip in the liquid nitrogen at Rocko's, Santa Clara.

Nitrogen, vegan ice cream, a love for real ingredients. It should not surprise that behind Rocko’s is Lori Phillips with a PhD in Immunology. Rocko’s evolved from an idea in 2013 to an ice cream cart that grew into a food truck. The food truck is still around, ready for your next party. The brick and mortar stands in Santa Clara, near the university.

Rocko's food truck.

Rocko’s currently operates with limited hours. Please check their website

Rocko’s Ice Cream Tacos

2905 Park Ave, Santa Clara, CA 95050

All of this is my personal opinion. I did not receive any form of payment for this post. 


And if Ice Cream Tacos are too much for you, you can always search for the classic ice cream experience – Burlington’s It’s It!

Greg Brown mural in Palo Alto.

Neighborhood Walks

COVID has most of us homebound and with a minimal radius to explore. I thought I’ll give you some ideas to spice up your daily neighborhood walks. While most of these specific walks are for Silicon Valley, the ideas should transfer to other areas. So, grab your mask and get your steps in with these walking ideas:

Garden

Sign reads: 
Green Garden of Mountain View
Conserves Water
Reduces Waste
Provides Habitat

We are blessed in the Bay Area with a long growing season. To get inspired for your own vegetable garden you should check out the local community gardens and wander around. There are plenty of Native Plant Gardens in the area. The Santa Clara Valley Chapter of the California Native Plant Society has a great list (https://www.cnps-scv.org/gardening/gardening-with-natives/69-public-gardens-of-native-plants-69).  In the same category, Mountain View’s Green Garden Showcase features front yards that are examples of California Native Plants, water wise gardens, and environmental friendly practices.(https://www.mountainview.gov/depts/pw/services/conserve/landscape/showcase.asp)

Art

Rodin's thinker (part of the Gates of Hell) at Stanford University.

With all museums closed right now I admit I’m a little art deprived. 

Sculptures are great outdoor artworks you can still admire. One of the largest collections of sculptures around is on the Stanford Campus. You can limit yourself to Rodin, it’s the largest in the U.S., or go around campus and find other inspiring pieces.

The Triton Museum in Santa Clara features a sculpture garden on the premises. (https://www.santaclaraca.gov/Home/Components/ServiceDirectory/ServiceDirectory/1260/2661)

Some local towns have maps to their public art works. I found the bike racks in Los Altos a welcoming change and great for kids to try to find them all!

If you are more of a mural enthusiast I recommend San Jose, Redwood City, and Palo Alto.

Some examples of public art:

Santa Clara: https://www.santaclaraca.gov/our-city/about-santa-clara/maps/art-statues

Los Altos: https://www.losaltosca.gov/publicartscommission/page/public-sculpture

Palo Alto (map): https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1AUOuWuDvI0_jAbZYvvY_JBD9lIs&ll=37.42470074587974%2C-122.16085689067381&z=14

History

San Jose History Walk (Number 25)

San Jose as the first Capitol of California has a rich history to share. They compiled a history walk for downtown. No need to print out a map, you can just follow the signs. If you would rather have a digital idea or would like to print out the brochure, here is the PDF: https://www.sanjose.org/pdf/downtown-san-jose-historic-walking-tour-guide

Japantown in San Jose offers historic information on their benches.

A few other towns have  lists of historic buildings. Rich Heli has compiled three historic walking tours for Mountain View: https://rick-heli.info/mvtour/

Shopping

High Delta Market a window art installation in Palo Alto.

While most shops are currently closed, most downtowns invite you for a nice evening stroll on main street. Mountain View, for example, closed off their downtown area for most car traffic. The other night I walked by an exercise class. Also window shopping is an option. My favorite non-shopping window is in Palo Alto at the Future Institute.

If you feel the need to acquire something while on a walk, check out a little free library near you or in some other neighborhood.

Nature

Greg Brown mural in Palo Alto.

I love the fact that we are able to walk to our neighborhood park. If you want to mix it up, why not explore another park near you? 

Canopy has  multiple self-guided tree walks: https://canopy.org/our-work/tree-walks/

Animals

Buddy the new donkey of Bol Park, Palo Alto.

Birdwatching while walking is always a great pastime. If you want to see egrets you should check out the Google campus.

Bring the kids for a peak at the donkeys in Bol Park

Do you have ideas for fun activity walks?

The first Google storage server, Stanford

6 Hidden Spots for Geeks and Nerds in Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley houses more geeky nerds, and I mean this as an honorary term. There are some places that might be especially interesting for this group:

  1. The first Google server with a case made with Legos. 

This server is displayed in the basement at the Huang Engineering Building in Stanford. 

While you are there check out the replica of the HP garage.

Huang Engineering Building Stanford

475 Via Ortega, Stanford, CA 94305

https://engineering.stanford.edu/about/visit

  1. Visit Facebook’s first office

The Face Book in Palo Alto is the first office of social media giant Facebook. A sign outside commemorates this place. This is an easier way to get a picture with a thumbs up. 😉

The Face Book - first Facebook office in Palo Alto.

The Face Book

471 Emerson St, Palo Alto, CA 94301

  1. Apple Campus 3 

The spaceship, Apple Park, Apple’s new headquarters in Cupertino is only viewable from afar at the visitor center. A great way to get a closer look of Apple is the Apple Campus 3, AC3 as insiders might call it. 

Apple

222 N Wolfe Rd, Sunnyvale, CA 94085 

https://appleinsider.com/articles/18/03/19/apples-third-large-california-campus-is-already-built

  1. See the latest Android figure

Google celebrates its Android operating system versions by dedicating lawn sculptures. The naming used to be in alphabetical order after deserts and other sweets. The former OS figures can be seen near the visitor center. The latest Android figure is usually displayed at the Googleplex. For Android 11 you can also see it online, to stay with the candy theme, the internal name was Red Velvet Cake, the recipe is ‘taped’ to the sculpture, at least in its virtual version. 

https://www.android.com/android-11-ar-statue/

Google

Android Lawn Sculpture in Mountain View.

Android Lawn Sculptures

1981 Landings Dr, Mountain View, CA 94043

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

  1. Tour Roblox headquarters 

See your favorite characters at the Roblox headquarters. Due to COVID-19 the 60 minute tours will be awarded in a lottery. Sign up at:

https://behindtheblox.splashthat.com/

Roblox

970 Park Pl, San Mateo, CA 94403

  1. Santa Clara NVIDIA Building

NVIDIA, inventors of the GPU, set themselves a building fitting for the creative potential. It is unique in how it used triangles, representing the building blocks for computer graphics.

NVIDIA

NVIDIA office in Santa Clara.

2788 San Tomas Expressway Santa Clara, CA. 95050

https://blogs.nvidia.com/blog/2013/02/20/nvidia-to-build-a-new-home-20-years-after-our-founding/

Do you have any tips on hidden spots for geeks and nerds?

In my 50 things to do series I usually have ideas for nerdy fun.

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.

You could also shop with an intend to give back. Check out my post on the Homeless Garden Project.

SV Roller Girls skates

Cheer on the Silicon Valley Roller Girls

Ever since Whip it! I knew about roller derbys and I remember how excited I was to see that the Bay Area has multiple teams. Saturday, I got invited by the Silicon Valley Roller Girls to see a game. Don’t let the name fool you – roller derby is a contact sport and these girls are tough!

SV Roller GirlsI have to admit even after my preparations looking up the rules and watching a YouTube video I’m still not sure how the scoring works. It is worth buying the $1 program which starts off explaining the basics.  Look for the roller with the star on her helmet, that’s the jammer. The jammer scores by passing the opposing blockers. Both teams are in the ring at the same time and can score at the same time. Oh, and if you noticed the striped helmet, she is the pivot and can become the jammer.

SV Roller GirlsThe City Beach volleyball center was transformed into the flat track with chair seating areas in a half circle around the track. They do serve drinks and some food options, but you have to consume it in the bar area.  After the Star Spangled Banner and the introduction of the teams each roller girl gets one round on the track greeting fans. I love the inventive names. Bully Elliot, Chewblocker, and Belle Wringer, to only name a few, give you the idea that this sport can get rough sometimes. The chiropractor that promoted its praxis in the back should have been a clue as well. The crowd was surprisingly calm. Some dressed up and one brought her puppy. I also enjoyed the high-five round at the end where each player came around and gave the audience a high five.

The announcer was mostly blocking our view of the scoreboard, but it was clear that V Town had a great run this evening. The fans were happy. A great family friendly event.

If you’d like to experience the Silicon Valley Roller Girls, there are three dates left for the 2018 season:

September 9 and 22 and November 17SV Roller Girls skates

Other leagues in the Bay Area are:

Peninsula Roller Girls

Santa Cruz Derby Girls

Bay Area Derby (BAD)

 

Have you ever seen a roller derby game?

 

Watch the trains go around

Watch the trains go around

I remember the times my toddler would stare at everything moving. We enjoyed the trash trucks and the planes in the sky. Trains also fall in this category, big and small.

Model train at the South Bay Historical Railroad Society, Santa ClaraIf you happen to be at the Santa Clara train station either on a Tuesday afternoon, from 5 pm to 8 pm, or on a Saturday, 10 am to 3 pm, go check out the South Bay Historical Railroad Society. Admission is free, with a few opportunities to donate inside.

In the oldest passenger depot still in use volunteers established a museum for all things railroad related. But the real attraction are the model railways that fill most of the depot’s back room.

Young and old volunteers work together on the trains that ride across impressions of Northern California landscapes. I smiled at a mother telling her toddler to slow down. There are step stools for the smaller population to see the trains. I loved the whimsical displays that tell a story of its own.

Old train at the South Bay Historical Railroad Society, Santa ClaraAll the way in the back are aerial photographs of Santa Clara train station were you can imagine the transition this area went through.

There are a few free parking spaces up front.

Do you have a child that is fascinated by trains?

 

Hack in a dojo

Hack in a dojo

Mural inside the Hacker Dojo, Santa ClaraIf you stand in front of the office building at 3350 Thomas Rd you have to follow the signs to go around and enter the metal door at the side. That is if you want to visit the Hacker Dojo. Once inside you will be greeted by murals and a laptop that’ll ask you to sign in.

The Hacker Dojo is an institution in Silicon Valley. Since 2009 it allowed its members to share ideas, workspaces and party together. By now in its third location, you can use it for collaborate workspaces, check out the maker space, and tinker with the 3D printer or laser cutter. The classrooms on the side and the main space are also used for workshops and social events, like game nights. Membership fees start at $100/month and give you access to all events. Inside the Hacker Dojo, Santa Clara

This is a great place to network, and you might even score a job (check out the job board in the back).

There is table tennis to release some steam or to play a round with your new co-worker.

Have you been to the Hacker Dojo?

 

Help in the garden

Help in the garden

Fava beans from the Forge Garden, Santa ClaraGardening is always the top tip of every happiness blog. If you don’t have the opportunity to work in your own garden you can volunteer at the Forge Garden, which is part of the Santa Clara University. Volunteer hours are Wednesdays 1 pm – 4:30 pm or Fridays 9 am – 11 am, just drop in. You should be prepared to get your cloth dirty, wear sturdy shoes and bring water and sunscreen. The monthly Forge Fridays Cooking in the Garden is designed to bring the community together by harvesting, cooking and eating together. Check out their website on all upcoming events. Chicken coop at the Forge Garden, Santa Clara

They also let you wander around the grounds Monday – Friday 9 am to 5 pm. Check out what’s growing, say ‘hi’ to the chickens, admire the beehives and the aquaponic system. The farm stand is open on Fridays between 11:30 and 1:30.

If you like to learn more about gardening you can attend one of their workshops. Up front you can find a book and seed exchange.

What is on top of your happiness list?

 

Silicon Valley open studios directory

Chat with an artist

3 weekends

360+ artists

28 cities

150+ locations

These are the impressive statistics for the Silicon Valley Open Studios in the first three weekends in May 2018.

Silicon Valley open studios directoryEach weekend is dedicated to an area in Silicon Valley. Nonetheless, some artist’s work can be seen in multiple locations. The best place to start this adventure is by downloading the directory or checking out their website and consulting the map. You might also find the directory at a newspaper vending machine in the area.

Once you are on the road look for sandwich boards with arrows and “open studio”. This makes for a fun treasure hunt before you get to the treasure!

Chatting with the artist is encouraged. After all, the motto for the Open Studios is Connecting artists to the arts enthusiast. So, please ask questions, be enthusiastic, and buy a piece of art.

 

2018 Open Studio Dates – 11am to 5pm

WEEKEND 1: Northern Area – May 5th – 6th

Belmont, Burlingame, East Palo Alto, Hillsborough, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Portola Valley, Redwood City, San Carlos, San Mateo, Stanford, South San Francisco, and Woodside

WEEKEND 2: Central Area – May 12th – 13th

East Palo Alto, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Santa Clara, Stanford, Sunnyvale.

WEEKEND 3: Southern Area/Pacific Coast – May 19th – 20th

Campbell, Cupertino, Gilroy, Los Gatos, Milpitas, Morgan Hill, San Jose, and Saratoga, El Granada, Half Moon Bay, Miramar, Montara, Moss Beach, and Pacifica

 

Have you in previous years explored the Silicon Valley Open Studios?