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?

Gate to the donkey pasture in Bol Park, Palo Alto.

Welcome a new Donkey – Bol Park, Palo Alto

Buddy, a donkey at Bol Park.

A few years ago I wrote a blog post about the Bol Park donkeys. Sadly one of them, Jenny, died in November from old age. In December they got another friend for Perry, Buddy. So, now again there are two donkeys at Bol Park.

Sign for Bol Park, Palo Alto, with the playground in the background.

I parked by the playground and walked south over the bridge at Matadero Creek. On the right you’ll find the donkey pasture. Previously the whole area was a donkey pasture. Dr. Conelius Bol, a Stanford Professor, had six sons and started his donkey herd in 1934. This tradition is preserved by many volunteers for the Barron Park donkeys.

Every Sunday from 10 to 11 am Perry and Buddy get out for a walk. If you like to volunteer to care for the donkeys you can contact barronparkdonkeys AT gmail.com.

D-Mail, a mailbox for your donkey art.

You can encourage your kids to draw the donkeys and be featured at the little showcase next to the pen. Unfortunately they don’t allow the donkeys to be fed. Nonetheless it is nice and peaceful to see them grazing the pasture. 

Have you greeted the donkeys lately?

Resources:

https://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/2020/12/07/meet-buddy-the-new-donkey-now-living-in-barron-park

https://punchmagazine.com/barron-park-donkeys/

PEZ Pole in Sunnyvale with a sign that reads: Das PEZler

Safari in the Neighborhood – Sunnyvale PEZ Pole

Close up of multiple PEZ dispensers.

Not only PEZ dispensers are displayed on the front lawn at 298 Leota Ave in Sunnyvale, there are all sorts of toys and little trinkets. The PEZ Pole is the description you get from Google maps, the sign on the pole says: Das PEZLER – a German collection? PEZ dispensers are pinned to a power pole. A lot of Santas from different time periods it seems, but also favorite Disney characters, snowmen and bunnies. The PEZ lunchbox knows: “PEZ makes you smile!”

Plastic dinosaur looking at a succulent.

The other things that made me smile are the dinosaurs fighting plastic soldiers – not the fighting, just the ingenious re-use of plastic toys! The dinosaurs are next to succulents which makes them excellent objects for a photo safari! But behold the giraffes assembled across from them! If you enjoy statues this place has you covered too! Buddhas sit together with Madonnas, angels, a menorah, and a dreamcatcher – a peaceful sight indeed. 

Overall it is a great place to explore and discover. If you are tired of walking around in your neighborhood I suggest stopping by this place and let your kids count the PEZ Santas, or photograph other objects. 

Peace figures in the front lawn in Sunnyvale.

Thank you whoever put out the effort to entertain us in such an amusing way! You can email them at flowerpowercorner at gmail.com if you have any comments, ideas, or suggestions.

Where do you go on a photo-neighborhood-safari?

By the way, to all the PEZ aficionados, the PEZ museum in Burlingame is permanently closed. To see what it was like check out my blog post: Sweeten your Museum Visit


Fork on an empty plate

Feed People in Need

I hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving! The number of people relying on food help every day has doubled since the pandemic began. In Silicon Valley 1 of 10 people receive assistance from Second Harvest, one of the largest food banks in the nation. Second Harvest feeds nearly 500,000 people each month.

Feeding America found that due to the coronavirus 50 million Americans may face food insecurity in 2020, including 17 million children. 

How you can help:

Donate to your local food bank

Monetary donations are always welcome. 

Due to COVID-19 there might be restrictions for food donations, please check with your local food bank. Our CSA, for example, doesn’t allow for self harvested fruits anymore, but might allow for Village Harvest to harvest for you. Rules change quickly these days. In our neighborhood people started to sell their fruit and donate the proceeds to CSA.

People sorting apples for Village Harvest.

Volunteer

If you can help out in person I am certain your help will be highly appreciated. Make sure to check requirements, for example volunteers over 65 or people in a risk group might not be allowed to perform certain tasks. Nonetheless there might also be virtual options to help out. To find opportunities check out VolunteerMatch, Idealist, AllForGood, or HandsOnBayArea.

Fundraise

The holidays are coming, do you want to gift something special this year? Consider setting up your own fundraiser: https://www.feedingamerica.org/ways-to-give/fundraise-for-feeding-america

Do you have ideas on how to feed people in need?

You might also be interested in my post about Village Harvest: Harvest some Community Fruit.

Sound sculpture with mallets at Seven Seas Park in Sunnyvale.

Play the Sound-Sculptures at Seven Seas Park

The Seven Seas Park in Sunnyvale became the latest addition in 2016 of inclusive play parks for all ages. This little park has even a splash park, a dog park, and a half basketball court. One of the fun discoveries is the wind chimes that line the small round path around a grassy field.

One of the wind chimes at Seven Seas Park in Sunnyvale.

The sound sculptures stand man high and have mallets to invite you to play. I could not find any information about the artists. If you know who contributed this musical adventure, please let me know.

The landscape architects, SSA, did a beautiful job creating a nautical themed inclusive park. This park won the “Project of the Year” award in 2016 by the American Public Works Association. 

Pathway, hugging a grassy field, leading to one of the sound sculptures, Seven Seas Park in Sunnyvale.

Parking can sometimes be a challenge. Due to COVID-19 playgrounds might still be closed off. Check before you go and follow the recommended safety procedures.

Have you played the sound sculptures at Seven Seas Park? 

If you enjoy funky interactive sculptures you should also check out the Wind Walk in San Mateo.

Ducks in the levee at Baylands Park, Sunnyvale.

Birdwatching in Sunnyvale’s Baylands Park

Anywhere by the Bay is a great spot for birdwatching. We walked the other day at Baylands Park in Sunnyvale. While we were pondering about which turn to make, a biker stopped and asked if we were looking for the birds? We weren’t, but our sense of adventure told us that we should follow his advice and turn right. “There are tons of birds!”, he said.

Birds at Baylands Park, Sunnyvale.

He was right. Once we crossed the levee a swarm of birds started their tree hopping, hoping we would not catch up with them. In the water were ducks and seagulls, and I believe a pair of egrets. I am not an avid birdwatcher, but it is fun nonetheless to see so many different kinds.

My favorite birds were black on top and white on the bottom with bright orange feet. If someone knows what they are, please let me know in the comment section below!

Usually volunteers from the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society offer free one-hour birding tours each first Wednesday at Baylands. Due to COVID-19 restrictions SCVAS has put together self-guided and virtual field trips. There is a great YouTube video from Mike Ambrose showing the winter birds of Baylands Park. 

Sign at Baylands Park in Sunnyvale that says: Sorry about the odor.

In the summer month an increased algae bloom can make the Baylands Park a bit smelly. The ponds are part of a solar salt farm. As the algae dies off, it produces hydrogen sulfide, H2S,  which has a characteristic odor of rotten eggs. 

Weeds covered in feathers at Baylands Park in Sunnyvale.

I did enjoy the weeds on our path covered in little feathers. A spontaneous art installation!

Where do you go bird watching?

If you want to explore more in Sunnyvale you might enjoy my article about 50 things to do in Sunnyvale

Table outside of Kirin in Mountain View

Dine in Circles – COVID-19 Style

How is your summer going?

I would be on vacation right now. Sigh. 

But honestly I can’t complain too much. We are very privileged going into this pandemic and have a nice place to hang out and wait this out.

I hope everyone is safe and healthy!

Castro St. road closure, for outdoor dining, Mountain View, CA.

It is also very important to support local businesses right now. Since July 22nd Mountain View has closed off most of Castro St. for vehicular traffic and made it a great place for outdoor dining!

The 100 to 400 block on Castro is now a pedestrian zone, with the crossing streets, Evelyn, Villa, Dana, California and Mercy,  still open. The city opened up additional short term parking in City parking lots and garages behind Castro. The Castro Summer StEATS is a pilot program to see if it revives the downtown area. 

All is done with social distancing in mind. Circles on the floor show where the assigned tables should go, signs on the street lead you to the hand wash stations, and all waiting staff are wearing masks.

Castro St. people dining outdoors.

Finally the city is taking advantage of the weather and provides us with a piazza experience! The last time I visited I noticed a lot of children playing in the street. What a lovely accomplishment to enhance city living! Bravo!

What is your opinion about the Castro Summer StrEATS?

Actually the city is asking, please take 7 minutes of your time and fill out the questionnaire:

English

Spanish

Black Lives Matter Mural on Hamilton St. in Palo Alto.

Drive by the BLM Art

While one California city (Redwood City) is in the news for removing their Black Lives Matter street mural, Palo Alto has blocked off the middle of the road for their colorful artwork.

City Hall in Palo Alto with the BLM letter's E and S.

Palo Alto’s BLM mural is in front of City Hall on Hamilton St. The public art commission hired 16  artist teams, each of them designing a letter. 

When I photographed each letter I noticed some cars slowing down and the drivers admiring the artwork. There were also some kids enjoying the letters.

Letter E of BLM mural in Palo Alto picturing Assata Shakur.

A controversy arose about one of the E’s picturing Assata Shakur, a Black Liberation Army fugitive and FBI most wanted. To my knowledge the mayor, Adrian Fine, declared the mural will stay as is. (see NBC News from July 16th, 2020 https://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/fugitive-the-source-of-debate-over-black-lives-matter-mural-in-palo-alto/2327624/)

There is a petition out on change.org (http://chng.it/nsVCBzPvhC) to provide protection for the mural, to make this a lasting piece of art in Palo Alto.

What is your stand on the BLM in Palo Alto?

One-way signs at Rancho San Antonio, Cupertino.

Journey a One-Way Road

Entrance to Rancho San Antonio Open Space Perserve, Cupertino.

Hiking is always a great pastime in the Bay Area. These days, with the continuing of shelter in place, hiking is a well deserved alternative from your walk around the neighborhood. We went Tuesday to Rancho San Antonio, a hilly terrain in the Los Altos Hills mountains. My health app recorded a 24 floor climb and almost 11,000 steps!

Map of Rancho San Antonio, Cupertino, showing the one-way hikes.

There are multiple hikes and different levels of difficulty. As a COVID-19 safe measure, the most narrow paths are one-way. Please check out the map before you start. They no longer offer printed maps, so you might want to take a picture. When we were there on Tuesday the bathrooms were open again. Of course this might change without much notice. Bring plenty of water since the water fountains are all taped up. 

Wild turkeys at Rancho San Antonio, Cupertino.

Deer Hollow Farm is currently closed, but on our way we saw wild turkeys, a few deer, and some lizards, so a short hike with your young ones is still a lot of fun. Plus they put up signs of encouragement from the farm, e.g.: “You goat this!” or “Sheep your distance!”

View of the Bay and the Diablo Range mountains.

If you are up for a longer hike you will be rewarded with gorgeous views of the Bay. 

Where is your go-to hiking spot?

Other short hikes in the Bay Area can be found from my 50 things to do in San Mateo County, 50 things to do in Los Altos/Los Altos Hills and 50 things to do in Cupertino.

If you have other ideas for short hikes in the Bay Area I would love it if you could share them with me in the comment section.

Marianne's ice cream, Santa Cruz

Treat Yourself to Some Ice Cream

Surfer Museum at Santa Cruz.

It’s now been over 100 days in shelter-in-place. All of our summer plans have been scratched, or as we like to think of it: postponed. Even though we just sit at home every once in a while it is great to swap out walking around the block for going to the beach. You can’t really sit on the beach here, but walking along it and smelling salty air is worth the drive.

Inside Marianne's ice cream, Santa Cruz.

One of our favorite go-to spots is the path near the surfer museum in Santa Cruz. A long standing tradition after the walk is to stop by Marianne’s ice cream on Ocean St. Right now, you have to order on one side and pick up at the next window, or place on online order. Masks are required. I’m not sure if they give you a taste. With 80+ flavors I know it is hard to decide which to choose. Marianne’s ice cream has been around since 1947 – a true institution.

Sign at Marianne's ice cream, Santa Cruz, Curbside pick up here.

Marianne’s is open everyday from 10 am – 9 pm.

What’s your favorite ice cream place?

Have you ever been to It’s It Ice Cream in Burlingame? I wrote a post about it: Scream for Ice Cream

Let’s hear it for your favorite ice cream parlor in the comment section.