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.

Timeline for Seeing Picasso at the Pace Gallery, Palo Alto.

See Picasso

Seeing Picasso is the title of an exquisite exhibit at the Pace Gallery in Palo Alto. I urge every art lover to drop by and see the collection. 

Front window of the Pace Gallery in Palo Alto.

Currently the windows are covered up at the Pace Gallery. Only the front door is announcing the opening hours. It feels like some mysterious, secretive place.

iPad for the audio tour at Pace Gallery, Palo Alto.

When you enter you are greeted by the friendly staff. If you like, you can borrow an iPad and a headset to enjoy an audio tour for a “chronological survey of Picasso” led by Alexander Nemerov.

The audio tour was fun and informative. The poetic explanations definitely point you in new directions while admiring the artwork. 

My favorite painting was The Dead Casagemas (1901) which is considered to be the start of Picasso’s Blue Period. Casagemas, Picasso’s best friend killed himself; he obviously left Picasso in sorrow. 

After seeing a huge Picasso exhibit once in Berlin I highly recommend taking your toddler. Mine, at the time, had a blast and sometimes a better access to the art. 

Timeline for Seeing Picasso, Pace Gallery, Palo Alto.

I liked the timeline in the foyer, starting with Picasso’s birth (1881) till his death (1973). Picasso’s milestones are interspersed with inventions and other important events at that time, putting Picasso in the context of his generation. 

Seeing Picasso will be shown till February 16th, 2020 at the Pace Gallery, 229 Hamilton Ave, Palo Alto. Admission is free.

Have you seen Picasso?

Skeletons dancing in Redwood City.

Celebrate the dead

Usually I try to tell you about things that you can do after reading this. For this post you have to make a note and make sure you will check this out next year. 

Stage in front of the Courthouse in Redwood City.

The Dia de los Muertos Festival in Redwood City is an annual celebration of the Mexican holiday, also known in English as the Day of the Dead. For the ninth time last Sunday, the Casa Circulo Cultural, a Redwood City Hispanic cultural organization, in collaboration with the San Mateo History Museum, the Friends of the Library, and Redwood City Parks and Arts Foundation  organize one of the largest festivals of Hispanic culture in the Bay Area.

Skeleton in front of the courthouse in Redwood City.

The Dia de los Muertos was made popular outside of Mexico by the Pixar/Disney movie Coco. One of the performances at the festival sang a Coco song.

Women in traditional outfits, Redwood City.

Largely celebrated in Mexico, and by Mexicans in the US, the festivities span for three days. It is a lively event that remembers the dead and believes that in this window of time you can spend time with lost ones. 

On altars they put a picture of the ones who have passed and their favorite things and food items. The marigold seems to be the predominant flower of this day. People also wear ‘skulls’ as face paint and traditional clothing.

Altar displayed at the courthouse, Redwood City.

The Dia de los Muertos Festival has altar displays, traditional music and dances. There were food stands and  lots of gift items for sale. Each year the event seems to grow in popularity. We waited in line almost 45 minutes to see the altars in the Courthouse building!

I love this tradition for remembering the dead. 

How do you remember the dead in your life?

Resources:

http://diadelosmuertos.nationalhispaniccenter.org/

Sandwich board advertising Los Altos First Friday.

Dance on the sidewalk

Many cities in the Bay Area have a First Friday established. San Jose, Oakland, Campbell and Santa Cruz, to name a few.

Band playing in front of Linden Tree bookstore, Los Altos.

I always wanted to go to one, so two weeks ago Friday was my first. Since I did 50 things to do in Los Altos, but missed out on the First Friday, this was my time.

I was early and most of the musicians were still setting up at 6 pm. But by 6:30 pm every corner of downtown was filling the air with music. All different styles are present from polka to rock and folk.

Band playing on State and Main, First Friday, Los Altos.

Livin la vida loca was the opener from a band that played on one of the larger stages on the corner of State and Main. To the side were the girls from the dance school, nervously awaiting their turn; around the picnic tables, people feasting on carry out; an elderly group enjoying wine and tapas; a couple dancing. Los Altos knows how to party!

Drummer of the Ruse, First Friday, Los Altos.

I liked the Ruse, a trio of high schoolers that played next to the Tasting Room. Ready to rock, they were constricted by someone who thought the drums were too loud. They made the best of it while waiting for a damper. I’m sure they will play a lot of First Fridays, and who knows, eventually stand on a large stage. 

View into Viewpoint Gallery, Los Altos.

First Fridays are, of course, happening on the first Friday of the month in Los Altos from 6 to 8pm. Some stores might be open longer and the two galleries in town usually have receptions. 

What a great way to invite you to linger downtown. 

Do you like to dance on the sidewalk?


Boardwalk sign at Santa Cruz

Ride the rollercoaster on the boardwalk

For thrillseekers and beachgoers the Santa Cruz boardwalk is a great destination since 1907.  

A golem watching over the sky glider at the boardwalk in Santa Cruz.

There are more than 40 rides, something for every kind of rush seeker. The romantic gondola ‘Sky Glider’ and  the 1924 wooden roller coaster ‘The Giant Dipper’ are just examples of the variety of rides offered. 

Sky glider with a sign that says: deep fried underneath at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk.

On rainy days you can enjoy a game of bowling or mini-golf, or play some arcade games. The food rises to the occasion: soft serve ice cream, hot dog on a stick and pizza all classic accompaniments for your boardwalk experience are here.

Bands on the Beach stage, Santa Cruz Boardwalk.

Tonight, August 30th, is the last Bands on the Beach event for this year. Papa Doo Run Run has the honor of ending the free concert series with two show (6:30 and 8:30). For the prime seating area reserve your seats as early as 4 pm. You might enjoy a nice picnic on the beach. If you bring chairs make sure they are low backs for the prime area. 

For the history buffs they put together a walking tour (http://downloads.beachboardwalk.com/BoardwalkWalkingTour.pdf).

A lot of different events are happening on the boardwalk, so check before you go. Some events, like the overnights, can limit access to attractions.  

The boardwalk is open daily. Admission for the rides can be purchased in various forms. Day and season passes are available.

Have you been to the boardwalk?


Front of the Alpine Inn, Portola Valley.

Stop by where the internet began

If you followed my 50 things to do in San Mateo county you might already know where the internet begun – at least in this area. 

The plaque outside the Alpine Inn, declaring the beginning of the Internet age.

A plaque at the entrance of the Alpine Inn in Portola Valley reads: “On August 27th, 1976, a scientist from SRI International celebrated the successful completion of tests by sending an electronic message from a computer set up at a picnic table behind the Alpine Inn. The message was sent via a radio network to SRI and on through a second network, the ARPANET, to Boston. This event marked the beginning of the Internet Age.” 

Founded in 1852, the Alpine Inn is the second longest continuously running tavern in California. In May of 1969 it was registered as a historic landmark (#825). Just recently Zott’s, as it is known by locals,  reopened after extensive renovations by the new owners.

Beer with charcuterie board at the Alpine Inn, Portola Valley.

The Alpine Inn is a jovial beer garden. They still have hot dogs and burgers on the menu, but we enjoyed the woodfired pizza and the charcuterie board.  Afterwards we played a game of cornhole (bags can be borrowed from the bar). 

The beer garden at the Alpine Inn, Portola Valley.

Currently they are open from 5 pm to 10 pm, but plan on having lunch hours soon.

The Alpine Inn is by far my favorite beer garden in Silicon Valley. Do you have a favorite beer garden?


Bike bike rack, Los Altos

Park your bike

Dog bike rack in downtown Los Altos.

It’s been hot the last couple of days. High temperatures and exhaust are causes of smog. That’s why we had ‘spare the air’ days the last couple of days. Since I’m not too impressed with public transportation around here I usually enjoy my bike rides. 

In 2013 the city of Los Altos started the artistic bike rack policy. Businesses and property owners are allowed to install interesting bike racks in front of their property. In 2015 and 2016 the city had a bike rack competition

It makes for a great treasure hunt. Try to find them all!

Squirrel bike rack, Los Altos
Leaves bike rack, Los Altos
Ice cream cone bike rack, Los Altos
Owl bike rack, Los Altos

Do you have a favorite bike rack?


Sign for the Woodside library and the native plant garden.

Work in a native plant garden

Native plant garden at the Woodside library.

The sign at the Woodside library announces the library, and right below, the native plant garden. This acknowledgment is well deserved; the space of the garden seems as large as the library itself. You have to enter the garden from the library. The chairs and tables makes it clear that al fresco studying is encouraged here. And the people of Woodside take advantage of the natural office setting.

Map of the native plant garden at the Woodside library.

Right away there is a map of the garden. This garden was established in 1970 by the Woodside Atherton Garden Club. They also provide a pdf of all the plants.

Manzanita grove at the Woodside native plant garden.

The manzanita grove to the right immediately delighted me with their dark red bark. The horse smell from next door reminded me that I’m in Woodside. Every place, even the library, has a horse rack in front.

Redwood grove at the Woodside native plant garden.

The redwood grove in the back uses its half arch for benches. A great place for a school class to enjoy some lunch. Benches are sprinkled throughout the garden, inviting everyone to take a break.

The native garden is open during library hours: 
Monday – Thursday 11 am to 7 pm
Friday and Saturday 11 am to 5 pm

Have you been to the native garden?

Resources:

http://woodsideathertongc.org/cgi-bin/p/awtp-custom.cgi?d=woodsideatherton-garden-club&page=9513


Aquarium at the Cupertino library.

Find Nemo at the library

Butterfly fish at the Cupertino library aquarium.

Sure, you can find a good book on Nemo or clownfish at any local library. If you go to the Cupertino library you can try to find the clownfish in the aquarium next to the children’s books. This 16 feet long tank holds 3,240 gallons of water. To support such large tank the glass is 2.5 inches thick and there is a 5 foot concrete base underneath. 

Cupertino library aquarium.

Besides clownfish, there are also yellow tanks, foxface bubblefish, yellowtail damsels, butterfly fish, and hermit crabs.The corals are man-made and therefore more environmentally friendly.  Real corals are threatened by many factors like over-fishing, increased sea temperatures and tourism. 

Plant petting zoo at the Cupertino library.

If your kid prefers land over water maybe come by on Tuesdays from 11 am – noon (summer hours) and let them explore the Children’s Garden in the courtyard. This garden has a plant petting zoo and a scratch and sniff area. For the teenagers that are into planting the Green Teen Garden might be attractive. Designed to provide local teenagers with hands-on garden experience. 

Kids splashing around the water fountain in front of the Cupertino library.

And to cool off your child they can splash around in the water fountain outside.

What a fun place for kids! 

Have you seen the aquarium at the Cupertino library?

The Apple 1 computer at the Historical Society and Museum in Cupertino.

View the Holy Grail of Computers

Cupertino is mostly linked with Apple. The garage where Steve Jobs and Steve Woziak build the first Apple computer is in Los Altos. But the first office and all the preceding offices are mostly in Cupertino, including the old headquarters at Infinite Loop and the new ‘spaceship’.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise that the Cupertino Historical Society and Museum  is currently showing: Homage to the IT Revolution.

Entrance to the Historical Museum in Cupertino.

This traveling exhibit will be here until June 2020 and it is well worth the time. The Italian curated exhibit by a group called BasicGallery takes you on a journey of the visionaries of personal computers from 1975 to 1985.

Olivetti's Programma 101 at the Cupertino Historical Society and Museum.

It starts out with the first personal computer, the Programma 101, manufactured by Olivetti in Italy (1965). In a small space they have packed a cornucopia of information, illustrating it with the responding artifacts and stories about them. There are all the famous players you would expect, like the Commodore 64 and Atari 400, and of course multiple Apple computers. All artifacts are labeled with launch date, launch price, and units sold.

Apple 1 computer with keyboard, monitor, original package and letter from Steve Jobs, at the Cupertino Historical Society and Museum.

The star of the exhibit, titled in the showcase as the Holy Grail, is the Apple 1. This is believed to be the only surviving complete kit, of the 50 sold Apple 1’s, with the original box and a personal letter from Steve Jobs!

You can listen to interviews of key players at that time, like John Sculley, former CEO of Apple Inc., and Steve Wozniak (Co-founder of Apple Inc). The introductory video is online:

http://www.basicpress.com/contenuti/media/resultmedia.asp?id=143654

I highly recommend this free exhibit (donations are welcome), from Wednesday – Saturday 10 am – 4 pm. Please call ahead to verify that the museum is open (408) 973-1495.

What is your earliest personal computer experience?