Table setting at the Los Altos History Museum Silicon Valley Eats exhibit.

Foodies reunite in this exhibit

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.

Place setting at the J. Gilbert Smith House, Los Altos.

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.

Adding machine at the J. Gilbert Smith House, Los Altos.

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.

Part of the walnut huller, Los Altos History Museum.

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 untilsuburbia@gmail.com.

Are you a foodie?

Rose bush at the Los Altos Nursery

Go plant shopping

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.

Los Altos Nursery painted by Will Maller.

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.

Koi pond at 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.

Buddha statue at Los Altos Nursery

Open from May to September, Thursdays – Mondays 9 am – 5 pm.

Have you been to the Los Altos Nursery?



Los Altos Farmers Market

Buy local produce

Every farmers market, like every downtown in Silicon Valley, has their own feel to it. In my opinion the most exquisite is the Los Altos Farmers Market. Every Thursday evening, 4 pm – 8 pm,  from May to September, State Street between 2nd and 3rd,  transforms into a community haven.

Naan bread in an oven, Los Altos Farmers Market.

I started my journey into the market at the intersection of State St. and 3rd. A waft of smoke from a BBQ grill was blowing in my direction. My attention got quickly drawn to the man with a stick, pulling out round flat loafs of bread from a circular oven. The bread was sticking to the sides. Seeing the line for the Indian food, that this bread was part off, was another indicator for a recommendation you don’t need to check your yelp for.

Woman pressing a tortilla at the Los Altos Farmers Market.

All of these food stalls were competing on the high level. The rotisserie chicken looked as amazing as the food from the Oaxaca kitchen, where a woman, in traditional embroidered apron, was pressing tortillas.

Twinkle Dee Star, kids entertainment at the Los Altos Farmers Market.

Behold, this is not only a food truck affair. You can get your regular fresh, local produce here, too. Everything from olive oil to meats, over to fresh cut flowers, baked goods, vegetables, and fruit.

Even the kids entertainment was plentiful. Face painting, Lego building, and music make it a relaxing experience for the whole family.

Squash at the Los Altos Farmers Market.

The Los Altos Farmers Market is certainly smaller than the neighboring Sunday Mountain View market, but it feels like a step up from the market hussle and bussle to a shopping delight for all senses and age groups.

Which one is your favorite Farmers Market?


Redwood grove in Los Altos

Take a forest bath

Shinrinyoku is Japanese and literally means forest bath. It’s about the relaxing effects walking in a forest can have, improving our wellbeing.

Redwood Grove Nature Preserve, Los Altos.

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.

Looking up at at group of redwoods, Los Altos, CA.

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.

Walkway through the grove, Los Altos.

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.

Boarded up Nature Center at the Redwood Grove, Los Altos.

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.

Are you into forest baths?

Arizona Cactus Garden, Stanford

Unearth a different kind of superbloom

Cacti with flowers, Arizona Cactus Garden, Stanford

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.

Blooming succulents at the Arizona Cactus Garden, Stanford.

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.

Do you make the effort to see superblooms?

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?




Sam's Castle, Pacifica

Tour Sam’s Castle

Have you ever noticed the castle up on the hills in Pacifica? It has a fantastic history and lots of stories and artifacts. They open the doors to Sam’s Castle once a month for a tour. I was very happy when I got invited by the Mazza Foundation to see the castle. The Mazza Foundation is a  private philanthropic foundation established by the estate of our founder and last owner of Sam’s Castle, Sam Mazza.

Sam Mazza's throne at Sam's Castle in Pacifica.

The castle was built by Henry Harrison McCloskey in 1908, as an earthquake/fireproof home. Pete McCloskey, former California congressman, learned about his grandfather’s former home while canvassing in Pacifica with his dad. But the true king of the castle was Italian immigrant Sam Mazza. Sam acquired the castle in 1958 and was also the main decorator who had a reputation for collecting eccentric pieces.

Light refreshments after the tour of Sam's Castle, Pacifica.


Our hosts Jeannette, CEO of the Mazza Foundation and Bridget, author of the book ‘Sam’s Castle’ welcomed us. After a short movie of Sam Mazza’s life as a castle owner we learned a myriad of stories, from ghost stories to historical tidbits and tales from contemporary witnesses while inspecting some of the rooms. The tour ended with a light snack in the dining room overlooking the ocean.

They also hold music salons and high teas as special events. Please see the Mazza Foundation web site for details.

Chandelier at Sam's Castle, Pacifica.

A perfect outing for history buffs and location junkies like me. The place is full of Interesting nicknacks – and to preserve these, no one under 18 is allowed inside. I loved the opportunity to see the interior of this unusual place and enjoyed the history.

Have you been inside Sam’s castle?

Disclosure: I was invited to see this place. My review is an honest recapture.




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?




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