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



A prob of John Steinbeck in front of an image of a cabbage field, Steinbeck Center, Salinas

Celebrate Steinbeck

Steinbeck Center entrance, Salinas

Steinbeck’s birthday is February 27. He would have been 117 this year. Steinbeck grew up in Salinas and later moved to New York. The Steinbeck Center in Salinas celebrates their famous author all year. Only closed for mayor holidays the center is open 7 days a week from 10 am to 5 pm. The entry fee for adults is $12.95 – a steep price tag for a roadside attraction.

Growing up East of Eden, Steinbeck Center, Salinas

The Center is conveniently placed at the beginning of Main Street, 1 Main Street. And the downtown area has lately been revived with modern eateries, coffeeshops, and breweries moving in.

On the other side, Salinas is still a town of rural farmland, with a saddening rate of one in four kids considered poor. This makes Steinbeck as present and meaningful as ever.

If you have kids in tow, they might enjoy the scavenger hunt that is offered. Grab a printout and a pen from the entrance area and start looking for clues.

Cannery Row reading, Steinbeck Center, Salinas

I have to admit I haven’t read anything by Steinbeck before. We did listen to The Grapes of Wrath and a lifetime ago I have watched East of Eden. So, with this challenged novice knowledge I was pleased to watch a bit of East of Eden coming into the Center. The history lessons dispersed throughout the exhibits were helpful. The little movie clips I glimpsed at made me hungry for more.

Steinbeck was awared the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962, Steinbeck Center, Salinas

A very interesting man in a very interesting town. Both worth checking out.

Have you read anything by Steinbeck?

There is also the Steinbeck House. Maybe on our next stop in Salinas.

Interesting article about the situation of Salinas kids from KQEDs California Report:

https://www.kqed.org/news/11716780/for-many-students-in-salinas-homelessness-is-becoming-the-norm



Timewarp to Dickens’ London

Timewarp to Dickens’ London

Dancers at the Dickens Fair, Daly CityHave you ever felt like  you want to escape to a different time or place? Over the next couple of weekends you can visit Victorian London. Dress up in the style of the time period , or whatever dress-up option you prefer, I’ve seen Steampunks besides the Victorian top hats and dresses but mostly just your regular gear. The Dickens Fair at the Cow Palace in Daly City opens its doors every weekend, 10 am – 7 pm, until December 23rd, 2018 for a fairytale like adventure.Performers at the Dickens Fair, Daly City

The atmosphere is a dim-lit street scene. Food and gift shops on either side make it a stroll through the mid 1800s. Check the map to catch lots of performances from singing to dancing, Dickens himself was announced to come by and read!

Of course Dickens’ plays are performed at various stages throughout the exhibit halls. 

Roasted Chestnuts at the Dickens Fair, Daly CityThere are plenty options to sit and watch the crowds moving along. The smell of cinnamon, candied nuts and chestnuts welcome you.

Jewelry made from real roses or self made woven garment are just examples of the unique offerings.  Children can dip their own candles.

Will it teach us the spirit of Christmas? It might.

Man with baby window shopping at the Dickens Fair in Daly CitySo eat, drink, give gifts and be merry! And if you need to escape to a different time to catch the spirit of Christmas Present go to the Dickens Fair.

Where do you escape from/into the Holidays?  

 

Breath in the peace of Shelldance Orchid Gardens

Breath in the peace of Shelldance Orchid Gardens

Last weekend we tried to escape the smoke by going to Pacifica. Of course everywhere in the Bay Area the air was considered unhealthy to hazardous. My heart goes out to the people in Paradise and the neighboring cities who have lost everything! For us the ocean was a relief. Some salty air, waves crashing.

Succulents and Bromelias at the Shelldance Orchid GardensI also was glad that we took the steep road to the Shelldance Orchid Gardens. Only open on Saturdays and Sundays, 10 am – 5 pm. When you enter you will be transported into a different world. I was reminded of the Botanical Garden in Berlin where the tropical plants are. I started my wandering about in the Northwing and was greeted by Spanish Moss. I found a lot of air plants. Immediately calmed, it was quite a magical moment.

cat drinking out of ikebana dish at the Shelldance Orchid GardensI followed the house cat to her claimed water dish, which also was a ikebana arrangement from last weeks class. They have a beautiful reception room for weddings and other parties and of course there are orchids. I was told people even board their orchids here. In the Conservatory you can admire all different kinds of orchids, but if you find a price tag it means it could be yours.

enjoy the flowers sign at the Shelldance Orchid GardensThe owners, Nancy Victoria Davis and Michael Rothenberg are both artists. Committed in helping local artists, they offer an exhibit space in the art gallery room. Davis and Rothenberg have created a lovely place for the community to get together.

Where did you go to escape the smoke?

 

Go plant shopping at the San Mateo Arboretum Society

Go plant shopping at the San Mateo Arboretum Society

I don’t usually recommend that you go shopping. Unless it’s something with a cause. Doing good while shopping helps everyone. In this case you can snatch a deal on plants in Central Park in San Mateo. The San Mateo Arboretum Society open their doors on Tuesdays, Thursdays 10 am – 2 pm and Sundays 10 am – noon. Starting December 4th, 2018 their winter hours are 10 am – 12 pm.

They have scrubs and flowers and a whole lot of succulents. Most succulents come in an interesting pot.

The real beauties are the orchids. They are in the back conservatory. All of the plants are fair priced and help the Arboretum Society to protect and maintain the horticultural heritage of San Mateo.   

Roses for sale at the San Mateo Arboretum Society.Thanks to these gardeners the Central Park is in splendid shape. They made it their mission to educate the community about sustainable gardening, while creating and maintaining demonstration gardens in Central Park. At their opening hours, between 11:30 am and 1 pm, you can talk to a Master Gardener for advice on your plants.

You can also improve your gardening skills by taking a class. The next classes are a wreath making workshop (December 2, 2018)  and a rose pruning symposium (January 6, 2019). Please check the SMAS website for more information.

Fairy garden at San Mateo Arboretum SocietyAs an extra bonus I enjoyed their fairy garden. A bonsai, some succulents and other plants arranged with whimsical creatures.

Do you have a place to shop for a cause?

 

Catherine Brennan Memorial Rose Garden, Redwood City

Discover the Redwood City rose garden

Fountain at the Catherine Brennan Memorial Rose Garden, Redwood City Sometimes by wandering around I discover the most wonderful things. The other day, while I looked around at the Red Morton Community Park  in Redwood City I was surprised by the blooming roses. A fountain in the middle with some ram heads spilling out the water. Rose petals decorating some of the water’s surface.  

Rose at the Catherine Brennan Memorial Rose Garden, Redwood City It is a small garden with a large variety of fragrant roses. The Catherine Brennan Memorial Rose Garden was established in 1968. It is named after the woman who proposed developing a municipal rose garden but sadly died two years before the opening.Mosaic art work at Catherine Brennan Memorial Rose Garden, Redwood City

I love the quote I found embedded in a mosaic art work:” A single rose can be my garden…A single friend my world.” by Leo Buscagila.

Have you been to the Catherine Brennan Memorial Rose Garden?

 

More information about Redwood City’s fascinating history of their parks can be found in the PDF:

The Story of Redwood City Parks 1937 – 1987