Castro Valley Marketplace sign

Meet up with some Friends at the Castro Valley Marketplace

Seven Hills Baking Co inside of Castro Valley Marketplace.

We are all ready to go out again to meet friends. I know, the mask mandate for indoor places has been reinstated. Nevertheless you could go to the Castro Valley Marketplace, shop and hang out at the many outside tables. This is a much smaller version of the San Francisco Ferry Building, but they both talk to the foodie in you. Castro Valley Marketplace has olive oils and spices, an artisan bakery, and a butcher, a sushi counter, and a brewery. All of this gets put together with a natural food store. Oh, and the basement has a cellar and lounge. You immediately get why their slogan is: “Only good things, only good food”.

Outside patio of the Castro Valley Marketplace.

We visited on a Sunday with the brunch crowd. There was a band playing outside and people were enjoying themselves. Nobody seemed to mind the 50 minutes wait for their food order. This space is made for gatherings. If you want to grab a quick bite you might choose the prepared foods at Castro Valley Natural Grocery. This, by the way, is Castro Valley’s first locally owned, independently operated, and certified green whole health market. Besides the tables outside there are a few tables upstairs. The upstairs right now hints at the potential for more gatherings with a pop out kitchen. Future plans are to have cooking classes and local makers to share their talent and products.

Formerly the Daughtrey’s department store, the Castro Valley Marketplace had its grand opening on July 9th, 2021.

Castro Valley mural inside of the Castro Valley Marketplace.

You can find the Castro Valley Marketplace at 3295 Castro Valley Boulevard.

I did not receive any compensation to publish this blog post. 

Remember my post from two weeks ago: Treat yourself to something sweet? If you were looking for the alfajores and did not have time to stop by the Wooden Table Cafe in Oakland, you can find them at the Castro Valley Natural Grocery store!

A cow is part of the climbing structures at Discovery Farm.

Discover a Farm – Martial Cottle Park in San Jose

Martial Cottle Park celebrates the agricultural history of Santa Clara County. The land was gifted to Santa Clara County by Walter Cottle Lester, who was the last of a 150 year farming legacy.

Trail at Martial Cottle Park in San Jose.

A visitor center presents the heritage; outside, information tables with a timeline put the development in perspective. Trails, picnic areas, and green spaces occupy some of the 287 acres. Jacobs organic Farm and community education programs occupy 180 of these acres. The UCCE Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County help with community education about agriculture and the environment. And, the 4-H youth development, and Our City Forest, also found a home at Martial Cottle Park. 

A tunnel for climbing at the Discovery Farm playground.

Appropriately named Discovery Farm is the playground at Martial Cottle Park.  Some challenging climbing structures, farm animals to scale, and a tractor are the attractions. There are a few rules for the 5 – 12 year olds posted at the entrance of the playground such as sufficient strength and coordination, advisable parental supervision, etc. Additional COVID-19 protocols are in place. The water feature is turned off due to drought regulations.

Climbing structure at Discovery Park, San Jose.

Martial Cottle Park 

5283 Snell Ave San Jose, CA 95136

Opening hours are 8 am till sunset. 

Parking fees are $2 per hour or $6 all day.

Have you been to Martial Cottle Park?

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?

A tree wrapped in a blue cloth as part of ArtLift in Palo Alto.

Lift Yourself up by Art – ArtLift in Palo Alto

The Palo Alto Public Art Program called for 40 artists to create ArtLift, to raise the spirit of the community with art projects throughout the city, and to support local artists. Different art displays and installations were started in March 2021 and will run till September. The theme of ArtLift is COVID related, engaging the community to get back together, reconnect, recover, and enjoy, within COVID restrictions.

Tree wrapped with a pink ribbon as part of ArtLift by Robin Mullery.

I went to Rinconada Park to see Bright Existence by Robin Mullery. Inspired by a poem by Brenda Hillman, bright cloth was wrapped around trees to symbolize our distance yet togetherness throughout the pandemic. Bright Existence will be on display until August. Social Distancing Stools by Tara de la Garza, on display from April to June, was another work, also in Rinconada Park. The seats are made of upcycled materials and concrete and spaced 6 feet apart.

On the walk back, I saw a free library and hoped to spot one of the postcards from The Postcard Project that Susan Meade is leaving around town. Follow her on Instagram @swimmersuze to see where she leaves them. 

Social Distancing Stools an art installation at Rinconada Park in Palo Alto.

I’m always up for hunting down art. I like that you might be discovering them by chance. But if you want to plan out the adventure, check out the Program’s website for an interactive map of locations. 

Where do you go to see public art?

Palo Alto is a great place for public art. Here are some more suggestions:

Enjoy Some Art at Byxbee Park

Surf for Free – Tesla Statue in Palo Alto

Also check out my list of 50 things to do in Palo Alto!

Climbing structure and concrete slides at Brigadoon Park.

Skid Down the Brigadoon Park Slide, San Jose

I arrived at Brigadoon Park greeted by an empty playground some late morning. My quest was the giant concrete slide I’d heard so much about. 

Many pieces of cardboard at the base of the slides at Brigadoon Park.

At the base I picked up one of the many cardboard boxes. If I ever wanted to slide, the opportunity of no witnesses was now or never. There are three options for sliding. One for the slimmer and tinier generation with higher walls for protection.

Two concrete slides are right next to each other.

I had to choose one of the two other wider slides. All of the slides have two bumps. This was a fun and scary experiment. The cardboard didn’t disappoint. This is a fast ride! I was relieved that by the time I crashed into the playground there was still no one around to take notice of my less than perfect landing. Very much fun for the younger crowd.

Brigadoon Park is located on Brigadoon Way and Maloney Drive in San Jose. Parking in the neighborhood was no problem. 

Concrete slide with cardboard at Brigadoon Park, San Jose.

Have you ever tried the slide at Brigadoon Park?

Other fun playgrounds in the Peninsula:

Seven Seas Park, Sunnyvale

Magic Mountain, San Mateo

Las Palmas Park, Sunnyvale

Magical Bridge, Palo Alto

Mini golf balls

Tee-off at Putters Putt Putt in Walnut Creek

Mini golf ball with obstacles

A pop up mini golf in the parking lot of a former restaurant might sound dubious but Putters Putt Putt is anything but.

Hole 2 of Putters Putt Putt in Walnut Creek

For $10 a person you can shoot your regular 18 holes, plus three extra. The person who built it is on site giving you a quick run down. He is very passionate about his course and will keep adding and improving at least until the restaurant is rented out again. 

For us this was a great father’s day getaway. We enjoyed the inventive spirit. Two of the courses have poles you swing for extra difficulty. My favorite hole was number 18, which frankly is a bit removed from the idea of mini golf as you start out with a pinball pull to catapult your golf ball along a few ramps. It ends up in this triangular nail grit and if you are lucky could get a hole in one. But wait there’s more. At the end is a challenge of four ramps where everyone shoots at the same time and the score can change depending on who gets in first. 

Mini golf ball in a pinball plunger

Putter Putt Putt is located on 1275 South California Blvd in Walnut Creek. They are closed Monday and Tuesdays and open Wednesdays to Fridays from 2 pm – 8:30 pm, Saturdays and Sundays 12:30 pm – 8:30 pm. They also do birthday parties.

Two pendulums swinging at the mini golf Putters Putt Putt.

Have you been to Putters Putt Putt?

Full disclosure Putters Putt Putt contacted me via Instagram and we got a rebate. Follow them for updates @puttersputtputt

Do you like to play games outside? Try Senet at the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in San Jose. 

Sign for the Stulsaft park in Redwood City.

Walk your Dog off leash at Stulsaft Park, Redwood City

A concrete slide for water play filled with sand.

Stulsaft Park in the hills of Redwood City is, with 42 acres, the city’s largest park. A moderate short hike with lots of shade and a little creek. We parked at Farm Hills Blvd near the playground. The play area has swings and slides and a really nice water area (from June – September). Due to drought conditions the splash zone might be adjusted, currently water flows 10:30am-12:00pm and 2:00-6:00pm daily.

Gate with a sign to the off-leash trail at Stulsaft park.

The park starts with some elevation but once you reach the off-leash dog area it is nice and mostly flat. Picnic tables are in the amphitheater near a creek. During summer months this area is used for summer camps and the off-leash dog area is reduced to the upper trails. Please follow rules on leashing up your dog when requested and, of course, always pick up after your four legged friend. There is a three dog maximum per person. 

A person walking a dog off leash at Stulsaft park, Redwood City.

Also, watch out for some art. The roadrunner near the top of a tree, for example, was an unsuspected sight. 

Roadrunner art in tree, Stulsaft park.

Overall I enjoyed the hike, seeing the dogs, and relaxing in the shade.

Stulsaft Park is located on 3737 Farm Hill Blvd in Redwood City.

What is your favorite off-leash dog park?

Another off-leash hike with your dog is Pulgas Ridge Preserve.

The entrance to the sensory garden.

Relish with all Senses – Sensory Garden at the Gardens of Lake Merritt

Squirrel drinking out of a fountain at the Sensory Garden, Lake Merritt.

I did give you a little break before I write again of yet another garden at the Gardens of Lake Merritt. You enter the Sensory Garden through a tile covered archway. It right away heightens your senses. You smell the mint and other herbs and notice all the colorful flowers. The whole garden is planted in raised beds that make it easy to touch the plants. The smoothed edged bricks are guidance for the visually impaired. The path meanders towards a shady seating area. We were delighted to watch a squirrel drink from the beautiful fountain. 

The former Herb and Fragrance Garden, established in 1978, got a makeover in 2004 through a collaboration of members of the Oakland East Bay Garden Center, the City’s Public Works Agency, and members of the Hillside Gardeners of Montclair. If you wish to help out and further experiment with your senses you are welcome to volunteer every third Saturday of the month in the morning.

Mint at the Sensory Garden.

The Sensory Garden is part of the Gardens of Lake Merritt at

666 Bellevue Ave, in Oakland, located near the South-West gate.

Which one is your favorite garden at the Gardens of Lake Merritt?

Previous posts of the gardens were:

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!

Bonsai next to a sign for the Bonsai Garden of Lake Merritt.

Pick your Favorite Bonsai, Gardens of Lake Merritt

Maple bonsai at the Bonsai Garden, Lake Merritt.

In last week’s post about the AirBeeNBee at the Gardens of Lake Merritt I mentioned there was more to come. The bonsai garden, the only all volunteer based bonsai garden in the U.S., is an outstanding display of this Japanese tradition. Over a hundred little trees in a pot are presented. The oldest is over 1,600 years old!

A large stone shaped as a bunny at the bonsai garden at Lake Merritt, Oakland.

Open since 1999 the Bonsai Garden also features a collection of suiseki stones. Suiseki stones, also known as viewing stones, are stones that suggest a scene from nature. They are usually displayed as found and not modified. 

The cedar entrance gate to this garden is by master carpenter Hiroshi Sakaguchi from Northern California.

The gate to the bonsai garden by master carpenter Hiroshi Sakuguchi.

The Gardens of Lake Merritt are free, but donations are appreciated.

What is your favorite garden at the Gardens of Lake Merritt?

Here is a link to last week’s post about the AirBeeNBee.