Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Let's Welcome the Newest Farmers' Market in San Jose

Many years ago I had the extreme pleasure of vacationing in Paris for 2 weeks and while it is difficult to say what I loved most about Paris (everything!), open air markets were definitely one of the things I loved. In Paris one goes to sleep at night to ordinary streets and wakes up to a sea of colorful vending stands selling a vast array of cheese, bread, produce and flowers. While San Jose's farmers markets have not quite achieved Parisian market status, they are none the less part of what makes the quality of life here in San Jose all the better. San Jose City Hall Farmers' Market is the latest and they offer a different emphasis. They are a zero waste market. They encourage people to bring their own bags and walk, bike or take public transportation to get there. They also use only biodegradable packaging. Some of the vendors seem to be there as much to educate as to make a sale. I really like the concept of a farmers' market that one can go to after work. How wonderful it was to pick up some ripe, organic raspberries on my way home from work on Tuesday. And it was a pleasure to see people leaving their offices at City Hall to go do a little shopping at their very own market. A little country in the city is a good thing. The City Hall Farmers' Market is open every Tuesday from 3-7.

Monday, May 25, 2009


With the Fanime convention in town, I need someone to give me a crash course in Anime - soon.  I have only the vaguest notion of what Anime is but I do know that San Jose convention goers are rarely this playful and colorful.  And let's face it, with their hats with ears and their pink hair, their fur, feathers, and wings, pleated skirts and whimsical knee socks and purses, they are flat out cute (I hope that is the look they were striving for).  Everyone I approached was more than willing to have their picture taken and tell me a little about the character they were portraying. Within seconds I was lost. For me, this is the great generational divide, along with lightning fast text-messaging and social networking.  Anyway, it was lots of fun and I was sorry to see the Fanime folks packing up and leaving town.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Low Effort, High Impact Plants

Just a few of the many plants that have died in my garden.

Orange symphony Osteospermum

Oenothera Speciosa - Pink Evening Primrose (blooms are open all day)

Mesem-Bryanthemum - purple ice plant
I have been gardening since I was 7 when I talked my dad into letting me plant one of his flower beds with one row of corn, one row of green beans and one row of zinnias. The bed was about 2 1/2 feet by 3 feet so you can imagine how well the corn did but from that garden on I was hooked for life on gardening. At the moment I am in love with my garden but over the years there have been many heartbreaks and failures. I kept a (poor) record of what I planted by saving the little plastic tags that come in the pot. I was appalled recently when I looked through the collection of tags and realized just how many plants have died in my care (see the tiny "plant tag graveyard" pictured). Fortunately for me, most of the garden centers in San Jose have a very generous return policy. Here is how it works: you take the remains of the plant (along with your receipt) into the garden center and they let you take home a new victim - for free. There were certain plants I was so determined to have in my garden (hibiscus for instance) that I repeated this process at least three times before I gave up. On my many walks around downtown San Jose I have identified some very spectacular, low effort, high impact plants that seem to thrive here with very little work. The pictures here are of 3 plants that just keep coming back year after year with an abundance of blooms. Any nominees of your own?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Viewer Discretion Advised

This is not exactly how I wanted "Bike to Work Week" to end. I had planned something more glorious - riding in the San Jose Bike Party Friday night ride. Instead, while riding home from work I braked too hard to avoid riding into a car and my bike stopped then skidded out on gravel and I kept going and landed on the street. Now listen up bike riders: ALWAYS WEAR A HELMET! The damage would have been a lot worse if I had not been wearing my helmet. Also: ALWAYS CARRY A CELL PHONE! One call and my Forest Hill friends came to my rescue, took me to urgent care, took away my bike and took me home. I love you guys.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Bike to Work Day is Coming - Prepare!

Since I began biking to work last September, I've learned a few things. First, it is probably not a good idea to choose your bicycle based on how well the color goes with the color of your house (really well). I love my bike but had I known about the overhead bike racks on light rail I never would have chosen the heaviest bike on the market. Another really important thing I've learned is that if you intend to ride your bike and save the planet, sometimes your friends are going to have to make some sacrifices like hauling 20 pound bags of bird seed to school for you and so it really helps to have nice friends. And speaking of friends, I've learned that you meet a lot of very likable people when commuting by bike and light rail. It never ceases to amaze me how many people have these interesting lives and great stories to tell. I have also learned that I don't really need to buy everything I thought I needed to buy. When faced with detour of considerable distance, I often decide I can do without (quite nicely) the thing I planned to purchase. I've learned how relaxing and pleasant it is to ride and how much more I notice in the landscape when I'm out of the car and off the main roads. People have begun to recognize me and wave and give me a shout out as I pass. I passed an older woman this morning, someone I see all the time and she called out to me to say that she finally got her bike out and started riding. I would like to say I've inspired an army of people to get out of their cars and onto their bikes but I haven't exactly done that. Two good friends did go out and buy bikes this year though and I'm proud of them. Check out the Bike to Work website and who knows, maybe you'll be inspired.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Bicycle Express - I Love this Place!

Thursday, May 14th, is Bike to Work Day and I was thinking about how much I like commuting by bicycle, which got me to thinking how much I wanted a commuter cup holder for my handlebars and so I decided to swing by Bicycle Express on my way home tonight.  What I encountered as I rode up to Bicycle Express (131 E. Williams) was the usual scene of people hanging out, talking, repairing bikes and taking bikes for a spin.  Sure it is a bike shop that sells bikes, bike parts and bike accessories but more than that it is a place to gather, sort of a hub of local bicycle activity.  I am guessing that the wonderful people who own this place are not in the business to get rich, they are here because they like helping people and they like bikes.  I have seen them make minor repairs for free, teach people how to make repairs themselves (and let them use the shop tools) and one bike commuter acquaintance of mine claims the owner even made a special trip to the shop on a Sunday to fix his bike.  Today, many of the bike shop tools had migrated out to the sidewalk in front of the shop where a crowd of cyclists were fixing their bikes.  Bicycle Express is where I bought my bike and when the manufacturer was back ordered and it was taking awhile for the bike to arrive, the owners of Bicycle Express did everything short of traveling to the factory and building it themselves, to get my bike to me as soon as they could.  The shop is so tiny that on a typical day one can barely thread their way through to the counter but it is packed with just about everything a bicyclist could want.  And as of this Thursday, that will include commuter cup holders.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

San Jose, an All-American Rose Selections Winner

The weather was gray, rainy and gloomy yesterday but in San Jose's Rose Garden on Dana Avenue, things could not have been brighter or happier.  Yesterday was a celebration of the announcement that our municipal rose garden will be an official test site for AARS, in fact the only one in northern California.  Hundreds of dedicated volunteers have resurrected this once weedy and neglected rose garden to its current state of grandeur.  The mayor was on hand for the official ribbon cutting as was Tom Carruth, the president of AARS.  Sadly, there were so few people on hand to celebrate, that when the organizers divided us in to two groups, people officially connected with the event on one side of the test rose bed and the mere spectators on the other side, our side had barely enough people to fit around an average size dining room table. Still, the event, with 4,000 rose bushes as a backdrop, was glorious.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Setting the Stage for World Peace

I figured I would post something today about all the Cinco de Mayo celebrations that are scheduled to take place but then I came across all these busy, happy people setting up for a festival to celebrate an "International Day of Compassion and Peace and Harmony" and I just couldn't resist.  This is event is taking place at San Jose City Hall and is sponsored by Lieu Quan Buddhist Cultural Center.  After reading their mission statement on their website, I can't argue with any of their goals, they seem quite noble.  Just thinking about all the beautiful colors of the flowers and paintings and banners and the two smiling men in their brown robes makes me smile.