Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Gifts from Artists

I was riding my bike down San Fernando Street last night and as I crossed the Guadelupe River I heard bird calls and looked up to see this intriguing sculpture installed across the entire span of the bridge.  There were miniature tents (which I've always loved) mounted on metal pipes.  The text that accompanied the sculpture seemed a little wordy and somewhat gratuitous.  The little tents and bird calls and other sounds really speak for themselves and for several minutes allowed me to marvel over the artists' ability to transform this space.
This is just one of several newly commissioned public art projects that can be experienced for FREE.  Go to 2010 01SJ Biennial for a complete list of the public art on display now.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Our Friendly Neighborhood Parrot

Most mornings I am awakened by a big brown boxer but this morning I was awakened by some very loud parrot noises.  I often hear him when I am working out in my garden but until this morning he has been my phantom parrot.  Today he seemed to be posing at the top of my neighbor's walnut tree where there appears to be a nest. I think he is adorable. Has anyone else in San Jose seen parrots in their neighborhood?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Award Winning Tamales Just Five Blocks from My House!

While exploring the Five Wounds neighborhood yesterday, my friend and I discovered a tamale factory on S. 28th St.  We went into the lobby and noticed a small window (closed), a menu and a button to ring for service.  It was still pretty early in the morning for tamales so I went back today.  Turns out El Azteca Mexican Foods is celebrating 50 years of being in the tamale business.

It has been a family run business the entire 50 years and I had a nice long chat with Joe, the current family member in charge. They make two things, tamales and chile rellenos and both were the best I ever tasted.  I make my own chile rellenos from scratch and I think they're pretty darn good but El Azteca's have a better flavor and a puffy coating that's not too puffy.  The masa dough of their tamales is flavorful, chewy perfection and the fillings are tasty and ample.  I got the green chile, cheese and chopped olive filling and  brought home beef and pork tamales to the meat eaters in the family.

I served everything with the tasty chile relleno sauce for an extraordinary lunch.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Jacaranda Trees Shed Lovely Lavender "Snow"

I associate Jacaranda trees with southern California where they supposedly bloom in early spring but right now Jacaranda trees are deliciously in bloom all over downtown San Jose.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Phil Wood - I Never Knew Bike Parts Could be this Fabulous!

Last night's San Jose Bike Party ride was a memorial ride in honor of Phil Wood, a bicyclist who re-invented bicycle hubs, established a bicycle parts manufacturing business and made truly excellent bicycle parts.

 He died recently but his company lives on. Thousands of bicyclists gathered last night at the Phil Wood Company before heading out on their ride.  Tours of the company were available and while I never thought machine shops were anything I could get into, I ended up loving the tour.

Phil Wood hubs are gorgeous and the design and manufacturing process was fascinating. I had no idea San Jose was home to this very special company.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The A's May Have Just Moved One Step Closer to San Jose

People leaving the city council meeting tonight

Tonight I attended a city council meeting during which the council voted to certify the environmental impact report concerning a major league baseball stadium in downtown San Jose.  I have been an A's fan for about 28 years, ever since my oldest daughter started earning A's tickets by reading books for the A's reading incentive program.  Tonight the council heard many people speak on concerns about noise, parking, traffic and more.  But the council never lost sight of the immeasurable positive impact a major league baseball team can have on a city.  Go A's! 

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Best Cappuccino Deal in Town

First cappuccino
I have resisted writing about Cafe Docanto because every time I've been there I have been the only female patron and it kind of bothered me that it was such a male dominated establishment.  But they are always very friendly and I can accept that certain places appeal to or are by tradition favored by one sex or the other.
When I was a kid, my father said the same thing every evening when he came home from work: "Did anyone send us any money today?" Well someone (the state franchise tax board) sent me some money yesterday and I wanted to celebrate by going out for coffee. So I headed over to Cafe Docanto and had TWO cappuccinos and some sort of creme filled pastry.
Second cappuccino
 The cappuccinos are strong and robust with just a hint of bitterness and each one costs just $2.  Cafe Docanto also serves Portuguese sandwiches starting at $2. The owner provides free morning newspapers for the customers to read which I really appreciate. There were men sidled up to the coffee bar drinking espresso shots like they were tequila shots and every seat in the cafe was taken and everyone was watching a futsal game.

 A lively discussion ensued when I asked what "futsal" was.  They were having trouble agreeing on a definition so I asked for an English translation and someone said "futsal" is "futsal" in English.  Well almost.  Futsal is like soccer (football) played on a smaller surface and indoors and with a harder, less bouncy ball. For the record, Brazil's and Portugal's futsal teams are internationally ranked first and fifth respectively.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Sharks Win - Behold Happiness

I watched game five of the semi-finals at home but the minute the Sharks won it, I jumped on my bike and headed downtown.  Now THAT was fun!

So Much to See and Do the Kids (and adults) Will have the Time of Their Lives

Yesterday afternoon my friend called me and said she would be playing soccer on a field near my house and she thought I might like to walk the dog over and watch.  Yes, I would like to watch the game, no I would not like to bring the dog.  He's had his chance to attend a soccer game.  One day we were out walking in an big open area (he was off leash) when we came upon a girls' high school soccer practice.  He started running up and down the field with the girls, chasing the ball and having great time. When I finally got him leashed up and over to the sidelines, the girls came over and started petting him and fawning over him.  Noticing how irritated the coach was, we left.
Handball courts are in the background.
 The field where my friend was playing is part of a vast and impressive sports complex that lies between Roosevelt Park and San Jose High Academy.  There is a fantastic skateboard park, a roller hockey rink and stadium, handball courts, baseball fields (yes, multiple baseball fields) football stadium and track.
Roller hockey rink is in background.
Nestled in among all these arenas are two open fields large enough to accommodate soccer.  Any given night in San Jose, one is likely to find soccer games (organized and not) taking place in parks and schools and fields.  My friend's game was part of an adult coed soccer league and I have to say it sure looked like fun and set against the backdrop of Mt Hamilton with Lick Observatory sparkling in the setting sun, it was a pleasure to be there.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

What a Difference 7 Years Makes

This weekend marks the 7th anniversary of my move to downtown San Jose.  I remember that weekend 7 years ago well, with all the wonderful friends and family who helped me move and offered words of encouragement (even if forced at times) and tried not show their horror at what I had taken on. Cinco de Mayo celebrations were in full swing and every car, house and person (it seemed) sported a Mexican flag.  There was music and the happy sounds of family gatherings everywhere and the air was filled with wonderful smells of barbeque and home cooking.  My neighbors came over with plates of delicious fresh food to welcome me. Today I spent the day in the Santa Cruz mountains and as I rode back into town I could tell from the helicopters overhead that the immigration reform march must have started.  I headed over to Santa Clara Street and was struck by the different tone and appearance of today's march from the marches in the past.

 Today there were mostly American flags sending a clear message: "We ARE Americans."  The crowd had a focused message "Reform Now!"

This country has shown itself to be capable of great things, enormous generosity, bravery, creativity, ingenuity and resourcefulness.  We are big enough and good enough to tackle this issue and make America work for all its people.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Spring Garden Market

One does not usually associate the word ruthless with gardeners but when it comes to the Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County spring sale, there is a certain "take no prisoners" attitude.  Serious shoppers arrive very early and wait in line for the gates to open.  Then wait again in a sea of serious shoppers before getting the go-ahead signal.  From there it gets brutal. 

 If you are a person whose ego might be bruised by getting mowed down by an extremely experienced gardener, then this event is not for you.  
The madness lasts about 15 minutes at which point many of the more coveted tomato varieties are gone but the atmosphere is more relaxed and fun and there is still plenty to choose from.  The sale features heirloom tomatoes, peppers, herbs and a variety of vegetables and flowers.  There are also industrial strength tomato cages for sale and (in a separate area) vendors of all gardening related goods.  The sale is extremely well-organized and even provides "plant sitting" for you while you continue shopping.

Or you can just have a family member guard your selections while you continue shopping.


It is best to come to the sale with a game plan. The Master Gardeners website provides you with a list of available plants for "pre-shopping" and then of course you have to check your list to make sure you got everything.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Springtime at Civic Center Means Taxes and Weddings

When I went to pay my property taxes today I wasn't expecting to witness a joyful wedding celebration - but I did.  And happily, the bride and groom were kind enough to wear outfits that looked beautiful with the new leaves on the trees.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Fans Flock to San Jose for NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament

Is it just me or is it really easy to get caught up in March Madness?  My first awareness of the NCAA championships came when I moved to Champaign, Illinois in 1971 and I have never seen anything like that level of excitement and obsession about basketball since I moved back to California.  But when I got off light rail in downtown San Jose yesterday I picked up on a very heightened adrenalin level.

I heard this group from a block away.  They were incredibly pumped up and irresistibly friendly.

This group had a friendly rivalry going on with a lot of pom-pom pushing.

This group was unanimous in their allegience.
These guys started to rattle off the rankings (I believe they said UNM was 8th, "Nationally."

Non-partisan paper salesman. I hope the NCAA tournament was good for his business as well as other businesses downtown.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Nasdaq Moves to San Jose for the Day, Just in Time for My 100th Post

 I had an idea for the subject of my 100th post but when I woke up this morning to the news that the opening bell for Nasdaq would be rung in the San Jose City Hall rotunda in 24 minutes, I dressed quickly, grabbed my camera and rode down to city hall.  I made it with minutes to spare and was pretty impressed with the glamor of the event, the number of press members

and the large crowd.  It is a special occasion when the ceremonial opening bell is rung anywhere but New York.  The Nasdaq executives were here to observe the 20th anniversary of its presence in Silicon Valley.

By coincidence the company Financial Engines was here for the opening as the country's latest IPO.  If you want to be there for the ceremonial ringing of the closing bell, our very own mayor Chuck Reed will be ringing it at 1:30 today (again in the rotunda of San Jose City Hall).

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sonia's Kitchen-Cheesesteaks and Curb Appeal

I spotted Sonia's seven years ago during the first week I lived downtown. I absolutely loved the bright green and yellow paint job and how unexpected it was to see a cheesesteak place on this corner. Even though I don't eat meat, I couldn't resist checking out the place.

There is an interesting looking vegetarian sandwich option on the menu and even though I am notorious for making poor choices (like the time I ordered the seafood platter in a restaurant in Wendover, Neveda which is located in the middle of a desert) I couldn't bring myself to order a veggie sandwich at a cheesesteak place.  So I engaged the services of a carnivorous guest blogger who went to Sonia's, ordered the pepper, swiss cheese and grilled onion cheesesteak and reviewed it for me.  He said it was great.  The swiss cheese gets all melty and becomes a tasty sauce for the steak and the steak was really good.

Someday I'll order the veggie sandwich.  It can't be as bad as the Wendover seafood platter.