Watching Neowise in style!

I went up to Castle Rock Park in the Open Space the other day to try and catch an evening sighting of the Neowise comet! I decided I had to do it in style, rather than just hike up there to stand around!

So, I brought my dog, Bodie, a picnic, some wine (shh!), and a friend! The views were spectacular as usual with the twilight colors and a dim orange sun reflecting off Mt. Diablo. It was absolutely beautiful. We eventually found Neowise, but needed binoculars to see it, as the light pollution from Martinez refineries didn’t lend the naked eye a view. Though I was hoping for some spectacular images like those posted on Jackson Hole’s Twitter account, it was not meant to be in highly populated Contra Costa County.

Days earlier, I also took a hike in a different direction at Castle Hill Park to Pine Canyon where there is a rock formation where the Peregrine Falcon makes it nest (once an endangered species) and a bench that you can sit on and just take in the scenery and maybe see a falcon flying high above. It is a short walk in, but nice to take it all in and just be outside.

Ace is the place!

We didn’t have a hardware store for a long time in Walnut Creek. I think the closest thing to that that we had was a Simon’s, which was a sort of all-encompassing space that did sell hardware. But, now, we have a local branch of Ace, and I love it!

Ace has a little something for everyone, but also hits on all your hardware needs. They have really cute ideas for gifts. They do an especially wonderful job with cute gift ideas, from candles to dish towels, but they also offer everything from bird seeders to barbecues. Like any good hardware store, they are tools, cleaning supplies, key-making, patio/garden, paint, grills and accessories, and plants/soil.

My favorite aspect, though, is probably at winter time. They do an awesome job of providing holiday lights, decorations and of course Christmas trees, and will even have a tree delivered to your house for you!

It is just really nice to have a local hardware store that has so much more and isn’t part of Lowe’s or Home Depot. I recently had to run over and replace a bird feeder that my favorite yard squirrel knocked down and broke as he was swinging on the wire trying to get to the bird food (he might not be my favorite anymore) I used my Ace rewards and got $5.00 off! They are pet friendly and when I take Bodie with me he is always facinated by the train with a golden gate replica, blowing it’s whistle as goes along the tracks on the tracks above the store! How cool is that! Remember, especially in these times, SHOP LOCAL, if possible.

Morucci’s: A History

During shelter-in-place, I did some giveaways supporting local businesses. One of them was a gift card to Morucci’s on Boulevard. I had an opportunity to speak with the owner, Robert Fambrini (a very Italian name for the owner of an Italian deli!), and ask a few questions.

He told me he spent 25 years in the Petrini’s market chain, a family-owned business until 1989. It was founded as a butcher shop in San Francisco in 1935 by Italian immigrant Frank Petrini and later expanded to specialize in gourmet foods. At the start of the 20th century, grocery stores were a lot like department stores, with different partners owning and operating their departments.

Robert was in six of the Petrini locations from San Francisco, Novato, and Moraga, to Walnut Creek. When asked what words of wisdom he would give his 18-year-old self, Robert replied, “Go slow. When you are young, you want to conquer the world, however financial issues will arise and you don’t want to extend yourself too far!”

He found trying to manage six locations at once was too much, and in 1989 Petrini’s ultimately sold to a Canadian company. Now he has been happy to focus on just one deli for the last 20 years – Morucci’s, in Walnut Creek. He says it is more profitable and much easier to manage. “It’s been a wild ride,” says Robert.

He said having one bigger deli is always better and that he’s happy it is in Walnut Creek. In hindsight, I wished I’d asked him how the name “Morucci’s” came about, but it was crowded and busy (no surprise to those who have been there!), so I’m grateful for his time.

A quick visit to John Muir

A couple of weeks ago, I went to take a run in my neighborhood. I got about 10 yards from my house running with my sunglasses on, before I stepped into a small hole I hadn’t seen, caught the edge with my toe, and fell flat on my face. Not my proudest moment!

Anyway, after a zoom video with my doctor, she recommended an X-Ray, so off to John Muir I went. It wasn’t really a pleasant reason for meandering around the John Muir Hospital campus, but I ended up catching some pretty cool art.

I love this blue, meandering line of glass depicting a river that starts at the waterfall rock. When I first started writing this blog, I did a quick picture to ask if people could guess where it is, but decided it was better to go more in-depth. It really is a peaceful place to sit and take a lunch or a reprieve from a sick or dying family member’s situation.

The hospital’s namesake, John Muir, also has a statue in the roundabout of the campus. I took a few shots of that as well! Visits to the hospital aren’t really something people look forward to, but props to John Muir for decking out the area with some serene artwork to make it a better experience!

On the state of things…

The murder of George Floyd has struck a chord with the world. It has created a spark, which has ignited the tinder ignored for decades. Unfortunately, unconscious bias, racism, and racial stereotyping exist. My hope is this movement will create the needed changes and initiate conversations for understanding and acceptance.

I am all for civil disobedience, freedom of speech, and the right to protest. There were thousands who came to Walnut Creek and peacefully protested. The key words are “civil” and “peaceful.” I deplore the few opportunists who choose to loot our cities. They dilute the message of the peaceful protestors and reinforce the opinion of those who are already biased or racist, and cause the police to be more vigilant. To be clear, I believe looting here and nationwide has mostly been done by outside agitators and opportunists who are not associated with the peaceful movement itself.

I live very close to downtown, and the night the looting occurred, I worried rioters would come into my neighborhood and I considered what I would do. The next day, there were some emails asking what we could do to keep our neighborhood safe if that happened. This photo was sent out. I suspect the police were preventing anybody from looting Kaiser, which is directly behind them, but also the main access to my neighborhood. The next night, when I heard helicopters, I felt safer and appreciated the police who are there to protect, though some heavy-handed police actions across the nation has made people skeptical about their intentions. The police, as a general entity, obviously have issues to fix. Their main duty is to serve and protect, and most do that admirably.

As a result of the looting on Monday, our beautiful town of Walnut Creek is boarded up. My heart also goes out to all the businesses who had to shut down or restrict their business activities due to the mandated shelter-in-place. They now have had to protect their businesses by boarding up the windows or repairing damage caused by the looting. The downtown area was closed off for a few days and there are very few who are wandering down there. Please continue to support them in whatever way you can. The day after the looting, many residents came downtown to help clean it up. Kudos to all who did. I only heard about it afterward – otherwise, I would have been there too.

I debated about posting this because there is fear in sharing it. Fear that I will say something wrong, offend somebody, or not say enough. I believe we all have a voice and we should express it when something is a concern and stand up for what is right. This is what protesting is all about and we should stand up for what we believe in. Our voices should be heard. Vote. Strive to make a change for good. Be heard.

I will end this with a quote by James Baldwin: “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

Mike’s Bikes

I recently went looking for an open bike shop and found Mike’s Bikes. I drive by their store almost daily to work, and just being around town as they are in the Mercer building on the corner of California and Civic. The shop was founded in 1964 in Marin County (one of the first Schwinn shops!), and it was rumored that their location in San Rafael was home to some of the first mountain bikes in the country.

The Mike’s Bikes family has 12 Bay Area locations and prides itself on selling only bikes and bike accessories, unlike other outdoor stores. Co-owners Ken Martin and Matt Adams teamed up to buy the franchise after owner Dave Kaplan decided to retire. You can read more about them here.

I took a bike in that was gifted to me with a flat tire and in need of a tune-up. The person working there took my bike, filled up the tire to see if it was leaking, adjusted the seat because it was extended beyond the point of safety, and they didn’t even charge me! I loved the customer service at Mike’s Bikes and will be buying a new bike from them in the near future; thinking an electric mountain bike.

For those who don’t already know about the shop in downtown Walnut Creek, go check it out sometime! It really is a Mecca for bikers – both hardcore and casual. I know they’ll take good care of whoever comes through those doors or for now when you stand at the front door (dogs included – see the last picture!).

Searching for the best local Chinese food…

I recently ordered takeout from Peony Garden, which is right next to Las Lomas, across from Kaiser. It is always a search for the best Chinese food, because from different regions the flavor and dishes change. I have had takeout from Peony before and, for me, it was good, not great. I am not a fan when restaurants make sauces too sweet when they shouldn’t, such as on Kung Pao Chicken.

I ordered a lot of food thinking I would eat it over a couple of days because Chinese is wonderful as a leftover dish, but I found a hair in my asparagus beef and ended up tossing it. That said, I struggle to note that because restaurants are struggling and have had no issues in the past. Surprisingly, they have dim sum and some great appetizers, so I would love to hear your feedback.

It is super close to my neighborhood so very convenient, however, I’m still searching for that local Chinese restaurant that I completely fall in love with. If you have any recommendations, please let me know!

We are lucky to live here!

So, things will be a little weird for at least another month in California. If you’re like me, all this social distancing has started to wear on you both personally and professionally. Luckily, we live in a beautiful place with great weather!

That’s one saving grace – we are still allowed to go on hikes in the Open Space! Recently, I went on one of my favorite Shell Ridge hikes. It goes about 3 miles up a hill and rewards you with great views of the Walnut Creek/680 corridor. You may recognize the spot because it’s where a huge water tower used to be.

To get there, you come in at Marshall, turn left, and then go up and around the side (you used to go straight up the hill, but it’s been blocked off). To get to the highest peak, you backtrack at the top of the ridge. Check out these beautiful views!

I like to sit on the bench up there and take in the incredible landscape below. We really are so lucky to call the Bay Area home, even during a global pandemic. Take advantage of the outdoor opportunities, like this hike, if you can. But make sure your eyes are peeled – it’s rattlesnake season up there!

Art Town: Re-visiting the “Folded G”

A while back, I shared an Art Town blog about the deconstructed “letter G” statue near the BART station. I had a little bit of information (included in that link) about the creator of the sculpture, but I received a comment on the blog shortly after posting regarding the artist and the piece!

It came from a reader named Rob, who wrote: “This sculpture is painted aluminum. A few years ago, it was painted a steel grey. It’s a deconstructed letter G, from the alphabet.” He also included the artist information (Fletcher Benton), date of creation (1984), and more.

So, I reached out to Rob via email and asked how he knew so much about the piece that I couldn’t find a lot of information on! He wrote back with an interesting story and connection: not only was he an artist himself, but Benton, the artist of the piece in question, was his sculpture teacher in college!

Small world, huh? It turns out that Rob works at SFMOMA and had some information on another piece in the area I was curious about. We’ll save that piece for another Art Town post, but thought you’d enjoy revisiting this one and hearing that story!

The updated Greenery at Diablo Hills is impressive!

Whether you are an avid golfer or not, you’ve probably spent a warm afternoon at some point in your adult life playing a 9-hole round at Diablo Hills in Walnut Creek. The course runs parallel (in some spots) to Ygnacio Valley Rd. and the clubhouse and Greenery (restaurant and bar) overlook Heather Farms.

It’s always been a really fun to play a quick round, but made even better by the social life at the Greenery. I visited recently and was very impressed by how much they’ve improved the clubhouse. I used to eat breakfast there when my kids had City Meet at Heather Farms Pool. The breakfast was always good, in a dated bar of the clubhouse.

Now there are TV’s throughout, which invite you into the spacious bar area, and they seem to have re-done parts of the menu, too. The entryway has definitely been upgraded and it looks like a place you could host legitimate events or meetings now! They even have an extra event room for weddings. I recently went for Comedy Night. What has changed is the weekend live music, which has attracted an over-40 crowd for dancing and nightlife. There is no cover, but I suspect they make their money on the drinks and food people buy.

It was a smart move by Diablo Hills to update this – as the taste of locals continue to get newer and nicer, businesses have to change with the times. And the Greenery at the golf course certainly has. Go check it out next time you want to hit the links or dance the night away!