Fish Out of Water

Musings and observations about life from an East Coast native now living on the Left Coast in the California State Capitol since 2004. This fish has made her home in Madison, WI (7 years); Portland, OR (2 years); Las Vegas, NV (7 months); Middlebury, VT (3 summers); Marne-la-Vallee, a small town east of Paris, France (6 months); Middletown, CT (3 years); and Marshfield, MA, the fish's coastal hometown 40 miles south of Boston (17 years).

Location: Sacramento, California, United States


Day 32: First Days of Summer???

The "observed high" today in Sacramento was 91 degrees.  Yikes!  That's definitely quite a bit above average for this time of year.  Mr. E had to turn on the a/c this afternoon, and we left it on for several hours until after dinner.  Tomorrow is supposed to be even warmer, up to about 95 degrees.  Oy.  It's too early for the first days of Summer!!!

Luckily the temps still plummet by 30+ degrees in the evening, so we can open up the windows, get the cool air into the house, and enjoy the amazing climate and Delta breeze that make living in Sacto so bearable.


Day 31: Silent Running

I got up early this morning (5:20am *yawn*) so that I could fit in a 30-minute run before catching the 7:00am Amtrak to San Francisco for a workshop at The Foundation Center.  Although I'm more of a morning person than a night person, I'm not really a super-early morning person, so anything before about 6:15am is a bit unusual for me.

Luckily, at this time of year, the sky begins to lighten around 5:45am, and I actually really enjoy that quiet break-of-day time running through the grid of Downtown and/or Midtown Sac.  The air smells fresh and feels cool; the gradually rising sun tints the sky all sorts of colours; and the silence of the morning is punctuated only by my footfalls, the echo of traffic on the freeway, the warning bells of the Light Rail, and the occasional cat or dog returning home after some nighttime prowling.

I don't think I'll make a habit of such early rising, but my silent running this morning was quite lovely.


Day 30: Sacramento's Bike-Friendly Neighbor Across the Causeway

This afternoon, I was part of a 3-member panel at an event presented by the UC-Davis Humanities Institute to provide Humanities and Social Sciences graduate students with some guidance around careers paths, both within Academia and beyond.  Mr. E and I don't often travel to our neighbor city across the causeway, and I'd never been to that part of the UC-Davis campus before.

As I walked back to my car after the presentation, I was struck (almost literally!) by the enormous number of bikes streaming along the roadways.  The campus has an extensive system of bike trails, as does the city of Davis itself, and I was clearly strolling along during a major bike rush hour.  I didn't have a camera to snap a photo on the spot, but this gives a pretty good simulation of the experience (just imagine all of these bikes in motion as you're trying to cross the street...):

And I thought that UW-Madison hosted a rather large number of bikes!  No contest compared to UC-Davis, at least not at 5pm on a lovely Monday in late Spring.


Day 29: Sunday's "Choose Your Own Adventure" in Downtown Sac

Are you a competitive or recreational runner?  Then check out the 5K/10K/10 mile Capital City Classic, with start and finish in the park by the Crocker Art Museum and a route that goes through Old Sacramento and West Sacramento and includes great views of both cities on either side of the Sacramento River and the Tower Bridge.

But if you're more interested in a family-friendly walk to raise money to combat Multiple Sclerosis, then the 5K/1 mile Walk MS 2014 at the State Capitol is the event for you.

Or perhaps you're a gentleman who wants to show his support for women who have been subject to domestic violence or sexual abuse.  In that case, you'd be willing to force your feet into a pair of high heels to run or walk along Capitol Mall in the Walk A Mile in Her Shoes fundraiser for WEAVE.

Finally, if you're a dog lover who'd rather wait 'til the evening to venture downtown, then you can join the [informal?] meet-up gathering of Golden State Greyhound Adoption at the corner of 10th and N Streets after dinner.

And if you plan your time well enough, you could actually participate in all of these adventures in a single day, thanks to the plethora of options available to you in Downtown Sac!


Day 28: Morning Fog

Sacramento isn't known for fog, unlike the larger City to our southwest, but the Central Valley does get its fair share of tule fog, mostly during the winter.  Some of that fog creeps into and around the Capitol City, especially near the two rivers that border and intersect the western part of downtown and northern part of midtown.  The fog muffles sound and light and can severely reduce visibility, as shown in the photo below of some rather thick winter fog surrounding the Tower Bridge:

This morning, when I headed off to the gym, I was surprised to be greeted by a high layer of white tule fog that completely blocked any sign of the taller buildings on Capitol Mall, which is just two blocks north of the CAC.  The sun gradually started to filter through as I began my swim workout, and for a few brief moments, a small rainbow appeared before the intense blue of the sky emerged into the sunlight. 

I'm so glad I happened to be doing a length of backstroke so that I could catch a glimpse of the half-arc of colours hanging in the sky.  What a lovely way to start off a Saturday morning!


Day 27: Leftovers!

When I first started working at CPCA, I was surprised to notice the custom of providing meals for all meetings that involve our members, especially for our quarterly Committee and Board of Directors meetings.  This is a stark contrast from what I had experienced at PPMM, where the over-riding theme was to keep costs down in any way possible, even if that meant requiring staff to pay for or bring their own lunch to all-day meetings that involved sometimes extensive out-of-town travel. 

Even CPCA staff who aren't involved in a meeting are welcome to partake of the catering options if there are leftovers, which is typically the case, since it's far preferable to have a bit too much food than to run the risk of not having enough to feed all of the meeting attendees (yeah, we'd never hear the end of that!).

Mr. E also often benefits from this abundance of goodies, as CPCA staff are privy to capturing some of the leftovers before the caterers remove everything at the end of the day.  For example, thanks to the past two days of meetings, there are now 8 scones, 6 small muffins, 5 cookies, and a Tupperware full of veggie lasagna in our freezer.  Yum!


Day 26: My Office

CPCA is on the top floor of a 4-storey building at the northwest corner of 13th & I Streets in downtown Sac, which also houses one of the Sacramento Fire Department stations on the first floor (to the left of the building but not visible in the photo below).
One of the wonderful aspects of the facility is the floor-to-ceiling windows that line each side of the entire office.  Our main Conference Room looks out onto the trees along I Street (in the left foreground of the photos), which is particularly striking when all of the foliage has sprouted.

My office is on the side perpendicular to the Conference room (on the right in the photos).  I love having so much natural light pouring into the room, although the strong sun can be challenging at certain times of the year, both for warmth and computer-screen reflection reasons!

This afternoon, I glanced out my window and was delighted to see a pair of enormous dragonflies swooping in and around the treetops, as if they were dancing on the breeze in between the leaves.  Having such a lovely aerial view is definitely a benefit of being at CPCA, and I really enjoy working in an office environment that has such a strong connection to the natural world and changing seasons outside our windows.


Day 25: Roosevelt Park

The "grid" part of Sacramento (Downtown, Midtown, parts of East Sac) was built around a series of block-sized parks, and many of them remain today in the midst of the urban development that has formed the built environment of the City.  We live right across the street from Roosevelt Park, which is situated between P & Q Streets and 9th & 10th Streets.  You can see our complex, Saratoga Townhomes, at the center bottom of this photo:

Roosevelt Park is a very active urban park, with a basketball court at the corner of 9th & Q, a baseball/softball/kickball diamond at the corner of 10th & P, and grassy open fields often used for pick-up soccer or volleyball games.  During the day, many of the State workers in the surrounding buildings utilize the Park during breaks or lunch.  On certain weekday evenings, the XOSO recreational sports groups (soccer, kickball, softball, dodgeball) take over different areas.  And almost any time of day or night, there's at least one person on the basketball court.

We don't take advantage of the Park very often, but it's lovely to live across from a green space and know that we won't ever have to face new building construction on that parcel!

A few relatively recent amenities include a higher fence around the basketball court, benches around the Park perimeter, and exercise stations designed for less-active seniors adults placed around the interior:

And one aspect of the Park that we definitely utilize is the seasonal Farmer's Market, which runs on Tuesdays from May through October and gives us a good back-up option if we miss out on the year 'round Sunday Farmer's Market under the freeway overpass.


Day 24: WEAVE

A few months ago, I completed a brief orientation and training so that I could volunteer for WEAVE, an amazing local organization that provides domestic violence and abuse services throughout the greater Sacramento area.  Many volunteers complete additional intensive training so that they can staff the Safe House, the phone hotline, or the on-call Sexual Assault Response Team, but I knew that I didn't want to be involved in "direct services" to clients, as I don't have the right disposition for those types of interactions.  Luckily, WEAVE also has a very robust program of special events and community fundraisers, so I've been able to volunteer for several activities that were focused on gaining support and resources for the organization.

Tonight, I helped assemble goodie bags for the VIP sponsors and teams of the upcoming "Walk a Mile in Her Shoes" event, which will take place on Sunday.  Mr. E and I will also both be doing some volunteer shifts at the event itself, and I'm really looking forward to seeing all those men in high heels as they complete the course!  Below is a photo from the 2012 event to give you a sense of what this event is all about...


Day 23: Street Musician

On my way home from work today, I was biking on the wide sidewalk that borders Capital Park on N Street, and in the midst of weaving my way through other cyclists, pedestrians, and joggers, I caught a few strains of music wafting through the lovely spring air.  A young horn player was positioned on the corner near the exit of the underground parking garage, and hearing his song to accompany part of my bike commute brought a smile to my face.

Oddly enough, given the mild climate of Sacramento, the City doesn't usually boast a large number of street musicians, so hearing and seeing the horn player today was an unexpected bonus on my ride home.


Day 22: Molten Lava Cake

One of Mr. E's favorite desserts is a molten lava cake (chocolate cake with a warm liquid chocolate filling).  Most often, he's enjoyed this dessert at The Press, one of our favorite restaurants in Midtown.  I had found a recipe for a variation of the cake that includes a small amount of red wine plus some cinnamon and ginger hadn't yet had an occasion to try making it. 

After we did some errands yesterday, we stopped by Chili's for drinks and pretzels (unsuccessful on the latter, but that's a subject for another post) and noticed a molten lava cake option on the dessert menu.  Mr. E was tempted to bring it home, but I pointed out that the only take-out containers were Styrofoam, which is verboten in our home. :)  Instead, I mentioned that I'd unearth the recipe and give it a try this evening.


And surprisingly, not that difficult to make.  Just baking chocolate, margarine, confectioners sugar, eggs, egg yolk, a bit of vanilla and flour, some cinnamon and ginger, and presto - a fabulous chocolatey gooey yummy masterpiece.

Even better with the [lactose-free] vanilla ice cream on top!  The image below is a very good likeness of our dessert, though I didn't think to add a strawberry to the plate.  Next time...


Day 21: Earth Day at Southside Park

Mr. E and I headed to Southside Park after brunch this morning to check out the Earth Day festival.  We appreciated the free bike valet service and were immediately drawn to the display of electric vehicles, which included a couple of Teslas, a Leaf, a Volt, and... an electric Smart Car!

I've been a huge fan of Smart Cars since I first saw them in Italy when I spent two weeks visiting J and S in Velletri (near Rome) back in February 2000.  I kept waiting and waiting for the Smart Cars to be imported to the US but had to be satisfied for many years with the toy model I bought as a souvenir.  The original company that was supposed to bring them stateside was ZAP, and Mr. E and I bought some ZAP stock that eventually plummeted when its Smart Car deal fell through.  Drat.

Anyway, our next car after Odo (our 2004 Honda Civic Hyrbrid) will likely be an electric car, so it's been interesting to see the evolution of the technology, the increase in available models, and the gradual decrease in cost.  Although the Teslas are still upwards of $100,000 (yikes!), the electric Smart Car comes in as low as $13,000.  And by the time we're in need of a new car, we should have even more options and price points.

How adorable is this?!  And just think - we could probably fit two of 'em in the garage!!!


Day 20: Parking Options

Like many urban areas, Sacramento struggles with issues related to parking - availability, amount, cost, duration, residents vs. visitors, etc.  Street parking in Downtown and Midtown can be challenging at times, and the City has been experimenting with various types of parking mechanisms and controls over the past few years.

At one point, many of the coin-fed meters at individual parking spots were replaced with "Pay & Display" solar-powered machines that allow drivers to use cash, debit, or credit cards to pay for a parking sticker of a certain duration:

One advantage of the Pay & Display mechanism is that a purchased ticket can be utilized in other Pay & Display areas if the ticket is still valid, so drivers can potentially purchase a ticket on one block, take care of whatever business brought them there, and then relocate to another block for additional tasks or errands.

Recently, the individual parking meters around Roosevelt Park across from our townhouse were replace by these Pay & Display machines.  Oddly enough, however, the Pay & Display machines around Cesar Chavez Park across from the City Hall were re-replaced by individual parking meters (perhaps Roosevelt Park inherited the cast-off Pay & Display machines?).  These new individual meters appear to be solar-powered, and I believe they're the kind that can regulate the cost of parking based on supply and demand (i.e. more expensive during times of greater demand), but it still seems a bit wasteful to keep swapping out different types of parking controls.

As I walked back to the office from the Central Library this afternoon, I saw a City worker toting an old Pay & Display machine out of the parking lot next to the Fire Station.  I guess it needed a replacement, as another Pay & Display machine is still in the usual spot by the parking lot entrance.

I'd be curious to know which type of parking controls are most effective and efficient, both for drivers and for the City.  Parking of any kind was always an important issue to consider for any project (residential or commercial) during my time on the Planning Commission, and I was fascinated to learn about different parking studies and "unintended" consequences of providing too much "free" parking.


Day 19: Rescuing Flowers

Last week, Mr. E bought and planted some flowers around the crepe myrtle tree in the small landscaping well in the entry area to our townhouse and in the welcome-mat sized rectangular landscaping plot right outside our front door.  In theory, homeowners aren't supposed to add their own plantings or flowers to these common areas, but that's a policy that often seems to be observed more by exception than compliance.  And considering that our landscaping vendor doesn't seem terribly creative or successful with the decorative plantings, we decided to take a chance and put in some of our own.

When I came home from the CAC this morning, I noticed that 2 of the little red dahlias had been broken off near the main stem, almost as if someone had stepped on them (Mr. E is convinced that the culprits were our next-door neighbors, who aren't always completely responsible and considerate).  So I decided to rescue the injured flowers by bringing them into the house to put into a small bud vase rather than leave them on the ground.

I hope the rest of the new lovelies don't fall prey to a similar fate!!!


Day 18: Introduction to the Capital Athletic Club (CAC)

When we first moved to Sacto, Mr. E did some research on options for a health club for us to join, as we had both enjoyed full-service facilities back in Madison.  The main criteria were for the facility to be close to home (an apartment at 19th & H was our first domicile here) and to have a pool.  That pretty much limited our options to the 24-Hour Fitness on 7th & K or the Capital Athletic Club (CAC) on 8th & O.

Mr. E checked out both facilities initially, and then it was my turn.  My first exposure was to the CAC, and I think that spoiled me for anything else!  The CAC is in a building that has had multiple previous uses, including as a funeral home (!) and a restaurant, so it's structured in a way to have separate areas for separate activities, e.g. Studio 1 for group fitness classes and some cardio machines; Studio 2 for cycle classes (also Pilates when we first joined); Studio 3 for yoga, karate, and weekend child care; a dedicated cardio room; a dedicated weight room; several handball courts; a hair salon; a small cafe, eating area, and TV gathering area downstairs behind the reception desk and lobby; a small TV gathering area upstairs; and a heated all-season, 4-lane, 25-yard outdoor pool.

I was very impressed with the CAC, both the structure and the friendliness of the staff, and the contrast when touring the 24-Hour Fitness couldn't have been more stark.  The staff there really focused on the "sell," and the architecture of the building was mostly one huge room with lots of different machines and functions plus a small 25-yard indoor pool.

The decision to choose the CAC wasn't terribly difficult, despite the higher price point, and we have been so pleased with our membership benefits and interactions with the staff and other members during the past 10 years.  When we moved from midtown to downtown Sac, our choice became even more convenient, as we now live only 2.5 blocks from the Club.  Between the two of us, I'd say we have utilized the Club on a daily basis for a variety of activities over the years: swimming laps, water aerobics during the warmer months, Pilates, yoga, Zumba, step, boot camp, weight training, volleyball, Power Pump, hip hop, HIIT, TRX, elliptical, treadmill, rowing machine, etc.

Let's consider this just an introduction to the CAC for the moment, as there are many other aspects of our experiences at and connections to the Club that will merit future blog posts.


Day 17: Lunar Eclipse

Mr. E and I got a slight glimpse of the lunar eclipse very, very early this morning.  We didn't get to see the change in coloration that had been predicted (red > orange > brown), but we could clearly see a crescent-shaped chunk of the upper right part of the moon covered by a disc-shaped shadow.  Since we had seen the full moon shining brightly earlier in the evening on our way home from the seder, the contrast was particularly striking and rather eerie.


Day 16: Sacramento Seder

We just got back from our first ever Sacramento seder!  I haven't been to a Passover seder for probably close to 20 years, and Evan was a complete newbie.  One of my colleagues from CPCA hosted, and the meal she (and her partner) prepared was absolutely amazing.  She was particularly considerate in asking ahead of time about any dietary restrictions, and I didn't have to worry about onions and garlic and only being able to munch on some matzoh!

She had compiled a Haggadah from various sources, so it wasn't the traditional booklet that I remember from seders at Bubbie's or Aunt Mimi's from when I was younger.  We still reviewed the basic narrative of freedom from oppression that lies at the heart of the Passover story and also completed all 14 steps of the traditional seder, all in a much more informal way.

I'm not sure I'll be able to remember all of the dishes of the main meal, but I'll try: beet salad with mint; pepper, cucumber, and carrot salad with cilantro; gefilte fish with horseradish (I had a teensy bit of Mr. E's, and that was plenty); cooked carrots and almonds; roasted cauliflower with honey; steamed asparagus; potato cakes; a frittata-like creation made with crushed matzoh, eggs, zucchini, and spinach; brisket and onions (I skipped both of these, of course); and roasted chicken.  At that point, especially with the traditional 4 (or more) glasses of wine throughout the meal, we were all so full that we didn't even get to dessert!

We really enjoyed the rest of the guests and discovered all sorts of surprising connections that helped keep the conversation flowing:

  • M lives in Chicago and works for the SEIU.  However, her responsibilities are in the Bay Area, focusing on organizing Adjunct faculty at several private non-profit colleges and universities, so that provided a Midwest link with Mr. E and an Academia link with me.
  • Z works for Covered California, our state Health Benefits Exchange.  My role at CPCA recently included running a program to train Enrollment Counselors to work with patients to choose and enroll in the new health insurance options, including those available through Covered California.
  • D is a family medicine resident at the UC-Davis Medical Center and is originally from Portland.  One of the members of my book club is on the family medicine faculty at UCD, and Mr. E and I both have family and friends in the lovely Rose City to the north.
  • R is a urology resident at UCD and completed his undergrad at the University of Chicago, partly due to the influence of his father who is from Chicago, so that was another Midwest connection.

Overall, it was a great evening, and such a wonderful experience to share with Mr. E!


Day 15: Sacto River Cats 8, Salt Lake City Bees 2

The Cats won the first game of the day/night doubleheader today - yay!  The game felt rather slow-paced, but we did have some great offense by the Cats, especially from third-baseman Alden Carrithers.  I think he may be one to watch for moving up to the Big Show.

Raley Field is a wonderful ballpark in many ways, and we've now learned the best places to sit at any given time during the season.  For a day game, the upper rows of the sections by First Base remain shaded, which can be important during the summer (that's where we're seated in the photo).  For a night game, the upper rows of the sections by Third Base tend to be the most shaded as the sun continues to sink, and the view of the Tower Bridge and Sacramento skyline is fabulous (see photo from yesterday's post).

What we didn't realize before heading to the game was that our ticket actually gave us access to BOTH games!  We decided that might be a bit too much baseball, especially since we knew we'd want to catch the last of the 4-game series of the Red Sox vs. Yankees on ESPN tonight, so we left after the first victory.

Another unexpected realization was that the games were only scheduled to last 7 innings.  Odd.  And apparently, this was the first time that the Cats had played a doubleheader, according to one of the ushers.

As with all ballparks, Raley Field has different types of "entertainment" or fan interaction in between innings.  Our favorite is the dancing grounds crew:

Not quite as iconic as the famous sausage races at Miller Park, perhaps, but we like 'em!!!


Day 14: Baseball Season

Hey, is that thunder?  Why, no, it's just the Saturday-night post-game fireworks for the River Cats at Raley Field!

Yep, that's right, it's BASEBALL SEASON!!!

The River Cats are the Triple-A Affiliate for the Oakland Athletics, and they play at Raley Field in West Sacramento, just across the Tower Bridge and about 1.5 miles from our house.  We always attend at least a handful of games each season at the beautiful Raley Field with the amazing view of the Tower Bridge and the downtown Sacramento skyline:

We're heading to our first game of the season tomorrow afternoon (it's home opener weekend).



Day 13: Runnin' with the SFD!

I'm starting to run again, with a goal of running twice a week for about 30-35 minutes each.  I've been revisiting some of my old routes nearby, which I used to categorize according to distance, and that I'm now evaluating based on time so that I'll have several options to consider when I set out on a run.

This morning, I decided to see how long it would take to do 3 loops around Capital Park, the area that includes the Capitol itself along with an extensive series of gardens and grounds.  In the past, I've considered 1 loop around the Park to be about 1 mile, so I figured a trio of loops should be just about right to hit my goal time-frame, especially with the 8 extra blocks going to and from the Park from home (about 12 Sacto blocks = 1 mile).

The relatively uninterrupted sidewalk around the entire span runs from L to N Street (north to south) and from 10th to15th Street (west to east).  This photo shows an aerial view with the Capitol Building, some of the grounds, and the large sidewalk lined with palm trees:

As I approached the middle part of the easternmost section along 15th Street, I saw a pack of runners wearing Sacramento Fire Department gear approaching and merging onto the sidewalk.

I caught up with the tail of the pack and chatted a bit with the two firefighters at the back.  As the group passed other people, one of the SFD guys would shout, "Good morning, [ma'am/sir]!" and the rest of the pack would echo, "Good morning, [ma'am/sir]!"  The initial pace suited me pretty well, and it was kind of cool to be running with the SFD.

At a certain point, however, I picked up my pace a bit and started to pass the pack.  I made a comment to one firefighter that "I feel like a stowaway!" and he called up to the rest of the pack "Make room on the right!" so that I could pass more easily.  I got my own "Good morning, ma'am!" shout-out as I went by, and I made sure to thank them all for their service in return.  I was also pleased to note as I went by that the pack did include 1 female firefighter.

Not a bad way to challenge myself a bit during a morning run!


Day 12: What's Worse than Evil Tree Seed Pods? Leafblowers!

Leafblowers of Sacramento, why do I hate thee?  Let me count the ways...

  • Creating obnoxious noise that's impossible to escape
  • Shattering the peaceful silence starting around 5am (weekdays and weekends)
  • Mounding up piles of debris that block bike lanes or occupy parking spots
  • Sending clouds of swirling dust and dirt into the air
  • Making it hard to breathe when walking or biking nearby
  • Polluting the air with noxious gas fumes
  • Uselessly repeating the process over and over and over again
That short list hardly seems sufficient to fully express the depth of my loathing for these awful machines that are ubiquitous throughout downtown Sacramento, especially around all of the State buildings and the Capitol.

And apparently, I'm not the only one who has a deep hatred of leafblowers, as evidenced by these web sites  and posts that came up immediately during a very short search: Citizens for a Quieter Sacramento (I may need to join this local group!), Leaf Blower Culture: A Sickness With No Cure?, and Garden Rant.

I may not be very fond of those evil tree seed pods, but I really do abhor these nasty leafblowers!


Day 11: Evil Tree Seed Pods

Early in our tenure in Sacto, I went out for a run one weekend morning and encountered an abundance of brown spiky spheres on the sidewalk that I didn't recognize:

I thought these little pods would be hollow, light, flaky, and easily crushed if stepped on directly.  Um... big mistake.  I landed directly on top of one of them and encountered a hard and unyielding presence that resulted in a strained ankle, which put me out of running commission for several weeks and caused me to miss participating in the Shamrock'n 1/2 Marathon that year.

After that incident, I came to think of these as the "evil tree seed pods," and every year when they reappear in Spring, I'm very cautious and careful about negotiating around them on the sidewalk, whether I'm on foot or bike.

I looked them up today and discovered that they are the fruit of the Sweetgum Tree, which apparently is very common around downtown Sac:

I find the shape of the leaves to be quite similar to those of a maple, but according to the web site that provided the image, "The sweetgum has star shaped leaves." 

(Oddly enough, that image is from the Harvard Yard Tree website!!!  I guess these trees aren't necessarily native to California, although I certainly don't remember ever seeing those evil seed pods in as I was growing up south of Boston or completing my undergrad in Connecticut).


Day 10: Fox & Goose (and a brief digression)

Tonight we attended the UW-Madison Founder's Day gathering at the Fox & Goose Pub, which is just about 1 block from our townhouse, right at the gateway to the Historic R Street Corridor.

Since we moved here in 2004, we've seen lots of positive changes to the stretch of R Street between 10th and 19th Streets, including some infrastructure investment (improved street surfaces, lighting, and bike racks) thanks to City and Federal funding, development of a new cluster of destination restaurants and venues between 14th & 15th Streets, and the opening of the Safeway grocery store and other associated small retail within the R Street Market on 19th Street.

Initially, we didn't hit up the Fox & Goose as a local eatery to frequent, primarily because the curb appeal wasn't particularly inviting, despite the historic brick building:

At some point, however, we ventured over and have enjoyed many meals since then, especially for post-race and monthly brunches.  And some of the recent improvements to the R Street area have included a new neon sign for the Fox & Goose along with a wonderful and whimsical fox and goose statue that has quickly become an iconic landmark:

I was planning to write an entire post just about the Fox & Goose, but I have to digress to include a description of one of the strangest conversations I've ever had, which occurred at the end of tonight's Founder's Day gathering.  Here's a brief transcript:

Older woman approaches me at the door:  "I have to ask you... when did you finish your treatments?"

Me (huh?): "What treatments?"

Older woman (several second pause): "Well... I assumed... that you're a breast cancer survivor... because of your haircut.  It's often a telltale sign."

Me (wha???): "Oh... no, I'm not."

Older woman: "Well I noticed your ribbon, and at one point in time you looked tired, so I figured you were in recovery."

Me: "It's for AIDS awareness... The red ribbon is for AIDS awareness; the pink ribbon is for breast cancer.  This [gesturing to haircut] is a choice."

Older woman: "Oh, well you'd be in good company."

And.... scene.

I mean, really???  Excuse me???  In my attempt to exit the conversation gracefully, I think I may have actually said something like, "Well, thank you for asking."

How incredibly bizarre.  Doesn't that seem like a rather extreme assumption?  Not to mention rather presumptive to even ask?  And not even an apology for the error!!!


Day 9: Bike Culture

When Mr. E and I lived in Madison, our apartment was about 1 mile south of campus, so we could walk or take the bus.  Campus parking was almost non-existent for students (even for grad students), so another major transportation choice was the bike.  The area around the UW had great infrastructure to handle the hordes of bike commuters, including clearly marked bike lanes on the busiest streets and even some bike lanes that had a barrier to protect the cyclists from the drivers.

Here in Sacramento, we've noticed a growing bike culture over the past 10 years, primarily for the casual cyclist who lives on or near the grid that comprises Downtown and Midtown Sac and even parts of East Sac.  The City has gradually been making changes to create "complete streets" that allow much better and safer multi-modal transportation options to co-exist peacefully (this includes not only bikes but also pedestrians!).

Over the past few years, several of the busiest one-way streets have been put on "road diets" that slimmed them down from 3 to 2 lanes for car traffic and added bike lanes on each side next to the curbside parking. 

The only downside to this infrastructure change is that most of the work has been focused in Midtown, the area roughly bordered by 16th Street on the west, 29th Street on the east, the freeway overpass on the south, and the American River on the north.  This is fabulous for folks in that area but not so great for those of us who live west of 16th Street in Downtown Sac - it's rather frustrating to lose those narrow streets and dedicated bike lanes simply because you live at 9th & Q and the lanes don't extend that far!

However, another recent change shows some promise - the addition of green-painted bike lanes all along both sides of Capitol Mall from the Tower Bridge to the State Capitol.  I'm not sure exactly when these appeared, although I noticed them a few months ago (the photo shows them in progress, towards the western end approaching the Tower Bridge, which isn't pictured).  Even though there's no barrier to protect cyclists, the differential color marking is certainly more effective than a simple white line and a graphic sign on the street itself to indicate the bike lane.

I'm hoping more of this treatment appears around the City to embrace bikes as a preferred mode of transportation.  With the relatively flat landscape and comfortable climate year 'round, bikes are a great option to leave the car at home, especially for those of lucky enough to live on the grid.


Day 8: Best Use of Space Under a Freeway Overpass

Like many cities, Sacramento is crisscrossed by a series of different freeways (I-5, I-99, I-80, US 50), and the numerous interchanges and intersections are often located on elevated sections above the surrounding surface streets.  One nearby overpass covers the block between W & X Streets and spans 6-8th Streets, just south of Southside Park.  During the week, the space under this overpass is used as a parking lot for downtown commuters, most of whom are state workers and walk from the lot to their office buildings 6+ blocks away.

On Sundays, however, this same space is home to an amazing and comprehensive year-round Farmer's Market, with vendors selling all sorts of local and seasonal fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs, flowers, plants, olive oil, honey, nuts, cheese, fish, meat, eggs, dried fruit, bread, pastries, and wine. 

Situating the FM under the overpass provides protection from the weather for shoppers and vendors alike, so no worries about rain in winter and lots of constant shade from the heat in summer.  Perhaps not the prettiest of venues, but very practical!

Mr. E makes the weekly trek to the FM for all of our fruit, veggies, eggs, nuts, and olive oil.  And occasionally cheese and surprise flowers for me. :)  The only exceptions are for organic bananas at the grocery store (not something grown in California) and organic lemons and limes when citrus isn't in season here.

We are SO lucky to have this bounty just blocks from our home, and since we both grew up in much colder climates with much shorter growing seasons and far fewer varieties of local produce, we remain incredibly appreciative of our access to fresh and local food. 

To me, this is such a fabulous use of the space under a freeway overpass that would otherwise sit empty and unused over the weekend.


Day 7: Scenic Capitol

In the middle of the large block of L-M (aka Capitol Mall)-N Streets just in front of the State Capitol building, between 9th & 10th Streets, is a large round island that is home to a [currently dry] fountain: 

Despite the lack of water in the fountain, this is still a very popular place for scenic photos, especially for wedding parties or prom couples or quinceanera groups, with the Capitol in the background in one direction and all of Capitol Mall and the Tower Bridge in the other.  And usually, there's at least some landscaping around the empty fountain to pretty it up a bit.

This afternoon, as I headed up to the library to return some books, I saw a long line of beautiful classic cars pulling up and parked along 9th Street, between L & Capitol.  The folks getting out of the cars included a bride and her wedding party, with the ladies in sleeveless salmon dresses and gents in various types of formal wear or hipster garb.

I can only surmise that they were headed towards the fountain setting for some wedding photos.  Seeing them piling out of the gorgeous cars on an equally gorgeous Sacramento Spring day made me smile the rest of the way to the library.


Day 6: Cyclamen

Before we moved to Sacramento, I don't think I'd ever seen a cyclamen or at least certainly never knew the name for it, and it's become one of my favorite flowers:

When we spent Christmas in San Francisco with Mr. E's family many years ago, shortly after we'd made the move to Sacramento, we both noticed these bright red flowers sprouting in planters all along the sidewalks and buildings along Market Street.  Since we're from colder climes and hadn't yet gotten used to seeing winter flowers, we were especially struck by the cyclamen's shape, texture, and brilliant coloration.

In the spring, we planted several different colors ranging from medium pink to bright crimson in one of the pots on our patio and enjoyed the blooms for several months.  As they started to die off, we didn't remove them from the planter, so we were delighted when they revived for a second blooming season in the middle of the following winter.

I think they're supposed to be annuals, but our crop certainly act like perennials, and they came back over and over even though we don't take very good care of them (that's my ideal kind of plant).

Mr. E replaced the pink cyclamen with a mixture of red and white several years ago in honor of the UW-Madison Badgers.  The white aren't my favorite, as they sprout brown spots and patches rather quickly once the bloom starts to fade, but the gorgeous crimson flowers have continued to provide a bright spot on our back patio.

This winter, we hadn't gotten our usual second crop of flowers, and even the plants hadn't re-emerged from the soil until just a few weeks ago.  I'm guessing the issue was lack of hydration, since we don't water them at all...  So I was very relieved when the greenery began to sprout again earlier this year.

And yesterday when I opened the curtains, I was thrilled to see new buds getting ready to bloom (I'm sure the recent rains are to thank for this resurgence).

Welcome back, little cyclamen!  Just in time to celebrate the Badgers' appearance in the NCAA Final Four tomorrow night!


Day 5: Sounds of the Light Rail

"Watt-I80 bound train.
The next stop will be 8th and Capitol."

Sacramento's public transportation system is known as RT (Regional Transit) and includes numerous bus routes and 3 light rail lines (gold, blue, green).  There's a bus stop just outside our home office window, across from Roosevelt Park, and another across the street from our townhouse complex driveway.  But we never take the bus.

"Train is departing.  Please stand clear.
The next stop will be 9th and K, St. Rose."

The CPCA office is 1 mile from our house, and I never have to drive the car to work.  I do occasionally take the scooter if I have lots of stuff to bring or the CSA box to pick up in the afternoon.  Otherwise, I walk, bike, or take the light rail, depending on weather and/or my schedule for the day. 

"Watt-I80 bound train.
The next stop will be 11th and K, Cathedral."

The light rail has a very distinctive sound, a dull whooshing as the train moves along its tracks.  And the warning bell as it approaches a station or intersection is equally distinctive and recognizable.

"Train is departing.  Please stand clear.
The next stop will be 12th and I."

The nearest light rail station is 2.5 blocks from home, just around the corner from our gym, and I have only 4 stops until I reach the 12th & I station, which is 1 block from the office.

"Watt-I80 bound train.
The next stop will be Alkali Flat/La Valentina."

Oddly enough, there is no RT service to the Sacramento airport.  For that, you have to use the Yolobus, which is based out of neighboring West Sacramento, just across the Sacramento River in Yolo County.

"Train is departing.  Please stand clear."

The female automated voice of the light rail is calm, low, and soothing.  I wonder if the voiceover talent ever rides the train and gets tired of hearing her own voice over and over?


Day 4: So Green!

We've had a reprise of Winter this week, with lots of rain, wind, and chilly temperatures (back down into the 40s at night - had to put the heat on in the house yesterday to warm up). 

This morning, however, the sun was out in full force, and everything is so very green and lush from the recent soaking!  All of the flowering trees are bursting, the flowers are perking up, and the grass in and around Roosevelt Park and Capitol Park has doubled in length since the weekend.

The colors and quality of bright sunlight with blue sky and white puffy clouds are almost tropical, and the radiance of the morning made me realize how much I'd been missing the sun over the past few days.


Day 3: Hidden Holly

As I was walking home from work today during a break in the rain, I spied a hidden holly plant sprouting unexpectedly behind the thin metal bars of a little courtyard just outside the parking garage that borders the alley between J and K Streets on 12th Street in downtown Sac. 

I love finding those surprising pockets of natural growth amongst all of the typical downtown "built environment."  Sacramento is known as the City of Trees, and yet so many other types of greenery and flowers soften the harsh cityscape and complement the amazing tree canopy, through every season and time of year.