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 63: Visit to Crocker with Mom

Mom is visiting for a long weekend, and today we headed off to the Crocker Art Museum to see one of the current exhibitions, "Workt By Hand:" Hidden Labor & Historical Quilts.  When I saw in the Crocker member newsletter earlier this year that this exhibit would be opening in late May, I figured it would be a perfect Mom activity, since she's a quilter and can appreciate the different patterns, artistry, and immense skill and talent that went into creating these beautiful pieces.

We also had lunch at the Crocker Cafe, sharing a turkey panini with a side salad and enjoying the lovely expanse of the Friedman Court that looks out onto the large plaza between the original historic building and the modern new wing, which was completed in 2010.  The juxtaposition of these structures presents a beautiful contrast that honors the original building and yet introduces an updated aesthetic that complements the older style: 

Mr. E and I became members of the Crocker a few months before the new building opened, and we've really enjoyed having easy access to the museum and supporting such a wonderful cultural amenity in our adopted home city. 


Day 62: Concerts in the Park

A sure sign of Summer in Sacramento is the return of Friday night Concerts in the Park in Cesar Chavez Plaza, just across from City Hall.  Mr. E and I have never ventured out for the entertainment, as we're not huge live music fans, but I love that Sac hosts this type of free community event that brings a variety of people into the downtown area to celebrate the season.


Day 61: Graduation Season

The Memorial Auditorium in Midtown Sacramento plays host to numerous community events throughout the year, especially during late Spring and early Summer, when graduation season arrives.  The building is a beautiful structure located on J Street between 15th & 16th:

The last couple of days, I've seen clusters of graduates wearing bright royal blue gowns wandering around the nearby area, accompanied by their family and friends.  Perhaps that provided subliminal messaging and explains so many of the CPCA staff -- myself included -- were wearing some type of royal blue clothing today!



Several concrete benches line the section of 13th Street between J & L near the Convention Center, along the same stretch of road as the sculpture slash fountain slash traffic divider that I featured in my previous entry.  These benches are frequently utilized by folks who work nearby or by convention attendees. 

What I particularly like about the benches is that they're another example of functional public art, thanks to the messaging on each side.

One side of the bench has s series of letters all smushed together:

What's the most obvious single word that stands out from that pack?  Do you see "heart" or "the" or "art" or something else entirely?

On the other side of the bench, the series of letters is staggered:

This messaging could suggest a multitude of meanings, especially since the benches are located in a public space with lots of different aural and visual stimulation to consider.

What do you hear when you sit here?

What sort of art do you see?  What sort of art do you hear?

What types of sensory inputs do you interpret as sound or art?

The possibilities are practically endless, depending on the person, the season, the time of day, etc.  Such a great example of thought-provoking public art that is not only evocative but also quite practical!


Day 59: Public Art as Traffic Divider

Outside the Sacramento Convention Center, in the middle of 13th Street between J & K Streets, is a sculpture that serves as public art, fountain, and traffic divider, all in one:

I pass by this sculpture almost daily on my way to work, as 13th Street is also a bike route along a nice quiet block, since this stretch of the city grid isn't frequently traveled and forces any motor vehicle traffic to travel carefully and rather slowly, thanks in large part to the multipurpose sculpture.  K Street actually dead-ends into 13th Street right at this point, and the only access along K Street to 14th Street and beyond is limited to pedestrians (and bikes).

Here are a couple more view of the sculpture slash fountain slash traffic divider:


Day 58: South Lake Tahoe

After nearly 10 years of living in Sacramento, we finally made it up to Lake Tahoe this weekend!

Our dear friends, K and M, who used to live in West Sacramento but moved to Phoenix about 5 years ago, are spending the week with their kids, J and A, at the home of K's Aunt D and Uncle A in South Lake Tahoe.  D & A live off of Pioneer Trail, which is just to the southeast of the South Lake Tahoe Airport at the bottom right of the map below:

We drove up yesterday morning and arrived in time for lunch.  D & A looked after the kids while K & M and Mr. E & I went to eat at the Beacon Restaurant in Camp Richardson, which is right on the shore of the Lake near the label "Beaches" in the map above.

After lunch, we drove to Emerald Bay and paused for a few moments at the overlook point, which has amazing views, including Fannette Island in the middle of the Bay:

We then headed slightly farther up the road to access the trail to Emerald Bay, a rather steep hike of just over 1 mile that leads right down to the beach and provides access to the Vikingsholm Castle:

We decided not to tour the Castle in favor of attacking the return hike uphill and heading back to the house to meet up with the rest of the family, with a short stop at Raley's on the way to pick up a few extra things for dinner.

D and A provided a wonderful meal, accompanied by the J Vineyards wine we had brought, including a vertical tasting of the Pinotage (2008, 2010, 2011 - we didn't care for the 2009, so we didn't restock after finishing what we got in our shipment that year).

This morning, I got up and went for a 30-minute run along Skyline and Crystal Air before we had breakfast with the family and hit the road by 10:15am for the return trip in the hopes of avoiding too much traffic.  Our timing was perfect, and we were back in Sacto within 2 hours, including a quick Starbucks stop in Placerville.

Although our visit was far too short, we had a wonderful time catching up with K and M and getting introduced to the beauty of Lake Tahoe.  Now if only the road to access the Lake weren't quite so circuitous and steep, we might be inclined to return more often!


Day 57: Kangaroo Paw

As I've mentioned in previous posts, we discovered all sorts of new plants, flowers, fruits, and veges when we moved to Sacramento.  One of the most striking plants that caught our fancy is the colorful and furry kangaroo paw.  Most often, we've seen the reddish version, which was scattered all around the landscape of a house in Land Park that I passed today during my run:

As the name suggests, these flowers are originally from and native to Australia, according to a brief description from the Better Homes and Gardens web site: Make a bold statement in your garden with kangaroo paw. This unusual perennial comes from Australia and bears strappy green leaves and upright spikes of fuzzy flowers in radioactively brilliant colors. The blooms last a long time and make great cut flowers.

When we were still cultivating flower pots out on our patio, we also incorporated the bright yellow style of the kangaroo paw:

This is still one of my favorite "California" flowers, as I certainly hadn't ever seen it during my years on the East Coast or in the Midwest, even if it's an import from across the seas.  Like many other species, the kangaroo paw isn't native to California but has adopted the Golden State as its new home.


Day 56: Urban Sprawl, Sacramento Style

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, when the market for residential housing was booming in ridiculous (and unsustainable) ways, the area around Sacramento was a fast-growing hub of development.  One area that was developed - maybe over-developed - was the region north of downtown, known as Natomas. 

Some parts of Natomas are composed of older, established residential neighborhoods, but the majority of the current housing stock is a poster child for urban sprawl -- homogeneous houses, lots and lots of cul-de-sacs, minimal (if any) mixed use within walking distance, etc.

On paper, the planned communities probably looked quite appealing and were originally designed to be centered around amenities such as parks or other gathering spaces.  However, when the economy plummeted, many of these additional components were never built, so the neighborhoods only have residential units that are barely distinguishable from each other:

Neither Mr. E nor I is fond of urban sprawl, as we prefer a quality of life that isn't car-dependent and that allows us easy walking or biking access to most of the amenities and commercial businesses that we enjoy and need.  And between the two of us, "natomas-ing" has become a verb synonymous with "sprawling," which just so happens to quite accurately describes a position that Calypso frequently assumes!

However, occasionally I do make the 5-mile trek up I-5 to I-80 to visit Natomas Marketplace for some "big box" shopping - Bed Bath & Beyond, BevMo, Pet Smart, Ross Dress for Less, Best Buy (but never WalMart, of course):

On the rare occasions that Mr. E and I go out to see a movie, we sometimes head to the Regal Cinemas in this district as well, as we did this afternoon for "X-Men: Days of Future Past."

In general, thought, we prefer to keep our outings confined to the grid of downtown and midtown Sacto, with possible forays across Tower Bridge to West Sacramento (Ikea!) or in the other direction into East Sac.  Given everything to which we have access nearby, there's just not much reason or need to go much farther afield!


Day 55: Peace Protestors

Every weekend, two older gentlemen with long white beards station themselves on the corner of 15th & L on the edge of Capitol Park and hold signs for peace as they wave to passing motorists and pedestrians and cyclists, accompanied by the music on their portable boom box.

I don't know who these "peace dudes" are or what their story is, and I couldn't find any picture of them with any conceivable combination of search terms on Google Images.  I always enjoyed seeing them during my long runs on Sunday mornings, and since I haven't been running as often or as far, I've missed their presence.

This evening, when we went to the R Street Market Safeway for our weekly grocery shopping after meeting Mr. R M, the new baby boy of L and M, we saw the peace dudes sitting outside the Peet's Coffee that occupies a corner of the parking lot.  Kind of nice to see some iconic Sacramento characters outside their typical context!


Day 54: May is Bike Month "Energizer Station"

Last Thursday, May 15, was "Bike to Work Day" as part of the ongoing May is Bike Month activities in the Sacramento region.  On my way home from the gym that morning, I spotted an "Energizer Station" on the northeast corner of 9th and P, so I made sure to choose my route to work so that I could stop by and partake of the goodies (granola bars, bananas, juice).

The gentleman at the Energizer Station looked familiar to me, and he took my picture with a "May is Bike Month" sign after I grabbed a granola bar and an "I Biked Today" pin for my backpack before continuing on my way:

When I was heading out of the gym this morning, I passed a gentleman in full cycling gear and realized that he was the person who had been manning (literally) the Energizer Station last week.  I stopped to chat, and we introduced ourselves, both mentioning that we had recognized the other from the previous week and also from various race events around Sacramento (maybe he's a triathlete? not sure if I've ever seen him in the pool at the gym, however).  He told me that the Energizer Station was set up again today and would be next Thursday as well, so again I stopped by on my way to work.  This time, I was able to snag a gluten-free granola bar for my colleague, K.  We'll see what's available next week!


Day 53: Sacramento Public Library

I've been a fan of public libraries ever since I was a kid.  Mom definitely made use of the Ventress Memorial Library in our hometown as a resource for my sister and me, and I especially remember being able to go to story time in my pajamas.  I preferred books to most any other entertainment, and Mom even had to get special permission for me to check out books from the Eames Way School library that were "above my grade level" when I was in 3rd grade.

During my time in Madison, I frequented the small library branch location on South Park Street.  Having a small stack of light but engaging paperbacks to provide a respite from my academic reading was an important aspect of my strategy and routine while I was working on my PhD, especially during the three semesters that I was researching and writing my dissertation.

So when we moved to Sacramento in 2004, one of the first things I did was get a library card.  My "home" branch for many years was the McKinley Park location, since it was within easy walking distance of the PPMM office:

This is a lovely little neighborhood branch in a beautiful building, and I really enjoyed frequenting this site during my 7+ years at PPMM, as it was so convenient to pick up books during a short walk from the office.

When I transitioned to CPCA in early 2012, I switched my "home" branch to the Central Library, located on I Street between 8th & 9th:

This location is just five blocks from CPCA and eight blocks from home, so I can either take a break during the work day for a short walk or incorporate a stop on my homeward bound route at the end of the day to pick up or drop off books.

This afternoon, I really took note for the first time of the structure of the Central Library and realized that it's composed of two buildings.  I did a little research and learned that the structure on the corner of 9th & I was built in 1917, thanks to a $100,000 Carnegie grant to the City, and features light-colored brick and big lion head ornamentation:

The newer addition that stretches towards 8th Street is much more modern (and less appealing, in my opinion) in its design:

The two parts of the library are connected by an arching and light-filled lobby galleria area that stretches through the middle of the block to provide a somewhat hidden pedestrian entrance accessed from J Street or the nearby parking structure on 8th & J:

I'm just very pleased to have this public amenity in Sacramento to feed my reading habit in a very economical manner, as I rarely feel the need to purchase books to add to our own personal collection when I have access to so many titles through the public library system.


Day 52: More Urban Wildlife

This morning, I ran along the riverfront path towards the Sacramento Marina that's part of Miller Park.  In the map below, my running route is on Harborview in the upper crescent and also incorporates some pedestrian sidewalk paths, which aren't pictured, that lead from Harborview through Ramp Way and back to Front Street:

My urban wildlife encounters today included a handful of Canadian geese meandering through the grass and yellow wildflowers next to the riverfront path and two orange feral cats crouching on the first wooden bench area on Harborview.  I've often seen feral cats hanging out on that bench and have occasionally seen signs of human care of the cats (e.g. food bowls).  This morning's felines looked very well fed, and the term "ginormous" is truly apt for the big furry fluff-ball that was crouching on the lower platform.

In the past, another common urban wildlife sighting in this area has been what I fondly call "stinky black-and-whites," aka skunks.  This photo shows a little skunk taking an evening promenade on the grassy landscape by the road near Miller Park:

They definitely like to nose around in the underbrush by the river and the marina, so I'm always extremely attentive as I run this route, especially along the lower pedestrian path that doesn't provide much of an escape option in case of skunk encounter.  I've actually altered my running route a couple of times to make sure I don't interrupt any of these stinky little critters during their morning routine!

The tail end of my run (ha, ha... pun intended...) took me up Front Street to the R Street pedestrian over-crossing of I-5 and back home to Q Street.  The City of Sacramento's Animal Care Services is located on Front Street, just across from the Towe Auto Museum:

I'm rather fond of the City Shelter, as both Calypso and Captain Jack came to us from this facility, and they're wonderful companions.  I often wish we could adopt more kitties, but having an equal number of felines and humans in our household seems to be the perfect composition for our family, at least for now.


Day 51: Picnic Lunch

The weather today was perfect - mid 70s, partly sunny, a bit breezy - the ideal Sacramento springtime climate.  We took advantage of this lovely day to have a picnic lunch on the grounds of the Capital for our DER (Development & External Relations) bi-weekly management meeting.  V, K, C, and I headed out of the office around 11:30am and found a dry and shaded spot on the lawn under a tree near the 13th Street cut-through of Capital Park. 

V had also brought Taboo, as we had decided that keeping things light and ensuring we have some fun team-building amongst our management team was equally as important as discussing any more formal business issues.  K and I teamed up against V and C, and we emerged victorious.  So fun!

These are the moments I need to remember when I'm having a not-so-great or blah day at work...


Day 50: Bateson Building

Many of the buildings in downtown Sacramento, especially near and around the State Capitol, are home to various state departments and divisions.  An advantage to this is that the blocks right around our townhouse complex tend to be rather quiet during the evenings and weekends, since the busiest times are during the typical state workday and workweek.

Diagonally across from us, occupying the entire block bounded by 9th & 8th and P & Q, is the Bateson Building.  This photo shows a piece of the building at the corner of 9th & P:

We noticed this structure shortly after moving into our townhouse, primarily due to its rather distinctive golden orange outer shell, which is formed by a series of retractable shades that raise and lower depending on the time of day.  When the sun is bright, the shades look very yellow, almost luminous:

I walk by this building almost every day, at least once, on my way to and from the gym.  I always wondered how the shades were controlled, if folks in certain offices could adjust them individually, but I'm thinking that they're on a more automated system, as they suddenly began lowering this morning (Sunday) just before 9am as I headed to the gym.

When I was looking for images of the building online, I found a web site from McGraw-Hill Construction about different types of window engineering to both provide light and also decrease energy usage.  And the Bateson building was cited as an example:  At the Gregory Bateson Building, in Sacramento, California, motorized external shades help protect occupants from the sun's rays and heat.

I'd always wondered what the interior of the building was like, if it was anything innovative and interesting like the exterior or if it was just a standard boring office environment.  Based on this image, it looks as though it might be a rather pleasant place to work, even if the majority of the office spaces are likely composed of a typical cube farm:

It's reassuring to see that at least some architects and designers might actually consider the experience of the folks who spend much of their day in a building in order to create a pleasing workspace.


Day 49: Whole Foods Field Trip

We went to see Sacramento Ballet's Modern Masters this afternoon out at Folsom Lake College and incorporated a post-show field trip to the Whole Foods that lies between the College and the I-50 freeway:

Since we don't have a Whole Foods location near us in downtown Sac, our rare visits to the store are definitely a special occasion to pick up certain treats.  Both of us are fond of the fabulous fresh food and salad bar:

I also recently discovered two other specialty treats that are worth stocking up on when we're able to stop by the store:  Rubicon Bakery's 4-pack of mini triple lemon cupcakes filled with lemon curd (so very tasty, and they hold up quite well to being frozen and thawed) and Whole Foods "365 Everyday Value" store brand of tater puffs.

Discovering these tater puffs during our last visit was wonderful, as I'd been on the search for plain tater tots (i.e. no onions) for months and months since Safeway stopped carrying its Open Nature brand of tater tots.  Mr. E and I enjoy our weekend brunches at home, and I'm especially fond of tater tots as a special treat after my long Saturday-morning swim.

However, all of the other brands of tater tots available at Safeway include onions or at least onion powder in the ingredients, which just doesn't work for me.  The only other somewhat-acceptable alternative that I'd found was the Target star-shaped tater treats, but they just weren't as tasty, and they also had lots of other preservatives and hard-to-pronounce ingredients.  We did try an organic version of taters from Safeway that were onion-free, but oddly enough, they contained apple juice (as a binder? sweetener? no idea...), and the apple flavor came through just strongly enough to make them unpleasing, even with some organic ketchup applied.

When I read the ingredient list of the Whole Foods tater puffs and noted the lack of onions, I figured they were worth a try.  And apparently, the chain at some point heeded the common complaint about high prices and introduced this "365 Everyday Value" line of items, which are much more affordable.  As an example, the bag of tater puffs is only $2.99, which is totally worth it, especially since they're super-tasty and crunchy and totally onion-free.  Yippee!!!


Day 48: Not a Bunny

When we lived in Madison, we often caught sight of cute little wild bunnies in the small backyard behind our apartment (say it 3 times fast - "bunny, bunny, bunny!"):

Perhaps we welcomed so many of these visitors thanks to our proximity to the UW-Arboretum, which was also home to many other types of wildlife, including the deer that occasionally strayed out into the neighborhood as well.

Once we relocated to Sacramento in 2004, we no longer encountered the adorable bunnies.  Most of our urban animal contacts instead have involved squirrels and the occasional racoons and skunks that wander away from the River into the downtown core.

However, I did finally meet the Sacramento counterpart to the Madison bunny when I started running more and headed out along the American River Parkway for longer runs.  That's when I met the jackrabbit:

The first time I saw one of these frisky critters jumping and running in the field alongside the Parkway trail, I honestly had no idea what it was.  All I could see was a lanky creature bounding along, almost like a small kangaroo, with those long ears bouncing up and down above the tall field grasses.

Since I haven't been running as much over the past couple of years, I've missed these animal companions to my workouts.  Recently, however, I've spotted a couple of them cavorting around near Raley Field by the riverfront trail on the West Sacramento side of the waterway.

So as I jogged along this morning, I specifically stayed on the lookout for something other than a flock of birds swooping in and around the area.  And I was rewarded for my attention by a jackrabbit sighting on my way back towards the Tower Bridge.

Definitely no mistaking these jackrabbits for a bunny!


Day 47: Accident-Prone Intersection

For some reason, the intersection right outside our townhouse, at the corner of 9th & Q Streets, tends to attract more than its fair share of car crashes. 

This morning was a perfect example:  I was just getting out of bed when I heard that telltale screech of tires and brakes and crash of metal colliding with metal.  In the 10 years we've lived here, we've heard at least half a dozen accidents and have seen evidence of others from bits and pieces of cars littering the street and sidewalk around the intersection.  We usually check out the scene either in person or from the upstairs office window in order to assess the damage so that we can be as informative as possible when calling 911.

The accident today involved two silver 4-door sedans, one of which landed face-planted into the traffic light pole on the sidewalk near our complex.  It looked as though there weren't any serious injuries, and a CHP officer was on the scene when I headed to the gym about 10 minutes later.  By the time I got back after about 90 minutes, the only remaining evidence was car detritus on the sidewalk (plastic, glass, metal, license plate frame).

Several years ago, we had much closer contact with an accident at this same intersection, when a car ended up in the landscaping plot just outside our patio!  Luckily, the car just brushed the patio wall and didn't come crashing all the way through, but we got some interesting photos of the event (can't find 'em at the moment to share), and we were certainly on very high alert any time we heard loud noises outside for several months afterwards.


Day 46: Ceiling Fans

Mr. E and I are always rather surprised when we watch home improvement or renovation shows and see designers remove ceiling fans from rooms.  During the hot Sacto summers, we rely on the large Casablanca ceiling fan that we inherited when we bought our townhouse and that was a huge (literally and figuratively) upgrade compared to the original small fan that was installed during construction of the Saratoga Townhomes back in the early 1980s.  We've seen those original fans in several other units, which made us realize how fortunate we are to have a much better and more effective model to keep our home comfortable and help to minimize our a/c utilization.

So when we decided to embark on the remodeling project upstairs to enclose the balcony off our master bedroom over the garage, we also seized the opportunity to have a ceiling fan installed to replace the standing floor fan we'd been using.  Since we had been so pleased with the Casablanca fan that extends from the "3rd story" ceiling, we opted to purchase a similar smaller model for the bedroom.  The aesthetic fits our taste, and the low-profile suits the lower ceiling height:

And with a little online sleuthing, I managed to find the fan at a discounted price.  We have been so glad to have this installed in our room over the past couple of years.  In fact, we're planning to do the same for the second bedroom/office upstairs at some point, especially because that front room tends to get much warmer, and the standing floor fan isn't always completely effective.

All of which leads me back to the original comment about our surprise and disagreement with any sort of ceiling fan removal during a remodel.  I can understand replacement of an old unit, but if a room or home has a ceiling fan, there's usually a very good reason for it, so those designers need to be a wee bit more pragmatic about the comfort of the homeowners when they're completing their projects!


Day 45: Rotating Local Coffee Purveyors

Over the past few years, Sacramento has become home to a number of local coffee roasters and purveyors that have gradually spread throughout the City, beyond the nexus of Midtown and Downtown, to provide some specialized competition to the multiple Starbucks and handful of Peet's that also dot the landscape.

One particular venue on 10th Street between J & K, which originally was a bookstore, has recently become a veritable musical chairs of local coffee purveyors, from (1) Temple to (2) Broadacre to (3) Insight:


(1) Temple eventually relocated from this site to a storefront 1 block away on 9th Street between J and K.

(2) Broadacre then took over the space but closed in Feburary 2014, according to several online posts and updates.

(3) Now Insight has moved into the locale.

It's great that Sacto has become a true coffee mecca, but frankly, Mr. E and I still prefer Starbucks for taste, service, and consistency.  We used to be occasional weekend visitors to Chocolate Fish Coffee on 3rd & Q, especially after our journey to Australia and New Zealand that allowed us to fully appreciate a "long black," but our taste buds simply prefer a darker, bolder roast, and most of the local coffee joints focus on medium or light roasts, which impart a somewhat sour flavor to the beverage.

We've also had a few unfortunate customer services experiences at the local sites, including Naked Lounge on 15th & Q and Weatherstone on 21st between H & I, and those types of negative interactions have tended to dampen our enthusiasm, despite our general tendency to "buy local" and support independent, non-chain businesses.

And besides, we do happen to be Starbucks stockholders, so we have a rather vested interest in continuing to frequent the mega-chain...


Day 44: Highway Oleanders

I picked up Mr. E at the airport this evening, and on the way home, we both remarked that the oleanders along the highway median are starting to bloom. 

We noticed and appreciated these pretty flowers when we first arrived in California as we drove south along I-5 from the Portland area after spending a couple of days with W&M during our relocation trek from Madison back in 2004.  Neither of us was familiar with this type of flowering plant, and we were both struck by the brilliantly colored blossoms that relieved the stark concrete and billboards along the freeway:

We later learned that these lovely flowers are quite deceptive, as they are "one of the most poisonous of commonly grown garden plants," according to WikiPedia.  I guess it's appropriate to have them scattered along the freeway, as they're hardy enough to withstand the traffic fumes and various micro-climates while at the same time posing a relatively small toxin risk to humans or animals thanks to their positioning in an area that's challenging to access.


Day 43: Sacramento Antique Faire

Another space under the I-50/80 freeway is used monthly for the Sacramento Antique Faire, a large swap meet with eclectic offerings and numerous vendors.  Mr. E and I visited one time to see if it was worth paying the small entry fee, but we didn't find anything that we needed, so we haven't returned.  The Faire remains a very popular monthly attraction, however, drawing lots of folks to the parking lot under the freeway by 21st Street:

This morning, as I ran along the path along the Sacramento River heading towards Miller Park, I noticed that the Antique Faire appeared to have spawned or at least relocated to the parking lot near the large industrial gas tanks by the Towe Auto Museum and under the I-50/80 bridge that spans the River from Sac to West Sac.  I was rather surprised to see the gathering, but then I realized the motivation behind the different venue - the Fix 50 project.

A chunk of I-50 is currently under repair for 2 months, and the area typically utilized for the Antique Faire is now being occupied by construction vehicles and personnel.  I actually noticed the construction traffic and equipment at one point last week when my morning run took me along 21st Street to Broadway, but I hadn't thought about how the project would displace the Faire.  Good thing there are so many other options for under-the-freeway parking lots during the weekend!


Day 42: Trader Joe's

When we moved to Sacto in 2004, we didn't know much about Trader Joe's and had certainly never shopped at TJ's, since they didn't exist in Madison at the time.  Now, TJ's has started to spread across the country, including locations on Monroe Street in Madison, by the Hanover Mall near Mom back east, and even in Austin for J & B (no more need for Mom to buy and send TJ's wet cat food to J!).

I don't remember exactly how or why we first decided to explore TJ's, but it probably had something to do with all of the buzz around "2-buck Chuck."  This moniker refers to the TJ's exclusive offering of Charles Shaw wine for $1.99, as seen in the display below:

We definitely went through our phase of trying all of the Charles Shaw varietals and of keeping our wine costs very low for awhile by drinking the 2-buck Chuck, but eventually our tastes began to change, and we just didn't enjoy this wine any longer, despite the super-low prices.  For a few years, we also got our bagels (sprouted wheat or seasonal pumpkin) and bread (also sprouted wheat) at TJ's.  But now we enjoy more bagel varieties at Noah's and can find similar bread at Safeway or CostCo, so our trips to TJ's have decreased to about once a month.

There are still some items that are worth the trip to TJ's, however: reduced fat smoked gouda, Kashi Go Lean high-protein cereal, Clif Bars, a variety of dried fruit, and $.99 greeting cards.  Some of these items we can't find anywhere else, and some are simply at the best price within the TJ's universe!  We also take advantage of some other TJ's treats from time to time, such as the ginger kitties cookies or the animal crackers.  And if we stay at the Doubletree Hotel Berkeley Marina to catch a series of the Red Sox at the Oakland A's, we always frequent the TJ's at Emeryville for game-time snacks and sometime lunch or dinner as well.

The only challenging part of shopping at our local TJ's is the rather cramped parking lot, which often spills cars in line out onto Folsom Blvd.  You can get a bit of an idea about the difficulties from this photo:

Fortunately, in the shopping center just to the left of the TJ's location, there is now a wonderful French bakery/restaurant called Les Baux, which sells authentic French baguettes as well as yummy scones and cookies.  So we cheat just a wee bit at times if the TJ's lot is full by parking near Les Baux and then hitting up both locations.  As long as we actually make a purchase at Les Baux, it's much more environmentally friendly to "park once" and do multiple errands, right?!


Day 41: Goodyear Cobbler & Cleaners

Goodyear Cobbler & Cleaners in on 10th Street between P & Q, just over 1 block from our townhouse.  We don't have much dry cleaning, but I do like to get my winter coat cleaned, and this is the closest facility.  I've also had a need for a few shoe repairs from time to time.  The cobbler did great work on 2 jobs, but I was very disappointed with the 3rd job to replace the insole/lining of a pair of comfy black sandals.  I had to use an Exacto knife to more closely trim the insole and remove some of the extra glue.  According to Yelpers, I'm not the only person who had some issues with the shoe tasks.

What strikes me the most about this business, however, is the woman who seems to work there every day, all day.  She's of medium height and very skinny, with white hair always pulled back, and she wears jeans or pants all year, even in the middle of summer.  When I stopped by this evening around 5:30pm, she was wearing a black turtleneck sweater despite the high 70s temperature and sunny skies.  I often see her at the bus stop on 9th Street, just across from our townhouse complex, so it appears as though she relies on public transportation.

The business is never terribly busy when we stop by, so I imagine that it's rather monotonous and boring work.  I wonder how she approaches her job and is motivated to get up every day to make her way to the shop.  I'm so curious to know her story!


Day 40: Bring Your Dog to Work Day?

My colleague, R, sent out an email yesterday looking for a new "forever home" for her 6-month old purebred English bulldog puppy, Solid: 

Her landlord changed the rules and decided to prohibit pets, so the situation was rather urgent.  Within less than an hour, another colleague, T, had clinched the deal to adopt Solid, which provided a very quick and happy ending!

Today, R brought Solid into the office for the hand-off to T, so we had an adorable and frisky puppy hanging around for about an hour this morning before T was able to take a break and bring Solid to his new home.  So adorable!  Very appropriate name for this little guy, who was very friendly and totally in love with the soft grey CalHIPSO hippo that J handed over to him.  The hippo was clearly not meant to be a dog toy, and Solid pretty much destroyed the poor creature within about 15 minutes.

Maybe this could be the beginning of a new tradition at CPCA for a Bring Your Pet to Work Day???


Day 39: Zen Sushi

Sac has lots of Asian restaurants of every stripe, from the larger chains like P.F. Chang's to local offerings that feature Thai, Japanese, Chinese, and combinations or permutations thereof.  Zen Sushi is located on the corner of 15h & I Streets, just 2 blocks from CPCA, and it's a definitely a favorite for many CPCA staff lunch outings.  I first tried Zen when I went out to lunch with CMK at some point last year, and I was very impressed with the food and service.  My absolute favorite is the vegetable ramen in a soy-based broth - tons of fresh veggies including carrots, cabbage, asparagus, broccoli, and mushrooms.  Yum!

Another striking feature of Zen is the decor, especially the structural ceiling light tiles.  In the main dining room, the tiles reveal lacy tree branches:

The entry bar and sushi bar area are emphasized by a rather appropriate blue-tinted reveal of swimming fish:

And one of the very best features of the decor is the lack of TVs all over the place, which has become so commonplace with restaurants of all kinds over the past few years.  A few screens are subtly positioned behind the bar, but no screens mar the tranquil dining room area.  Such a lovely environment to enjoy a tasty lunch!


Day 38: CADA Warehouse Artist Lofts

We live in the part of downtown Sac that is considered the "R Street Corridor."  When we first moved to our townhouse at the corner of 9th & Q Streets, I wasn't even sure that R Street was really a street, as it looked more like an alley due to the rough road, old railroad tracks, and lack of typical amenities such as lighting, way-finding indications, bike racks, etc.  Since Sac is full of alleys throughout the grid, it didn't seem unusual to have yet another alley nearby.  We eventually discovered that parts of R Street were somewhat more developed, and many blocks have now seen great improvements (more on that in a later post).

One of the abandoned buildings in disrepair was known as the CADA Warehouse, on the south side of R Street between 11th & 12th.  CADA is the Capitol Area Development Authority, which is charged with residential and mixed use development in a designated area around the State Capitol.  The agency manages multiple apartment complexes and is responsible for much (all?) of the redevelopment along the R Street Corridor.

Mr. E and I quickly got involved with community meetings that addressed planned or potential urban development projects in and around this area, and one of the first workshops we attended was for the CADA Warehouse.  I think this was back in 2004, and the project unfortunately lingered in limbo for years and years when the economic picture turned so bleak.  During this time, improvements were made in the general infrastructure of the street thanks to public investment funds, but the private investment had stalled completely.

Within the last year, however, the project has been resurrected and is finally moving forward.  The new development is known as the CADA Warehouse Artist Lofts...the WAL (formally the Capitol Lofts) is the proposed rehabilitation of the existing six story historic CADA warehouse building, into a residential mixed-use apartment complex. Located in the heart of the R Street Historic District between 11th and 12th Streets, this exciting project includes new residential housing construction east of the historic warehouse building, a below grade parking garage, and ground floor retail along R Street.  The 116 housing units and 13,000 square feet of commercial spaces will be marketed to the Sacramento artist community with the goal to make the R Street Historic District also an art and culture district. 

It's been so exciting to see construction finally progressing on this project, and we're looking forward to increasing the number of residents in the area to help support additional plans for redevelopment.  We're also hopeful that the ground-floor mixed-use retail will bring some additional amenities to our neighborhood (coffee shop? wine bar?). 

The WAL web site has a fabulous photo of the view of downtown from the existing Warehouse:


Day 37: Slight Digression...

One of the reasons I've been posting a series of entries about the art in Terminal B at SMF is that Mr. E and I just took a trip to Austin to visit our new nephew, CJ (son of my sister & brother-in-law).  I flew Southwest, which is housed in Terminal B, so that gave me the idea for a series of blog posts as subject matter while we were away from Sac.

However, I'm going to indulge in a slight digression from my 365 Days of Sacramento project to provide a brief post about our time with CJ aka Master C aka Christian.  We had a wonderful visit with the new boy and his parents, J & B.  I got to speak French to CJ and read him "Max et les Maximonstres" (the French translation of "Where the Wild Things Are" by Maurice Sendak), and he seemed very happy to hear the language.  I figure it's good to expose him to multiple languages at a young age!

We celebrated his 8-week birthday on Friday evening, accompanied him to swim lessons on Saturday, and provided some babysitting services on Sunday so that J&B could go to yoga.  Such fun!  For photos of the visit, check out J&B's web site.


Day 36: Art at SMF (Part 3)

When you reach the top of the escalator in Terminal B that leads from the ticketing counters and departure drop-off area, you may notice a colorful mosaic on the floor between the escalator and the shuttle to the "air side" part of the terminal.  At first, the most striking impression will likely be the yellow tiles interspersed with black bird profiles that look almost like old-fashioned portrait silhouettes:

However, if you only focus on the lovely floor tiles, you'll miss the other integral piece of the artwork -- the green cages hanging from the ceiling above each bird silhouette.

The title of this piece by Lynn Criswell is "As the Crow Flies," and it's constructed of aluminum, terrazzo, and polyurethane.  The SMF web site provides some additional insight:  Twenty-one silhouettes of various indigenous Northern Californian birds are inset into the floor and filled with black terrazzo. Each suspended cage is hung directly over a bird silhouette.

The overall impression is one of both balance and tension between the grounded mosaic tiles with the birds incongruously trapped and embedded in stone and the floating objects above that should suggest freedom but instead imply additional entrapment and rigidity.  Even if the birds could escape their tile forms to take flight, would they simply rise straight into a cage and encounter a form of domesticated prison?  Or would they be able to avoid those green objects and find their way out of the glass enclosure of the Terminal to join their appropriate flocks in the blue sky outside?