Thursday, September 25, 2014

Total Cuteness On Display

I've already written 3 blogs about the San Francisco Zoo and here I am writing another one. That's because today, Budget Day Trips was invited to participate in a media photo op celebrating the birth of four flamingo chicks - Chilean flamingos - to be exact. This was a chance to witness total cuteness on display, so I headed right over. I'm glad I did.

Some of the chicks are about 3 weeks old, one is less than a week old, and there are 2 more eggs that have been laid. The chicks are guarded by one or both of their parents at all times. Incidentally, the chicks are able to leave their nest after only three days.

Flamingo nests are made from mud that is scooped into a mound about 1.5 feet high and 15 inches in diameter. Each pair of flamingos lays just one egg on the mound and both parents take turns incubating the egg. The egg hatches in about a month. 

Normally, flamingos build their nest after an elaborate courtship and the female is ready to lay an egg. But see the flamingo on the front nest in the photo below? The keeper let us in on a little secret. That flamingo is actually a single male who was in a nurturing mood. He built his own nest and sat on it. The keeper put a wooden egg there to keep him happy for a while. Poor guy! He'll give up when it doesn't hatch and I'll bet his little bird brain will forget all about it. So don't be too sad! ;-)

Here's a poem I wrote about "Bob."

If you'd like to learn more about Chilean flamingos check out the link here. 

Tickled Pink promotion: The SF Zoo wants visitors to know that they are celebrating this "momentous occasion" by giving a $1 off the admission price for any visitors who wear pink to the Zoo on September 27 and 28. Also on Saturday, Zoo Members who wear pink are offered $10 off a new or renewed Membership.

As I've said before, there's so much to see at the San Francisco Zoo, so head over when you can - sooner rather than later - and visit the adorable flamingo chicks before they grow up.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Golden Age Movies and Milkshakes To-Die-For

One of my favorite places to go on a date night is the Stanford movie theater in Palo Alto. Last week my husband was on a business trip so I took the kids. We saw the 1931 classic version of Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi. My daughter thought it was pretty "cheesy" and only slightly scary, but my son and I got into the story and thought it was pretty spooky. That is the risk you take when you take children to see black and white movies, some will enjoy it and some will only look for the missing special effects.

The marquee is not actually missing any letters, my camera didn't pick up the way they were lit!

The Stanford movie theater, built in 1925 and restored in 1987 by David Packard, only shows movies from the "golden age" of Hollywood. The interior of the theater is beautifully detailed. It consists of one screening room that also has a balcony.

Photo from the Stanford Theater Website.

Detail of a Ceiling Panel.

One of the best things about the Stanford theater is the Wurlitzer organ that seemingly rises from beneath the floor. The organist plays before and after each 7:30 show for about 10 minutes. On Wednesday evenings the theater often shows silent movies which are accompanied by the organist. It is quite a show! Imagine playing an instrument non-stop for 60 to 90 minutes. You have to see it to believe it! The night we were there, we heard Bill Taylor - one of the regular "masters of the Mighty Wurlitzer."


Adjacent to the theater is a room that showcases many posters and mementos from classic movies. It is fun to walk through and linger, or rush, as the case may be, when you have kids in tow. You can only enter this room through the lobby of the Main Theater.

Dracula's Next Victim? Not on my watch!

After going to the Stanford theater, it is a tradition for me and my husband (and now kids) to go to the Peninsula Creamery at 566 Emerson Street, Palo Alto. The Peninsula Creamery is a 1950s style soda fountain and diner that was built in 1923 and restored sometime in the 1980s.

Photo by Catherine Sweeney and Mr. TWS
The menu is varied with delicious food made from scratch. And in my humble opinion, they have the best shakes in the nation. I always get a hamburger and chocolate milkshake. My daughter got a Thanksgiving style turkey dinner that she said was the best restaurant meal she'd ever had, followed by an Oreo shake. My son got a mushroom burger with a chocolate mint shake. The portions are generous and the shakes are absolutely huge. I learned from experience to skip the fries and eat a small salad with my burger, leaving room for the shake. My son was full but made himself finish the shake - it was a matter of pride. My daughter was full but didn't want to leave a drop behind, it was too delicious. We rolled out of there but it was totally worth it.

Notice the classic TV hanging up in the corner, also the working jukebox!

Milkshakes to-die-for . .

To be fair, the Peninsula Creamery is also known for its delicious pies. You can see why.

Only a chocoholic like me could resist pies like this!
If you go: I'd recommend the classic movies for older children who will be patient with the old style of filming. If you have a film history buff, they will love it. If you haven't seen many classic movies, try some! They had to rely on good stories, drama, humor, song and dance - not special effects. It's also nice to watch a movie that's not edited with frenetic cuts and pounding music for once.

Ticket Prices: Ticket prices are $7.00 for adults, and $5 for Seniors (65 and over) and Youth (18 and under). And take note of this– they only accept cash! No credit cards, so be prepared.

Have fun!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Ruins of a Golden Era - the Sutro Baths of San Francisco

I wish I could travel back in time to San Francisco and see the Sutro Baths in 1896. Millionaire Adolph Sutro designed the Sutro Baths in 1894 to provide thousands of San Franciscans an inexpensive recreational swimming facility. The 3 acre glass and steel bathhouse, located at Lands End, contained seven pools complete with diving boards, slides and trapezes. 

The engineering of the bath was so marvelous I can only describe it by quoting from the following article:

PG&E  magazine, September 1912.
J.E. Van Hoosear, Industrial department

Tier upon tier of seats rise to the galleries, while at their base are the swimming tanks. The water for these is supplied by an ingenious use of the ocean waves. A basin scooped out of solid rock receives the water that dashes over the top, thence it is conducted to a settling tank; by numerous small canals it makes its way into the various swimming tanks, of which there are six in all, the largest containing the sea water in its natural state, the others being heated to different temperatures to suit the varying requirements of visitors. As stated, the Baths are filled by the ocean itself. Should, however, the tides be so low as to necessitate pumping, preparations have been made for this, and the water can be forced in at a rate of 6,000 gallons per minute by means of a large turbine pump placed at sea level in a cave-like excavation hollowed out of the solid cliff and heretofore driven by means of a steam-engine which is now about to be replaced by a 35 horse-power 2-phase motor which can be controlled from the switchboard room and can be operated at any time, day or night, to suit the tides without previous preparation in the way of getting up steam.