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Affordable Southern California Vacation Spot Hides Behind Its Name…Oxnard?

Channel Islands Beach, Oxnard CA

This year my husband and I celebrated our ten year wedding anniversary. Of course we’d have loved to jump in a plane and flown off to some exotic locale. But with time and financial restraints we had to be a little less lavish in our summer vacation planning. I wanted to go somewhere warm, on the ocean and far enough away that we’d feel like we really “went” on vacation.

I pulled up Google Maps and ticked off all the California coastal towns we’d visited together – Mendocino, Bodega Bay, Carmel, Monterey, Morro Bay – until I scanned down to the Santa Barbara area. The hotel prices seemed a little high to sustain us for a full week. I looked around at the nearby towns – Ventura sounded familiar which was next to Oxnard. “Hummm what’s going on in a place called Oxnard?” I thought as I compared hotel prices, beach access and ocean proximity. Between the two towns, I found a nice harbor front hotel for a medium price per night in Oxnard – all requirements met.

When I told my husband John where we were going for our ten year anniversary, he set down the laundry he was folding, looked at me with disgust on his face and asked, “Oxnard?” like I’d lost my mind.

“Hey, it’s really not as bad as it sounds,” I said defending my decision. It’s got to be the words “Ox” and “Nard” together that raise eyebrows. I mean if I said we were going to “Ventura” nobody would screw their face up over that.

Channel Islands Harbor, Oxnard CA

So, I have to admit I became a little nervous I’d made the wrong decision after we got off Highway 1 heading into Oxnard. We’d passed up Santa Barbara’s blue ocean views, brown sandy beaches in the foreground, and outline of the distant Channel Islands breaking horizon sight lines. Acres of flat farmland then barren sand dunes surrounded the road as I thought to myself “this can’t be all there is out here.”

Breaking free from the rural and lonely landscape, we arrived at the vibrant Channel Islands Harbor alive with restaurants, yacht clubs and boaters. Our hotel was on the peninsula which divides the harbor into three prongs. It was dinner time when we arrived. The open late Toppers Pizza we’d eat at within the hour was all aglow in red and gold lights like a Broadway show. Checking in to our modern hotel, the evening breeze wafting through the remaining balmy warmth of the day, I felt reassured that Oxnard would provide everything I wanted in a vacation destination.

Enjoying Channel Islands Beach, Oxnard CA

Over the next few weeks read about our Oxnard adventures. I’ll share stories about exploring Southern California right here in this blog. Don’t forget a hat, sunscreen and shades for a fun time under the sun!

All the Books and Movies You Could Ever Want with “Library on the Go!”

I bought a new cell phone last month. In my world, this is news because I only upgrade when forced. Texted images were constipating my old phone, making me miss receiving some of my messages. I am pleased by the sleek technology of my new phone. The first thing I did was hook all my email accounts up then gave a brief thought to what app I would add next. After Facebook, I loaded “Library on the Go!” from the San Mateo County Library system.

“Library on the Go” has so many useful features: online video streaming, research databases, and e-books just to name a few. What I love the most is being able to search for a book or DVD (as I’m out and about) and clicking “hold.” My order is sent to the Peninsula library where my item is located, someone pulls my choice off the shelf, and then ships it to my local library where I pick it up. So easy, so convenient and so FREE!

If you’re researching a topic, binge-watching every Jane Austen movie adaptation, or reading a book series, search your library system (not just your branch) and check out the material for free. Just think about how much it would cost to buy all the DVDs and books you’d like to watch or read in a year. If there’s a good chance you won’t re-read or re-watch them – then why not check them out from the library? Now that I have the “Library on the Go!” app I’ll be tempted to check items out more often.

Nature Stakes a Claim on San Jose’s Historic New Almaden Quicksilver Mine

Casa Grande, New Almaden
Casa Grande, New Almaden

Look closely at the rolling green hills of the Capitancillos Ridge on the southern end of San Jose, CA. At times the peaceful landscape is jarred by large pieces of rusting machinery, remnants of California’s first mine. No, gold wasn’t found in them there hills but mercury aka quicksilver. The element was used in the gold and silver mining processes to separate the precious metals from crushed ore. Lucky for the ‘49er gold rush crowd, operations to extract quicksilver from San Jose’s New Almaden mines began in 1846 a few years before the gold frenzy.

Almaden Quicksilver Park
Almaden Quicksilver Park

On our way to find out for ourselves what’s left of the 170-year-old New Almaden mine, my husband and I pass multiple new housing developments on previously rural farming land. I remembered reading that the local reservoirs contain high levels of mercury making the fish unsafe to eat. I wondered at the decision to build new homes in the area and if the residents had to be mindful of mercury exposure.

Street View of Casa Grande
Street View of Casa Grande

The suburbs transition to fields, as we take New Almaden Road off the expressway toward the forested community of historical homes nestled between Alamitos Creek and the rising hillside. Entering Casa Grande, a three-story mansion which was home to the succession of New Almaden Mine managers, our imaginations go back in time and deep underground. Antique furnished parlor, library and drawing rooms give a sense of the activities of those who lived there.

A very knowledgeable docent met us as we toured the home and made our way to the Quicksilver Mining Museum located inside Casa Grande. The interpretive museum and docent answered our questions about the mercury mining process. Examples of red cinnabar ore mined deep within the earth are on display. The process of filling tall slender flasks with liquid quicksilver after cinnabar is heated to separate mercury and sulfur is depicted. Black and white photographs of the miners hauling ore and squeezing on the lifts that took them on their decent hundreds of feet underground cover the museum walls.  Visitors catch a glimpse into what mining life must have been like.

Water tower behind Casa Grande
Water tower behind Casa Grande

Back outside we stroll through Casa Grande’s lush green yard to look up at its swaying palms and clear blue sky. Then we started down the street on a section of the 1.6 mile historic home walk that loops around Casa Grande and the Alamitos Creek. Although historic, the colorful homes circa mid- 1800’s  with white picket fences and built with a variety of materials: brick, adobe, wood are all private residences. We walked along a length of original brick sidewalk while reading the informational markers in front of each house. Soon we felt at risk of becoming Peeping Toms with residents clearly going about their day. We decided to get back to the car and see more of the area by road.

Barn at Senador Mine Trail
Barn at Senador Mine Trail

Driving around the perimeter of the Almaden Quicksilver Park I spotted rusting mining equipment jutting up from the treetops at the Hacienda park entrance. We continued along the wooded drive passing the Almaden Reservoir and recently opened access to Mt. Umunhum. Then wrapped back around the hills and entered from McAbee Road closest to the Senador Mine. Walking on the wide shaded path, we passed an old wood barn near the park entrance.

Senador Mine Furnaces
Senador Mine Furnaces
Closer look at furnaces
Closer look at furnaces

About a half mile into the walk we found the concrete chimney remains of the Senador Mine. Three crumbling furnaces where cinnabar was once roasted stand, a perfect dystopian backdrop. Markings of the past are everywhere along the park trails, from covered ore cart rails, foundations of buildings or strikingly majestic ruined equipment. I wonder at the natural beauty of the hillsides and its hints of a long forgotten internal apocalypse.

What’s the Difference Between a Blog and an e-Newsletter?

Both blogs and e-newsletters are effective methods for building, maintaining and growing an audience interested in what your business has to offer. From doing both types of publications, I’ve found that the main differences between them are: how they are distributed and how they are interacted with. Below, I outline the purpose of each along with their major benefits.

Sample blog post

What is a blog?

A blog, short for Web Log, of regularly scheduled posts, is meant to engage readers who return to your website often to find out what’s new.

What’s the Marketing Purpose?

Build trust and authority in your business specialty as you build your prospect following through informative blog postings.

How is a Blog Distributed?

Your audience can subscribe to your blog and receive a notice when new posts are published, people can find your blog while browsing the internet, or people can click on links that you promote through social media posts.

A Cool Thing About Blogs:

Search engines like Google will index each post you publish – making it easier for people to find your business when they search on keywords.

For instance, if you search on “marketing bad attitude” my blog post, “Don’t Ruin Good Marketing With a Bad Attitude” along with my business name appears on page two of Google out of 53,100,000 pages. This is a good thing because people looking for this subject have a great chance of running across my article.

This type of visibility is possible for each blog post you publish!

What’s an e-Newsletter?

Sample e-newsletter layout

A regularly scheduled email in article style layout. E-newsletters can include useful articles, helpful web links, notice of upcoming events, announcements and reminders, fun game or inspirational quote.

What’s the Marketing Purpose?

Stay in front of serious prospects who are interested in your business. Continue to build relationships and your subject matter authority.

How are e-Newsletters Distributed?

E-newsletters are sent directly to an email address. Email marketing services like Constant Contact or Mail Chimp track how many people open your email and click on links inside the newsletter.

People will forward a good e-newsletter to their friends!

A Cool Thing About e-Newsletters:

Your e-newsletter fans will reply to your mailing and let you know that they enjoyed the information you shared. The responses you get back are more personal because you are building a relationship with your readers.

Similarities are Okay

It’s ok to publish the same article on your blog as you do in your e-newsletter. You may have a different audience for each type of publication. If you do have readership overlap, be sure to offer something “new” or different in each place so there’s a reason to check out both.

If you need help planning, editing, or writing content for your blog or e-newsletter contact me for a complimentary 30-minute writing services consultation.

Turn Off Your Insta-Editor and Write

Books, magazine articles even blogs have the power to transport readers through words alone. Amazing right? Have you ever been inspired to write something of your own but get stuck after the first few sentences? You go over your words a few times tweaking things here and there. You want everything you write to be perfect before you move on. So you don’t move on.

Our internal insta-editors can hinder any form of writing – emails, case notes, reports included. How can you get work done efficiently if you’re waiting for perfection? The following steps are suggestions on how to override your insta-editor until the timing is right.

Move Through the First Draft on a Path

I’ve started a new piece of writing only to get stuck polishing the first paragraph over and over because I didn’t know where the rest of the story was going.

I got ahead of myself, skipping the planning phase. Set up your writing path by “brainstorming” or thinking about your idea, finding the focus of what you’re going to write about, then break that down into points that you will turn into paragraphs or sections.

If you know where your writing is going, you’ll be less likely to get stuck perfecting the first few sentences.

Re-thinking Perfection

I understand the desire to send out perfect writing. I want that too, but it won’t happen if you’re holding up the process re-working the first few sentences. What is perfection anyway when it comes to writing? An email – for instance – doesn’t need to be poetic.

Focus on these goals for your writing instead of perfection:

Clarity: Can your readers understand what you’re trying to say? Because this is the point of written communication, yes?

Concise: Keep focused on an argument or main point. Stick to the reason you started writing in the first place.

Entertainment Value: This is optional, especially for an email, but if you have an interesting take on your topic readers will appreciate it and read to the end.

“E” is for Editing at the End

Lastly, editing does have its place in the writing process and that is at the end. There can be different “end points” like the end of a section, the end of a page or once all of the initial writing is done. Make the conscious decision to edit only when you get to the end point of your choice.

When you edit at the right point, you’ll feel encouraged by the progress you’ve made and how your words are shaping up.

Visit 100 Years Ago Today at History San Jose – Part 2

San Jose’s Pacific Hotel

After exploring the Trolley Barn, we discovered our pancake breakfast had worn off. We walked down the wide street of San Jose’s History Park wondering if we could order up a hot dog for lunch. Turning a corner, we faced the Pacific Hotel, a replica building that grounds visitors with a sense of what the city of San Jose originally looked like. The first floor of the hotel houses O’Brien’s Ice Cream Parlor. O’Brien’s a local favorite for candy and ice cream from 1868 through the mid-1900s. Since it was the only food-related establishment in sight, we walked into the white counter, mirrored, air-conditioned shop.

What’s for lunch? Ice cream!

I asked the ice cream server if there were any other places serving food in the park and the answer was no. So I went ahead and ordered a hot fudge sundae for myself and a chocolate milkshake for hubby. We ate, a little guiltily at first, but finished our sweet treats trying to remember if we ever had a lunch like this before.

Electric Light Tower

Back outside in the warm afternoon sun, we set out to explore the rest of the park’s extensive grounds. The replica Electric Light Tower catches visitor’s attention rising above the park. John photographed interesting geometric designs looking up through it. The original was erected in 1881 at a busy downtown San Jose intersection and was quite a spectacle then.

As we continued down the block, we met up with Rosie the Riveter across the street from the replica 1869 Empire Firehouse. Rosie looked like a real person from afar. I thought she was checking out the firehouse but discovered she’s a statue.

Rosie the Riveter across from Empire Firehouse

The dark wood paneled Stevens Ranch Fruit Barn at the back of the park is a museum sharing Santa Clara Valley’s history as an orchard and farming community before its transformation into Silicon Valley. Next to the barn are a few samples of migrant worker one-room houses giving an idea of what living conditions on area farms was like.

Historical homes of founding San Jose families were moved to the park. The preserved homes help tell the story of the families that used to live in them. Some of the structures are furnished to re-create what life was like during the period of the home. Other homes are sponsored by cultural groups displaying cultural relics and exhibits. We peered in windows, walked through homes, and peeked in backyards. It dawned on me that we were amongst the highest concentration of outhouses in the Bay Area, maybe even the entire state of California. Little wood structures – painted similarly to the home they sat behind – covered rickety wood benches with centered cutout.
Closing out our trip to San Jose’s History Park we stopped by the print shop on the way out. A docent and member of the printer’s guild spelled my name backward and upside down demonstrating typesetting. She showed us how a few of the printing presses ran leaving us in awe of how time intensive (and dangerous – squished fingers?) printing used to be.

It’s really amazing how much history is available to explore in one place – San Jose history, California history, transportation history, immigrant history and much more. Activities happen throughout the year featuring different aspects of the park. Come once to explore all of the buildings, and then come again to focus on just one area of interest, if you can narrow it down that is!

Find visitors information for San Jose’s History Park here.

Visit 100 Years Ago Today at History San Jose – Part 1

Associated Gasoline Station

Recently my husband and I were looking for something to do that would divert us from our everyday life. We couldn’t go great distances for our getaway but we could go back in time. How’s that done? You may ask.

I was pretty sure that San Jose has a collection of old buildings open for touring. We looked into it and confirmed that a section of Kelley Park houses San Jose’s History Park . After a big pancake Saturday breakfast we were ready to visit history.

History Park’s main entrance at the end of Phelan Avenue opens up to a wide pedestrian-only tree lined street – huge wood barn on the right and historical homes on the left. We veered right toward the crusty Associated Gasoline station and the blacksmith shed with early farm tractor out front. Taking in the scene by snapping pictures, we spun back to the Trolley Barn.

Electric Horseless Carriage
Electric Horseless Carriage

Caught Up in the Trolley Barn

Trolley Barn volunteers – train and trolley enthusiasts – greeted us and shared their wisdom about some of the vehicles found inside.

14 Car Batteries and Charging Station

The 1914 electric-horseless-carriage caught my attention. I was amazed that a car from so long ago runs on 14 car batteries (no gas) and has the capability to be re-charged. I did “know” that different car manufacturers tried out different fuel sources – electricity being one of them. But I’d never seen a car with a carriage inspired frame filled with 14 car batteries before. And it works!

Vintage San Jose Trolley
Vintage San Jose Trolley

The barn houses several vintage trolleys that volunteers preserve, display and give rides around the park on. We got to check out a 1930s era streetcar, with a guided demo on how to start it and clang the bell to get pedestrians off the tracks.

Later in the day we rode the outdoor track around the perimeter of History Park. The car we were in was open air at the ends – nice for warm San Jose days – while the middle of the car is covered.

Steam Engine
Steam Engine

I highly recommend the Trolley Barn to car, train or trolley buffs. Don’t miss their special Transportation Day celebration held on Father’s Day every year. All the cars and trolleys – that are able – are taken out for a spin.

Cable Car Ride
Cable Car Ride

Catch up on our adventure at History Park next week: Ice Cream for Lunch at O’Brien’s, Wild West to Orchards and Housing Cultural History – all covered in Part 2.

Get Over Your Fear of Publishing (FOP)

Get Over Your Fear of Publishing

Suffering from FOP? It’s a common condition, especially when starting a new blog, website or newsletter. I suffered from FOP when I began writing this blog. I was worried that internet trolls would leave negative comments on my posts. But as I started publishing and comments started coming in, I found that I could approve or deny those comments. So, I really had no reason to worry in the first place because I can control what comments are allowed on my posts.

When someone tells me that they’re experiencing FOP I feel a little sad. Sharing your thoughts and passion about a topic you care about helps people. It helps you gain a deeper understanding and you get to share that useful information with others.

Let’s take a look at some common forms of FOP and possible solutions.

No One Cares About What I have to Say

Why wouldn’t we care about what you have to say? is my question. I write about historical places to visit around the San Francisco Bay Area. Sure, not everyone wants to read those articles but friends, family, and people searching the internet for local tidbits do.

As long as you care about the topic that you’re writing about, you will develop an audience in time.

My Writing Isn’t Good Enough

Feeling confident in your writing skill is a huge challenge. Some people are just naturally fearless in this department. For the rest of us, this fear can be cured through organization.

For example, I started this article with an idea – which I turned into the title. Then I introduced what would be addressed throughout the article in the introduction. Each section has its own subheading which I’m filling out as I go along.

Following a structure allows you to feel confident that you’re hitting all the points you need to make to give your reader something useful to read.

Not Sure What to Write About

When you start a newsletter, blog or website there should be a reason behind that decision. It could be your business, hobby, or an organization that you participate in. When you write content for those publications, stay on topic.

Take it easy on yourself and use real-life examples like happy customers, a learning experience, interviews or event reporting are just a few ways to inspire a story idea.

Not Ready for People to Read My Writing

Don’t worry, when you start a blog or website, no one knows about it. This gives you some time to get comfortable with seeing your writing online.

Ask a few people to read it and give you feedback. When you feel comfortable with how everything looks, send out announcement emails and social media posts…push that publish button!

Have a Lingering Case of FOP?

If your finger is still hovering over the publish button, I’m happy to diagnose your writing project needs. Contact me at eva@evabarrows.com

Getting to the Top of Nob Hill Ain’t Easy – San Francisco, CA

Powell Street Cable Car, Photo by Eva Barrows

Nob Hill, a San Francisco neighborhood that rises 376 feet in elevation at a 25 percent grade is not easy to get to. The top of Nob Hill is home to silver baron, James C. Flood’s 1886 mansion and properties of other San Francisco elites past and present. No moat or portcullis needed to keep the riff-raff away, mounting the hill itself is deterrent enough.

The past two years I’ve attended the San Francisco Writers Conference held at the InterContinental Mark Hopkins hotel perched at the top of Nob Hill. Reluctant to drive myself into the heart of the city I’ve experimented with different methods of transportation to the conference. Each method is a strenuous adventure.

Nob Hill Views Down Mason Street, Photo by Eva Barrows

Via MUNI Bus

Surfacing from the Powell Street BART station into a rainy cityscape, I attempted to track down the MUNI bus that would take me to the top of Nob Hill. With a bus number in mind from my review of the online bus schedule, I could not find where it stopped. I stuck my head inside the door of another bus loading passengers and asked that driver where to catch a bus that went up the hill. She directed me back across the street giving me another bus number to find.

Rainy View from Mark Hopkins Hotel, Photo by Eva Barrows

Pouncing through puddles I arrived at a bus shelter where the rain continued to come down. After a ten minute wait, the bus came and I crowded into the back door. I slogged my way to the front to pay not wanting to get in trouble for fare dodging. Before I put my money in, however, I asked the driver if he was going to the top of Nob Hill. He said, nope. He let me off at a corner where another bus that did go up the hill would make its stop. I waited under the canvas awning of a storefront amongst other commuters. The awning became heavy with rainwater and unleashed a wave of water on top of our heads.

Soaked and impatient I decided to walk up the hill myself instead of waiting for the phantom bus. I was running late and needed to get to my post at the conference. One leg lunge after the other I slowly pulled myself up the incline. Huffing and puffing like I did hiking Lower Yosemite Falls, embarrassed by my out-of-shapeness. Claiming victory at a turtle’s pace, I made it to where the sidewalk plateaued. Out of breath, outerwear drenched, shirt soaked in sweat, I arrived at the conference.

Powell Street Cable Car Turn Around, Photo by Eva Barrows

Classic Cable Car

The next day I decided to try catching the cable car up Powell Street which runs directly to my destination. The rain clouds had dispersed to reveal a sunny blue-sky Saturday morning. I bought my seven dollar ticket to ride and got in line with hundreds of tourists. The day before, (when it was raining) nobody was in line to ride the cable car. That was when I should have taken it. I wound up watching ten cars be turned around at the end of the track to take brimming loads of people up the street. As I waited I began to strategize. I was running out of time, I was going to be late for the conference, again. I noticed that people were hopping on the cable car further down the street. But only a few people were being let on at a time. It seemed that I had a greater chance of getting on sooner if I just stayed where I was. Finally, I had my turn to ride the wooden antique cable car clanging up the hill.

Fairmont and Mark Hopkins Hotels, Photo by Eva Barrows

By Car – Hired or Self Drive

Okay, technically I didn’t hire a car to take me to Nob Hill for this year’s conference. I asked my husband to drive me there. Luckily he felt sorry for me and dropped me off across the street from the hotel. I would say by far this is the best way to get to Nob Hill, stress-free (for me) and super direct (no puffing up any hills.) I had some time to watch cars start the descent down Mason Street. Kids in back seats screamed as parents lifted their feet off the break downhill. Remember that? Hands in the air like you’re in a roller coaster, and WEEEEEE, the car goes sharply downhill? Yeah, that was fun.

San Francisco City View from Mark Hopkins Hotel, Photo by Eva Barrows

If you do drive yourself to Nob Hill time-limited street parking and pricy garage parking are available. Also, consider using Uber or taxi to arrive at your swanky destination.

Top of Nob Hill at Sacramento and Mason, Photo by Eva Barrows

Hoofing it aka Walking

I really really really don’t recommend walking to the top of Nob Hill. It can be done but if you’re going up there for a fancy dinner or want to impress anyone with your appearance do – not – walk. I watched as other people struggled to get to the top of the hill. A woman who appeared to live in the area replaced a trip to the gym with a hike up Nob Hill. Wearing workout clothes and clinching a bottle of water, she slowly made it up the street. Her face was pink and sweaty, she gulped for air. An old man plodded up the Mark Hopkins block and paused to hold a trunk of a tree to steady himself. A young woman walked her Labrador up the same block, the dog’s haunches visibly swayed as he climbed.

InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel, Photo by Eva Barrows

My Recommendation

The most comfortable and direct method to surmount Nob Hill is to have someone drop you off. But this can be cost prohibitive if the person taking you isn’t related. The second best way is taking the cable car during an off-peak time. Otherwise, you’ll have to drive yourself mentally prepared to pay for a parking garage.

Don’t Ruin Good Marketing With a Bad Attitude

Recently a friend of mine forwarded me an e-newsletter she subscribes to. She saw an entry that might interest me. She was right, I was interested. The newsletter talked about hiring writers if you need help developing content to keep your business visible.

The person whose newsletter it is, works locally so I went ahead and sent them an email introducing myself. I told them that I’m a local writer and would be happy to meet with them sometime.

Their response back was a conversation stopper. They had no need for a writer, their marketing department develops the newsletters, and my invitation to meet in person was ignored.
So in other words, this person is sabotaging their business’s marketing efforts.

I question: Why bother sending out newsletters if this is the response you give when someone reaches out to you?

What Went Right

The newsletter itself did what it was supposed to do. Someone on the mailing list received it and forwarded it to someone else – extending the reach of the original marketing piece.

The newsletter elicited a response from the reader. The reader actually sent an email to the person who sent out the newsletter.

This is the response that you want from a newsletter. You want your readers to reach out to you with comments, feedback, questions, even an invite to grab a cup of coffee. Your newsletter is helping you build relationships.

What Went Wrong and Why

I’ve touched on what went wrong. The “sender” of the newsletter cut short any potential for a relationship.

It seemed like the person didn’t know what was talked about in the newsletter.

They were not ready to respond thoughtfully to any interest the newsletter might create.

Instead of taking a grateful appreciative approach, they took the “don’t bother me” one.

It’s all too easy to take them up on that sentiment.

The lesson here is to be gracious and engaged when new contacts reach out to you. Make your goal nurturing relationships instead of stomping on the seed.