Friday, December 30, 2011

Train of Lights - Niles Canyon Railway Part II

We had a great experience on the Niles Canyon Railway.  We arrived just in time to catch the train (which I can't recommend).  Our son had fallen asleep in the car on the way to the Niles station (right near Niles Avenue in Fremont, which is a great neighborhood with lots of shops and a few restaurants).  It took him about 15 minutes to finally wake up; he was happily surprised to find himself already comfortably situated on the train.

The train was full of families, but not packed (perhaps since we were riding the train on the Tuesday after Christmas; the train can get very busy, especially on weekends in December before Christmas).

As we were moving through the Niles Canyon, my wife got up to get some hot cocoa from the food & drink car near the front of the train.  After a few minutes, the train came to a stop.

My wife returned about 5 minutes later.  It turned out that the train had decoupled.  Luckily, she hadn't made it to the hot chocolate and was on our side of the train.  The delay lasted about 20 minutes or so, by which time our son was just starting to get a bit restless.

The rest of the trip (which ended up at just under 2 hours because of the delay) was a mellow, fun ride for all of us.  Our son enjoyed walking through the different types of vintage cars (though we never did make it all the way to the hot chocolate car).

By the end of the ride, it was dark outside.  The Train of Lights is, indeed, a train of lights:

Here's the locomotive:

Santa Fe car:

More lights:

The outside of our car:

Here's where the train decoupled earlier in the afternoon:

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Train of Lights - Niles Canyon Railway

The Niles Canyon Railway is one of the great hidden gems of the Bay Area.  It describes itself as "a railroad museum where the exhibits come to life," which is entirely accurate.  The Railway operates vintage railroad equipment along the Niles Canyon between Fremont and Sunol.  

Each November and December, the Railway operates the Train of Lights.  The old trains are strung with holiday lights on the inside and out.  The trains are full of kids and parents; it is a really great, mellow way to spend a late afternoon with the family over the holidays.  

Two trains operate each night -- one leaves from Niles in Fremont at 4:15pm.  The other leaves from Sunol at 7:15pm (heading in the other direction).  The ride usually lasts around 90 minutes.  This seems to be just about the right amount of time for this sort of thing; by the end of the ride, most kids are ready to get going.  Tickets are $25 (early in the season you can get reserved seating, or even rent out an entire train car/caboose for a private party).

We recommend the 4:15 train out of the Niles station.  You get to enjoy the ride in the daylight, looking at the scenery along the steep Niles Canyon.  You can see the river, the steep hillsides, the old train equipment on parallel tracks, and the equipment yard (which is also the turn-around point for the train).  By the time you get back to the station, it is dark; you can see the amazing lights on the outside of the train.      

Here's a view of our train car:    

Facing the other direction:

Here's a shot of the canyon:

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Looking Forward To A Happy New Year!

We're taking a blogging break for the rest of 2011.  Happy Holidays!  And, all the best looking forward to a very Happy New Year!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Rockridge Kitchen Tour, Part IV

As we pointed out last week, 2011 seemed to be *The Year of the Island* on the Rockridge Kitchen Tour.  Here's another kitchen with an island (this one with a rounded side):

Really interesting light fixture.  Also liked the cabinets here.

The same kitchen included a fun blackboard -- another great idea for families with youngsters:

Friday, December 23, 2011

Rockridge Kitchen Tour, Part III

Folks on the tour were able to see the converted garage at the home with the kitchen that had the magnetic doors for kids.

We were really taken with what the residents were able to do to convert the garage into a great studio living space:

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Rockridge Kitchen Tour, Part II

More of our impressions from the Rockridge Kitchen Tour!

The kitchen with the great built-in bench also had a large, narrow island.  Islands seemed particularly popular on the tour this year.

This kitchen also boasted an island, and it included a larger breakfast-nook-type area.

The doors in the breakfast nook are magnetic, which seems like a great touch for families with youngsters:

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Rockridge Kitchen Tour

Here are a few of our impressions of the Rockridge Kitchen Tour, which took place on October 2nd.

Note - we respect the rules of the Tour and we did NOT take any pictures in kitchens where the residents asked that no pictures be taken.

We particularly liked the built-in bench in this kitchen:

Note the storage space under the bench:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Crummy Contractors -- A (Painter) Horror Story

Here's a Crummy Contractor story told to us about a somewhat frightening painter.  Note:  This one did NOT happen to us personally -- we've had an excellent experience with an expert painter, which we've blogged about previously.

Homeowner asks a painter if he'll provide a bid on a project basis instead of by the hour.  The painter gives a bid and gets hired.  Painter proceeds to work for an hour or two a week on the project, hiring an "assistant" to help by the hour.

Painter complains that he is losing money on the project, and asks to re-negotiate.  Homeowner asks that the painter start working more than an hour or two a week so that the project can get done before the painter tries to argue that the homeowner should pay him more money.

In a departure from past practice, the painter insists on getting paid at the end of the day.  After the painter leaves, the homeowner notices that the painter had gathered up all his stuff and taken everything out of the house (much work remains to be done).  Homeowner later learns painter had rushed straight to the bank to cash the check.

But, the homeowner manages to cancel payment minutes before the check is cashed.  The painter proceeds to repeatedly call the homeowner to demand more money.

Friday, December 9, 2011

It's A Wonderful Life (1946) on the Big Screen

If you want to see It's A Wonderful Life on the Big Screen, you can probably not do any better than the Stanford Theater in Palo Alto.  For details, check out
December 24th at 9pm

Older Holiday Movies That Bring Me Cheer

This time of year I love to hang out at home, make a big bowl of popcorn and watch the following five oldies but goodies!  I'll be writing more on these favorites and where to still catch them on the big screen at historical movie theaters!

1.  A Christmas Story (1983)

2.  It's A Wonderful Life (1946)

3.  Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

4.  White Christmas (1954)

5.  Holiday Inn (1942)

Fixing Anything

Here's a handy flow chart on how to fix just about anything.  The chart has made the rounds on social networking sites.  My understanding is that it first appeared on George Takei's excellent blog.

You gotta love it:

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Deck the Halls

The San Francisco Symphony is hosting children's holiday shows during the weekend that are worth seeing.  There are two shows on Sunday -- one begins at 11am, and the second concert and show is at 3pm.  They include a post-show party and gifts for kids.  For details, check out the Symphony's Deck the Halls page.  The Symphony is a real San Francisco experience; they are approaching their 100th anniversary.

For reservations call 415-864-6000.

Chanty Singing at Hyde Street Pier

Tonight (October 3), at 8pm -- and every first Saturday of the month -- the Living Museum at Hyde Street Pier (part of the National Park Service) hosts chanty singing.  We've done this before; it is a lot of fun.  It provides a real taste of maritime history, and is fantastic in the atmosphere of Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. 

Wear warm clothes -- it is cold on the ship.  Also, bring your own mug (or a to-go cup) if you can -- for hot cider!

Call 415-561-7171 to reserve a spot. for more details.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Doors as Tools for Organizing

A few days ago, I blogged about doors as tools for organizing.

My wife saw the post.  She looked at the picture.  And then she said she thought it was pretty awful and was going to take down the shoe organizer.

Just goes to show you that it's okay to change your mind about stuff around the house!

--Bungalow Papa