Bird Watcher Paradise -Sandhill Cranes Visit Sacramento River Delta

Day Trip to Woodbridge Ecological Reserve by Barbara L. Steinberg

Sunset at Woodbridge Ecological Reserve Credit Barbara L SteinbergSaturday was winding down. A perfect December day in the Sacramento Valley and along the Sacramento River Delta (or California Delta depending who you ask). Dry weather brings balmy days and very cold nights. It also means clear skies and stunning sunsets for birders who venture to the Woodbridge Ecological Reserve/Phil & Marilyn Eisenberg Sandhill Crane Reserve during the winter bird migration. A major stop along the Pacific Flyway, it's especially popular with the B-52s of birds, the sandhill cranes. Their annual visitation attracts birdwatching enthusiasts from around the region and world. And reason to celebrate the 20th annual Sandhill Crane Festival in nearby Lodi, California. 

Thousands of sandhill cranes along with similar numbers of geese, swans, Sandhill cranes 2 Woodbridge Ecological Reserve Credit Barbara L Steinberg
ducks, and various shorebirds spend fall and winter months in flooded farm fields along Woodbridge Road off Interstate 5. Each day at sundown -- yes, you can set your clock -- the spectacle begins. And then there are those rare days where sunsets are matched by a full-moon rise. The sounds and sights are breathtaking. In the fading light, the cranes appear ghostly in the shallow water. They will spend the night feeding, resting and courting. Their frenzied dance -- jumping and wings spread -- is part of the display.

Self-guided visitations occur daily. The reserve, property of the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, also has docent-led tours.These tours fill-up fast, so book ahead.

But whatever you do, don't miss this annual event -- migration and festival. I've been many times -- the wow factor is always the same. This video from 2011 tells the whole story. If you're really dedicated, morning visits can net you some spectacular views. Thank you to James D. Simon for this incredible YouTube video


Stockton Chinese New Year Parade came in like a Lion

Stockton Chinese New Year's Festival 2015 Credit Barbara L Steinberg 0109Under blue skies and sunshine, the 37th Annual Stockton Chinese New Year Parade was pure celebration! Year of the Ram was greeted by young and old -- including 95-year-old Blanche Chin Ah Tye Grand Marshall and CCSS Citizen of the Year.  Honor guard, dignitaries, vintage cars, and Lion Dancers paraded past Stockton Memorial Civic Auditorium.

The traditional Lion Dancers were the most exciting and colorful part of the day-long event. A tradition in China since 619 A.D. and the Tong Dynasty, Kung Fu is the foundation of this beautiful art form. Lion Dancers develop their stances and conditioning based on this martial art.

Following the parade, the festival included a vendors, food, and more Lion Dancing. Join us in Celebrating Stockton.

Happy New Year Stockton: Again!

Year of the Ram Goat 2015Stockton is culturally diverse. Beautifully and deliciously so! The impending Chinese and Vietnamese New Years are a perfect indicator of this fact.  A lunar celebration – parade and feasts will take place within two months of the Western Gregorian/solar calendar.  More reasons for merriment and festivities I always say. Can’t get enough of a good thing.

In the Vietnamese tradition, 2015 is the Year of the Goat – one of the 12 Eastern zodiac animals.  The Vietnamese zodiac also incorporates five elements: Metal, Wood, Wind, Water, Fire and Earth. The coming celebration is actually Ất Mùiwhich means Wood Goat

People born under the sign of “goat” are said to be hard-working and determined. I’m not sure if the owners of Saigon Vietnamese Restaurant are born under this sign, but they are incredibly hard-working and determined. There’s a wonderful “My Stockton” story that supports that thought, but for now the focus is the upcoming Tet – Vietnamese Lunar New Year.

Saigon Vietnamese Restaurant has a long history on Pacific Avenue. The current owners took over in 2001.  Annually, Saigon Vietnamese celebrates with a prix fixe dinner and lots of traditional fanfare. Firecrackers, martial arts demonstrations, dragon dancers, friends and family pack the restaurant, and Belly Buddha another good luck sign, he’s always laughing. 

Chúc Mừng Nǎm Mới The restaurant's celebration is February 21st – reservations should be made ASAP for the $36 per-person party – it’s nearly sold out! Appetizers, salad, special New Year’s eggroll, Nem a traditional Vietnamese sausage just for the celebration, and dessert – of course!

恭禧發財Following close on its heels, Stockton’s 37th Annual Chinese New Year CelebrationChinese New Year Courtesy of Stockton Chinese New Year Festival March 1, 2015; 11am to 5:30pm marks the Year of the Ram.  A great community and cultural event it attracts more than 3,000 attendees.  City-sponsored, this one-day parade and festival is family-friendly and it’s all FREE!  The parade begins at 10:00am rain or shine! You don’t want to miss the Lion Dance Troupes!

The festival at Stockton Memorial Civic Auditorium features continuous stage entertainment from 11:30am to 3:30pm and includes the Stockton Chinese Ladies Dance Troupe, Bayland Dancing, Capitol Chinese Orchestra and the Stockton Bukkyo Taiko Group. This year’s festival features a KidZone with carnival games and Paul Buethe “The Yo-yo Man” – he’s very cool and Uber across the pond, so I'm told! Not to be forgotten, lots of food – chow mein, sweet & sour pork, Dim Sum, sesame balls and the usual festival food – come famished. 

Proceeds from the festival benefit cultural programs and scholarships for local youth through the Chinese Cultural Society of Stockton.  

Seven hours of food frenzied fun on this Stockton Restaurant Week outing

Stockton Restaurant week Courtesy of Visit StocktonOkay, Stockton Restaurant Week not true! It’s actually Stockton Restaurant 10 Days from January 16-25, 2015. Be glad and rejoice – 10 days of potential gluttony on the heels of the holidays and resolutions to get slim and trim. Just take it slow and easy; everything in moderation. Start exploring Stockton’s restaurant scene – new dining establishments, personal favorites, or the bucket list eateries you’ve been passing on for far too long!  You don’t have to sign-up. You don’t have to buy tickets. You just have to show-up and eat.  Can’t get any easier than that. Participating restaurants are offering prix fixe menus – lunch and dinner – at amazing prices.  

For me, Stockton Restaurant Week aka Stockton Restaurant 10 Days was condensed into Stockton Restaurant Week/10 Days in seven hours. This sometime local wishes it were easier to partake of more of the culinary offerings, but there simply aren’t enough hours or calories in my schedule.  This is just a sneak peek – snippets of how to chow down over the next 10 days. I’ll provide more details on my dining choices at a later date. So, deep breath and dive in.

Day two of Stockton’s 10 days of food, I zigged and zagged my way through fog as it settled across the Central Valley.  I headed south on Hwy. 99 to make up for lost time, but then zigged onto Twin Cities Road to escape the freeway hustle. The Delta back roads were quieter still under the fog blanket.  My stomach reminded me I had miles to go before I could eat, so I zagged onto Interstate 5 at Thornton and jettisoned at March Lane. Phew, food was close at hand.

House of Shaw Stockton Credit Barbara L Stienberg Are You That Woman2There are more than 15 Stockton Restaurant Week participants.  However, you can get creative (as I did) and add your own. Back to the bucket list, I decided to cross a couple of places off mine.  I knew I would have to pace myself, but this would provide some insight about restaurants and cafes I had yet to experience.  Up at the crack of ridiculous, a caffeine jolt was needed. Having heard good things about House of Shaw-Espresso Café – a longtime café off Pacific Avenue – it was my first stop where I quickly requested a Half-Caff Americano with a dollop of frothed milk to fortify me against the foggy chill and sleep-deprivation. 

A bit of a rumbling in my tummy while perusing the menu –everything from bagels and croissant to soups and sandwiches.  With more food ahead, I opted for the homemade lentil soup. Thick, creamy and piping hot! The perfect start to my Stockton food fest.

Siaigon Veit Stockton Barbara L Stienberg Are You That Woman5Rested and fed, I headed out to enjoy more of The Miracle Mile. While I have spent my fair share of time on The Avenue…there’s still  that much more to see and gobble. Another casualty on the bucket list was Saigon Vietnamese Restaurant. The menu was so tempting, but I needed to keep things light. Vegetarian spring rolls was an ideal selection. The rolls were crisp and fresh with the requisite peanut dipping and chili sauces.  I intended to eat only one of the four rolls, but they were too tempting and I relished three before boxing up #4.

With a big sigh, I headed back out into the January chill.  As usual, the day was rushing by and my “true” lunchtime destination was out there waiting. Not to snub all the other Stockton Restaurant Week contributors, but in the realm of eeny, meny, miny, and moe there are winners and losers. My winner on the Stockton Restaurant Week in seven hours was down Pacific Avenue at Lincoln Cellar.

Lincoln Cellar Stockton Barbara L Stienberg Are You That Woman1Four months new to Stockton and Lincoln Center shops, Lincoln Cellar is a scrumptious wine bar and restaurant.  Their Stockton Restaurant Week lunch menu piqued my palate – top of the list Tomato Basil Bisque and Grilled Cheese on Sourdough with oven-roasted potatoes. Yowzer! Winter comfort in my book and for $10 – deal! There are two other lunch items on the Lincoln Cellar’s Restaurant Week Menu plus the $25 dinner offerings.  Lincoln Cellar’s list of wines and beers is formidable and mostly local (regional or California) but I opted instead  for a crisp Stella Artois Cidre.  I only wish – really, really wish – I had had room for dessert. Another day. Another dining extravaganza!

The clock is ticking on Stockton Restaurant Week. Even after it's gone, there will be plenty of reason to eat, drink and be merry around town. Chow!

Travel adventures for New Year 2015 begin with Stockton

On air Channel 10 Sac & Co for Visit Stockton 2014Wow, 2014 flew by.  On several flights of fancy, I found myself exploring, enjoying, and smiling my way through Stockton and San Joaquin County. New experiences and friends (truly) made it a year to remember. And feeling very gratified for a myriad of opportunities to write about and share online, on television, and face-to-face OMG! Stockton moments.

I love all things California! You may be wondering how I chose to Visit Stockton? Like so many destinations, Stockton chose me! Well, almost. Two years ago, January 20, 2013, on a random outing at Cosumnes River Preserve, I fell in love with a little girl wearing gold-sparkly Tom’s. She and her parents were exploring this nearby Stockton neighbor.  Stella, the future star, caught my eye and I asked if I could take her picture.  They said, “Yes!” I did.

Stella at Cosumnes Credit Barbara L Steinberg Are You That WomanThe parents and founders of The Tuleburg Group, Jason and Becky, invited me to discover their insider perspective of Stockton. I did again! The rest, as they say, is history. It’s not that I had never visited Stockton before, but they opened my eyes to all that I did not know.  I have been thanking them ever since. For a non-Stocktonian, I am their biggest fan and likely know more about the city than most natives or locals! When I embrace something it’s always 120%.

Overtime, Visit Stockton and I engaged in a win-win arrangement.  Actually, I genuinely believe I’m the big winner here. Ask all of my new Stockton friends who know me as a sometimes local.

There are so many stories that haven’t made their way to the websites, blogs and Facebook yet, but I vocally spread good news about Stockton to anyone who says “It ain’t so!” Looking forward to a year filled with exploration -- California and beyond.

Back to the concept of a random outing – nothing is random.  Stella and I were on a collision course that day two years ago. When in my Facebook posting I said, “I see great things ahead for Stella,” the reality is that great things were destined for me as well.

Stockton Restaurant week Courtesy of Visit StocktonFind me on Facebook. Find me in Stockton. Just find me and bring me your stories. Say hello! This weekend I’ll be around for Stockton Restaurant Week. Too much fun and not nearly enough time.

Chow babies!

Facebook quote that got this whole Stockton obsession rolling:  “Okay...drum roll. The next candidate for Are You That Woman? Presenting.... Stella. Out with parents, Becky & Jason, Stella was a perfect Cosumnes River ambassador. Proudly showing off her sparkling Toms shoes, offering to share her Swedish Gummy Fish, and completely fascinated by every little thing. I see great things ahead for Stella. 1/20/2013”


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Get Your Holiday Groove on in Stockton California

Holiday Getaways for Thanksgiving Weekend & Black Friday as Seen on Sac & Co.

You’ve had your fill of Thanksgiving cheer and Black Friday’s door has opened on the retail holiday 11 Patented Constant Hip Checkseason. Resist your urges towards mall mania and enjoy post-turkey delirium with a day-trip or even an overnight esc ape your return from feasting with family and friends or specifically an outing from Sacramento – it’s an easy retreat to Stockton and what you discover will astound and amaze you!

Get ready to rumble with the Stockton Thunder’s Black Friday home game. Free black tees to first 1,000 fans 18 and over! The premier AA hockey league affiliated with the New York Islanders – has made the playoffs every year since 2006.  Great sport for kids – the three fast-paced 20-minute periods with two intermissions and great on the ice promotions. Kids can decompress while parents sit back and smile. Make this an 8 University Lofts Courtyard Courtesy of University Plaza Waterfront Hotelovernight experience at the University Plaza Waterfront Hotel adjacent to the Arena. Home game buffet before – menus vary from appetizers to slider bars and prime rib – different feature for each game. Then, post-game players are available for autographs at University Plaza Waterfront Hotel.  The chic hotel is comfortable and convenient for all your Stockton activities. You'll love the lounge and restaurant. Friends, families, romance. Yep, they've got it all!

Stockton, like the rest of California, is culturally diverse. The most eye-opening example is the Cambodian Buddhist Temple hidden away off a Highway 99 frontage road – the more than 90 statues depicting the life of Buddha are truly larger than life! The Buddha in death is more than 50 feet long and 12 feet high. The Temple is open to the public every day at no charge. This place is a photographer’s dream especially in the early morning light. So if you want to get up and get going, put this at the top of your morning list.

Stockton is no stranger to the arts – world-class arts! The crown jewel of Stockton’s arts and history is The Haggin Museum – another (almost) hidden gem. Situated in the heart of Victory Park, the 3 Victory park & Haggin Museum80+-year-old museum features permanent and rotating exhibits. Currently, Heroes & Villains: The Comic Book Art of Alex Ross will bring a smile to faces of all ages. You’ll recognize some of your favorite caped crusaders along with famous artists who inspired a young Alex. The museum houses collections by famous artists JC Leyendecker and Albert Bierstadt which are world-renown.  Comic book fans should seek and discover JNA Collectibles on West Fremont selling vintage comics from Fantastic Four and Avengers to Spiderman – these are the real deal. Whereas over on the Pacific Avenue – the Miracle Mile – for more than 40 years Al’s Comics has thousands of the latest issues – popular with parents and kids.

For more than 90 years – imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and that’s true with The Miracle Milelocal developer Joseph Plecarpo got the idea from LA’s Whilshire Boulevard – shopping the way we used to shop – strolling The Avenue! Small local restaurants, pubs, and retail specialty shops will 15 Miracle Mile Credit Barbara L Steinbergbe celebrating Black Friday and American Express Small Business Saturday. Need more turkey, dive into Mile Wine Company’s 4th Friday in November Sandwich Special – turkey, Brie and Cranberry Mustardo. Live blues and jazz every weekend.  Gian’s Italian Deli (pronounced John’s) is a favorite for more than 50 years – homemade with love raviolis, sauce, breads….Kitchen specialties at Home Thyme, Dragonfairy metaphysical gift store,   and Christmas magic at With Garden Flair. The Abbey Trappist Pub will be pouring holiday beers. It’s where locals have shopped for more than 50 years. Great music weekends at Mile Wine and Valley Brewing -- hey, did we mention that Stockton is home to the Dave Brubeck Institute – translates into incredible music! Centrale Kitchen & Bar plus the old Stockton Empire theater now Empresso Coffeehouse – kitschy and excellent caffeine fix.

Yes, you may actually need your GPS to navigate. Spend the afternoon on Stockton’s Miracle Mile and then follow Pacific Avenue back to Sacramento. Yes, I am suggesting that you stay off Interstate 5. The roads of old will lead you out of Stockton and onto Thornton Road. You 26 Visit Stockton.orgwill need to zigzag a bit but once you cross Highway 12 – it’s open space and jogs through the tiny hamlets of Thornton and (yes) downtown Franklin. You’ll avoid any and all traffic coming and or going. I do it all the time.

More About Stockton

Stockton Road Trip is Buddhaliscious

Are You That Woman magnet - stickerMy romance with California began more than 24 years ago. I started traveling California. Exploring. Every corner. The back roads. Border to border. Coast to mountains. Urban. Rural. Big towns and small. For all I have seen, been, and's a drop in the bucket. California is endless. Her secrets sometimes hidden, but more often, right in front of you. Open your eyes! 

Hundreds of years ago, the Island of California existed in mythical proportions. In modern times, it still does. The magic is there waiting for you. Waiting for me. I continue to venture out to discover what I know will be countless OMG moments. Unlocking one more secret or not so secret treasure.

California never disappoints. Often words cannot describe what I see and experience. What continues to drive my passion for all things California and the continuing love affair. California...the true Center of the World! The center of my world.

Stockton lOgoPrepare yourself and enjoy these images from the Wat Dhammararam Buddhist Temple in Stockton, California. This is too fantastic! A gift. And where is this place of extreme beauty and a freeway, down a frontage road, on a back street. My Mantra to you is this: Take the roads less traveled. They will take your breath away.



Agricultural bounty San Joaquin County and Stockton earn high marks

Asian Farmers MarketTo-may-to or to-mah-to, San Joaquin County earns high scores when it comes to California commodities and promoting healthy eating through local farm stands and farmers markets. We’re #1 according to the California Department of Food & Agriculture (CDFA) in berries, blueberries, apples, asparagus (no surprises there), watermelon, English walnuts, and cherries. And in the Top 5 – San Joaquin is holding strong with fresh tomatoes, potatoes, olives and sweet corn.  Okay, enough with the mind-numbing stats, but just in case it comes up in’ll be prepared.

Year-round and seasonally, a variety of local farmers markets serve Stockton and the region. Stockton’s Asian Farmer’s Market (circa 1979) is considered one of the best according to Saveur magazine. They included it in their 2007 list of Top 100 Places – pretty high praise if you don’t already know! Years later, the market continues to draw thousands of consumers every Saturday beginning at Stockton Asian farmers market5:30am – these shoppers are serious. It’s not the latest marketing frenzy of Farm-to-Fork (F2F) that lures them. It’s the history of Stockton’s Asian community which began arriving during the Gold Rush and continued to grow bringing a wealth of culture and goods to the Stockton and, eventually, the markets and heart of San Joaquin County.

Downtown Farmers Market - Stockton Certified Farmers Market Association. Open year-round every Saturday - 5:30 am until 11:00am (or sold out). Under the cross-town freeway between El Dorado and San Joaquin streets across from St. Mary's Church. 

Stockton lOgoPS – It’s freeway close; no pun intended!

More great stories in Stockton


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Weird Stockton is blowing in the wind

Medina Wildmill Ranch 2014 Credit Barbara L Steinberg32There’s some pretty peculiar stuff in California. No disrespect. I worship those quirky, roadside attractions. There are books – Weird California – and websites – Roadside America – touting all that is weird in the Golden State. And other destinations, too.  Happily, there are peculiar reasons to Visit Stockton! Who knew this could be a good thing? I live for the weird and wonderful and was giddy when I pulled into a Stockton roadside oddity. Included in one, but not both, of the aforementioned authorities on the subject. The Windmill Ranch will blow you away.

People collect stuff. How and why is anyone’s guess. In the case of Stocktonian Frank Jay Medina, the addiction was windmills.  “He always liked windmills and it started from there,” according to son Gary Medina. Frank retired early from the hay business and started looking around for something to do. Voila! He started collecting windmills from ranches throughout the region. Go figure.

The original collection passed the 200 mark according to Gary. About 40 remain with Aermotor being the prevailing brand. The “Cadillac” of windmills, Aermotor began manufacturing in 1888 selling 24 windmills that first year and is still in business today. One of the original Aermotor windmills lives at the ranch, along with the ranch’s largest windmill – 20 feet across – and the smallest – six feet across. The Windmill Ranch attracts visitors from around the globe and it’s easy to see why.  One windmill claims an “OK Corral Livery” moniker. There are more than a few bullet holes in the windmill tails, but that’s all part of the beauty. Possibly my favorite “mill” is the stunning red and white, wooden Dempster seemingly unchanged with time.

None of the windmills are operational. A piece of Americana – I consider them public art. Other antique farm equipment and objets d’art litters the ranch property – kitschy, yes! And Stockton wouldn’t want it any other way. Oh, wait, the kitsch doesn’t end here. Frank Medina made an appearance on To Tell The Truth and Ripley's acknowledged him as the "oldest man in the world with all his teeth who has never had a cavity.”  Insert laughter here. 

Stockton lOgoA 2008 visit by Huell Howser shined a light on local attractions and Stocktonians; somehow he missed the Windmill Ranch. We all know that Huell would agree Windmill Ranch is another fine example of California’s Gold.

Are You That Woman is not new to this whole weirdness thing. Author Jan Friedman, Eccentric California (2005), kindly acknowledged my assistance in researching her book. Yes, I have a few more California oddities up my sleeve and more to uncover.  Any other Stockton/San Joaquin curiosities you want us to explore, then by all means:

FYI – Enjoy the weirdness of the Windmill Ranch An Evening with John Covert, September 20, 2014.

Get out and discover Stockton!

An evening with John Covert at Windmill Ranch

Fun(d)raiser at Windmill Ranch is an event you don't want to miss!

IMG_3270An eclectic collection of windmills and farm memorabilia, friends, good food, and some righteous music are the perfect recipe for an autumn evening. Wait, forgot to add good old-fashioned fun, if I may be so bold and corny to say. Plus, it's a good cause with all proceeds benefiting Stockton Pacific Rotary community projects.

Put a  big, red circle on your calendar - September 20, 2014 - an evening dining alfresco and entertainment provided by John Covert & the Crystal Image Band. Seating is limited and that's not just some idle threat. You couldn't ask for a more authentic setting than the Medina family's Windmill Ranch in Stockton. Dozens of windmills, antique farm equipment, wagons and kitschy collectibles set the mood.

Catered by Joe's Pomodoro Pizza Catering, no one will leave hungry promises owner Mike Rodarakis. He wants to keep a few surprises up his sleeve, but an array of starters will include bruchetta with fresh local tomatoes, Italian sausage, and chicken bites. Caesar salad with Mike's home-style dressing of olive oil and balsamic vinegar -- parmesan cheese and croutons, of course! Genova Bakery French bread, too! For Caesar salad diehard fans, anchovies will be available on request. Sizzling away on the grill, baby back ribs with Mike's Greek/American dry and wet rub marinade, roasted red potatoes with butter, garlic and lemon, rice pilaf, and fresh string beans with fresh tomato sauce and basil. And...yes, dessert. You'll just have to wait and see! If you're new to Joe's Pomodoro, with 116 reviews and 4.5-stars they are a Yelp big hitter!

Crystal Image with Dorothy Sills CoxSo, you’ve pushed away from the table. Now let’s get down to business of kickass entertainment. You tied your bib on at 5:00pm and at 7:15pm (more or less), Stockton native John Covert & the Crystal Image Band will rock your world until 9:15pm.  John Covert (keyboards/vocals) established Crystal Image in 1968. The band has opened for and performed with headline musicians including Tower of Power, Simon & Garfunkle, The Chiffons and more.  John’s songs have been featured on TV and cable stations including an episode of The Soprano’s.  I think we’ve set the stage for a great night of music – John & the band are well-credentialed.  Wear your dancing shoes and come prepared for a lot of finger-snapping and head bobbing. The band performs everything from classic rock ala the Stones and Bob Seger to CCR, Skynyrd and more. The Windmill Ranch event also features includes special guest artist Dorothy Sills Cox on the alto sax. Dorothy has opened for music legends Etta James, Los Lobos and regularly performs with bands throughout the region.

So the details are this:

What:  An Evening with John Covert
Date:  September 20, 2014
Time:  5:00pm to 9:30pm
Where: Windmill Ranch, 6553 Waterloo Road/Hwy. 88, Stockton, CA
Tickets:  $45 per person
For tickets contact: Gary Medina (209/607-2992 or Janice Gifford Medina (209/478-3543. Or members of the Stockton Pacific Rotary.

Personally, I'm counting on and hoping for Mean Woman Blues!