Museum captures essence of Peanuts creator and his characters

Museum captures essence of Peanuts creator and his characters

The characters in the Peanuts comic strip evolved over time. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Even though Peanuts comic strip creator Charles Schulz died in February 2000, so much of what he drew seems contemporary.

It was a delight to spend some time this month in the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa. It’s been open since August 2002.

The comic strip debuted in October 1950 in seven newspapers. Fifty years later it had appeared in 2,600 newspapers. Millions of people had the opportunity to read it every day. He created 17,897 comic strips.

The ink and utensils to draw mattered to Charles Schulz. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

It was interesting to see some of the early strips because the characters, while recognizable, are not the same in appearance as what most of us are probably used to.

A quote from Schulz on a museum wall says, “Snoopy’s appearance and personality have changed probably more than those of any of the other characters. As my drawing style loosened, Snoopy was able to do more things, and when I finally developed the formula of using  his imagination to dream of being many heroic figures, the strip took on a completely new dimension.”

The museum is as much about the evolution of Peanuts as it of Schulz.

Plenty of comic strips adorn the walls to remind people what a creative genius Schulz was.

Charles Schulz created characters who people still identify with. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Upstairs is the research center. A sign outside says, “The research center was built to facilitate academic and historical study of the life and art of Charles M. Schulz. The center is home to books, special collections, and photographs related to Schultz and Peanuts. It’s rich and diverse archival collection also supports the exhibitions inside the museum.”

Also on this level is a room where people may draw cartoons and comics, work on other creative activities, watch videos, and read comics and books.

More captivating to me, though, was the replication of his studio. All that was missing was the man himself. It felt so authentic, right down to the overflowing garbage can with crumpled up renderings Schulz felt didn’t capture what he was trying to say.

There is much to learn and appreciate in this museum. It’s definitely someplace that could be visited more than once, especially knowing exhibits rotate—with special ones slated throughout the year.

On the same property is the Redwood Empire Ice Area aka Snoopy’s Home Ice. After all, Schulz was an avid hockey player. On a recent weekend day is was full of recreational skaters.

A replica of where Charles Schulz created his magic. (Image: Kathryn Reed)



  • Cost—$12 adults
  • Closed Tuesdays except during the summer.
  • Location: 2301 Hardies Lane, Santa Rosa
  • More info online
Sonoma Valley botanical garden transports visitors to Asia

Sonoma Valley botanical garden transports visitors to Asia


The Sonoma Botanical Garden looks down on the Sonoma Valley. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The thing about Mother Nature is that she is always changing. Look at something today and it won’t be the same a day, week, let alone a month from now.

That’s why I’m already looking forward to my next trip to the Sonoma Botanical Garden near Glen Ellen on Highway 12.

With so many of the trees being deciduous, their barren branches are clear indicators it’s not quite spring. Still, some magnolias were popping out as were other blossoms.

The Idesia polycarpa is native to China, Japan and Korea. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

It won’t be long before orange, red, pink and white rhododendrons shine. The shrub can be more than 8-feet tall.

The garden was founded in 1987 Jane Davenport Jansen, who died in 2000. It was first known at Quarryhill Botanical Garden because rock from here was mined to use in road building. (The 2017 Nuns Fire burned on three sides of the garden, but for the most part the plants all survived.)

Jansen had bought 61 acres in 1968, then added the adjacent 22 acres in 1998.

Today, a nonprofit runs the gardens. Just last year another section opened to the public. These are the 22 acres acquired a couple years before Jansen’s death. This area is the California Oaks section.

The plan is to plant species native to the Sonoma Valley in the soil that has been disturbed. This will then provide a bit of an educational opportunity like the rest of the property.

The Chinese weeping cypress looks moss is hanging from the limbs. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

While this section is pretty, it’s the other 25 acres that are part of the gardens that are more interesting. Ninety percent of what is growing grew from scientifically documented seed that came from China, Japan and the Himalayas. Planting began in 1990.

The goal of the Asian Woodland is to protect this plant diversity, while also showing people flora from another part of the world that they might not otherwise see.

Paths meander through the landscape, making for a tranquil outing. Seating areas are in picturesque locations. The only sound came from the birds.

Most of the plants have identifying markers.

Water flows from creeks into small ponds.

It’s easy to feel transported to another place—which is in large part what the whole purpose of these gardens is all about.

Lake Tahoe one of the most popular spots on Instragram

Lake Tahoe one of the most popular spots on Instragram

Emerald Bay is one of the many places in the Lake Tahoe Basin that Instragram users photograph. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

“They” say Emerald Bay is one of the most photographed places in the world. “They”might be correct.

Family Destinations Guide analyzed Instagram hashtag data to determine which California tourist locations are most popular. Lake Tahoe, not Emerald Bay alone, came in No. 4.

Even those who don’t do Instagram would likely put Tahoe in their top 10 list of must-visit places in California, and even higher for Nevada.

What wasn’t revealed in the information provided by the hashtag trackers or by reaching out to Family Destinations Guide was for what time period the data was collected. So, what none us knows is if the numbers are for all of 2022, or some other chunk of time.

Regardless, it’s fun to see Lake Tahoe deemed so Instagramable. With so many locations being photo-worthy, it would be interesting to dissect the data to know what is photographed most in the basin, in what season, and whether more tourists or locals are doing all that posting.

Not surprising is that Yosemite National Park was the No. 1 tourist attraction in the state with 4.8 million hashtags, according to the data provided. Venice Beach (really?) was No. 2 at 4.4 million hashtags. No. 3 was the Golden Gate Bridge at 4.3 million.

The next tier starts with Tahoe with 2.81 million hashtags. No. 5 was Disneyland at 2.46 million. Big Sur was No. 6 with 1.48 million, No. 7 Santa Monica Pier 1.47 million, No. 8 Death Valley National Park 1.3 million, No. 9 Alcatraz Island 1.2 million, and No. 10 was the Hollywood sign with 978,000.

Handcrafted pottery is like artwork for all areas of one’s home

Handcrafted pottery is like artwork for all areas of one’s home

Ibarra pottery is all made by hand in La Paz, Mexico. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Imperfections can actually make something even more perfect.

That’s what happens with handcrafted pottery and glassware. Two glasses or bowls may be similar, even seem alike, but look closer and you’ll see each is unique.

Mexican pottery is full of vibrant colors that seem to draw one’s eye to it no matter where it is located—a kitchen, outdoors, on a table as a decorative piece.

Ibarra’s Pottery was founded in 1958 by Julio Ibarra and Juanita Chavez. They met in Mexico City where they were both studying art. They decided to join forces and create pottery together.

In the mid-1980s they moved to La Paz in Baja California Sur to where they had family. In many ways it was like starting all over as the Ibarra art was not locally known.

Julio Ibarra died in 2015, while Juanita Chavez was still working there last year.

In April 2022, Ibarra’s Pottery celebrated what it called its evolution in La Paz from 1987-2022.

Ibarra’s factory and shop is a couple blocks from the malecon in La Paz. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Today, the La Paz shop is run by the founders’ daughter, Vicky Ibarra. A third generation is also becoming potterers.

While they don’t like people to take pictures onsite, the pottery makers post pictures online of the finished work and of employees painting what is essentially a blank canvas. There are even videos of how the clay comes into being.

The store/factory in La Paz is continually turning out new work. Plates, glasses, wall hangings, pitchers, and so much more are handcrafted right there.

If you don’t find what you are looking for or you have an idea for a piece, special orders can be placed.

One of Ibarra’s Facebook posts sums up why handmade art is so wonderful, “When you are buying a handmade piece you must know it might have some small defects and you can’t blame the artisan. The truth is: it makes it unique. Why? Because when you are creating something with your hands no matter how careful you are sometimes it’s impossible to make it exactly like the others.”

A post on Ibarra’s Instagram page says each piece takes about two weeks to complete. All of the Ibarra pieces are lead free. What I have bought can go in the oven and dishwasher, though I haven’t done so.

I love that each is signed on the bottom, so you know it’s an Ibarra. (They carry other works at the store.)

To me, Ibarra pottery is functional art.






Place of worship an architectural history lesson

Place of worship an architectural history lesson

The church at New Clairvaux Abbey is a work of art. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Rays of sunlight beam through the windows. It’s hard not to be mesmerized by the detail in the stonework. The triple-arched Gothic entry is stunning.

The church at New Clairvaux Abbey is breathtakingly beautiful. It’s a magnificent structure that is a blend of old and new. The guest entrance is through a 200 pound wooden door.

According to our tour guide, it was built to last a thousand years. Considering the history of the abbey already goes back about a thousand years, it seems appropriate this place of worship in Northern California should last another millennia.

Pews where the monks conduct their prayers. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Dwite, our guide, told us that about 35 percent of the stones used to build the church were from a 12th century “chapter house” that was originally part of Santa Maria de Ovila Cistercian Abbey in Spain, another 35 percent were cut in Spain, while the remaining sandstone came from Texas.

According to information provided by the abbey, this is the “largest example of original Cistercian-Gothic architecture in the Western Hemisphere, and the oldest building in the United States west of the Mississippi.”

The pipe organ came from a church in Redding. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

It will be four years this month since the church opened for worship. But during the pandemic, the facilities were closed to the public until late last year. To witness the monks in prayer in their sacred place was a bonus to the day.

We were all quiet as we sat in the visitors’ area while the monks drifted in, bowed and then went to their assigned pews. It was the shortest service of any denomination I’ve attended. Mostly it was about being quiet, with a prayer and a song part of the ritual.

While the monks who reside in this monastery in Vina, about 20 miles north of Chico, worship multiple times a day, we were there for just one session. This was the conclusion of our guided tour.

Guided and self-guided tours at the monastery are available. (Image: Kathryn Reed)



  • Self-guided tours available Monday-Saturday, 2:30-5pm.
  • Docent led tours available all but Sundays by appointment.
  • More information is available online.
  • Address: 26240 7th St., Vina


Museum captures 300 years’ of cowboy history in Baja

Museum captures 300 years’ of cowboy history in Baja

Tools of the vaquero at the cowboy museum in El Triunfo. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The smell of new leather wafts through the entrance, an appropriate greeting for a museum all about cowboys.

Museo del Vaquero de las Californias (MuVaCa for short and the Cowboy Museum of the Californias in English) opened in the tiny Baja town of El Triunfo the first week of November. (It’s still hard to believe this was once the most populated town in Baja California Sur.)

This ode to cowboy history is as well done as the mining museum (Museo Ruta de Plata/Silver Route Museum) that is on the same street.

The museum captures more than 300 years of cowboy traditions throughout the Baja peninsula. Details include aspects about life before the Spanish arrived, their influence, life after they were conquered, and the war with the United States that resulted in a large swath of Mexico becoming part of the U.S.

One display points out, “During the war between the United States and Mexico, rancheros and vaqueros joined together to defend their lands. On December 6, 1846, at the Battle of San Pasqual (in present day San Diego County), Californios defeated U.S. forces while armed only with lances, swords, and a few firearms.”

In other words, the Mexicans won at least one battle before losing the war.

Information is written in English and Spanish, as is the case at the mining museum.

The detail in this saddle is exquisite. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Walking in there are displays of cowboys in all their garb. The circular layout then leads visitors to the small theater where a film (also in English and Spanish) gives a thorough history about the vaqueros up to present day.

This is a good foundation to have before visiting the main museum which is in a separate building across a walkway that includes a tiered concrete seating area where outdoor presentations could be conducted.

There is so much to read, see and absorb in the museum that it would make sense to go multiple times. There is no way to grasp everything in one visit.

While the story and evolution of the Baja cowboy are fascinating, I seemed to be most enamored by the clothing for the people and the horses. The detail in the saddles was stunning. It was like artwork.

One display said, “The Baja California Sur saddle was designed to manage cattle safely in the harsh environment by protecting mount and rider from spines and thorns.”

The desert is not a forgiving place so protection is necessary, even today.

Museo del Vaquero de las Californias in El Triunfo has been open since early November. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Because living off the land is hard work no matter where one does it the early vaqueros had to be resourceful.

“As the population grew, hides, tallow, milk, cheese, and other products were transported through the Sierra of the peninsula to towns and cities that depended on the ranches for their supplies. In Alta California, the international tallow and leather trade gave rise to a boom; some families amassed huge tracts of pastureland for thousands of cattle,” one display reads. “The importance of livestock ranching as the economic base and the proliferation of wild cattle prompted the systematization of rodeos, the establishment of controlled herds, and the mark of ownership through branding.”

Today, one does not have to go far out of any town in Baja Sur to come across a ranch. Cowboys are still very much a part of the 21st century.

“The mountains of Guadalupe and La Giganta are home to hundreds of families who live a life similar to their ancestors of over 300 years ago,” the museum teaches. “Today, nearly 5,000 people continue living much of that lifestyle: tending the garden; making tools, leatherwork, cheeses, and knives for sale preparing food; and performing the many tasks it takes to remain on the ranches.”



  • Hours: Thursday-Monday, 10am-5pm
  • Cost: 100 pesos ($5) adults, 75 pesos for BCS residents, 60 pesos seniors
  • Email:
  • Address: Calle Ayuntamiento (entre Gral. Márquez de León y Minero Num. 1), El Triunfo
  • Website
Lassen park’s visitor center worthy of a stop

Lassen park’s visitor center worthy of a stop

The Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center at Lassen Volcanic National Park is a destination unto itself. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

There’s a good reason the word “volcanic” is part of Lassen Volcanic National Park’s name.

This park in Northern California is home to all four types of volcanoes that can be found throughout the world. Lassen Peak is a plug dome, Brokeoff is a composite, Prospect Peak is a shield, and Cinder Cone is, well, a cinder cone volcano.

While I’m an advocate for getting out in nature in all seasons, I’m also one who likes to learn a bit about what she is seeing.

Hiking friends had told me to take the time to peruse the visitor center. I finally found the time this fall on a drive with mom. It was definitely worth it.

A few times a day the visitor center shows an incredibly informative 20-minute movie called “The Story Behind the Landscape.” (The visitor center is closed Mondays and Tuesdays in the winter.)

Enjoying all that the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center has to offer is time well spent. When the building opened in 2008 it was heralded as the park’s first year-round visitor center. It is located about one mile from the southwest entrance.

The name comes from what the Mountain Maidu call Lassen Peak, which means Snow Mountain.

While Lassen Peak hasn’t erupted since 1921, it could again.

The National Park Service website says, “The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) maintains a National Volcanic Threat Assessment that considers the relative threats posed by U.S. volcanoes and identifies which volcanoes warrant the greatest risk-mitigation efforts by the USGS and its partners. The Lassen Volcanic Center (is) one of 18 volcanoes assessed as very high threat.”

Lassen became the 13th national park in August 1916.

Besides the film being educational, the visitor center has displays that captivate. Some are interactive—good for youngsters and the not so young. After all, the entire park is a geological wonder. Bumpass Hell “is the largest boiling springs area west of Yellowstone,” according to information at the center.

One sign talks about how the location of the park is where “four significant biological regions overlap—the Cascade Range, the Sierra Nevada, the California Central Valley and the Great Basin of Nevada.”

If you don’t have the time or desire to snowshoe or hike in Lassen, take the time to be enthralled by the visitor center.

Spooner Lake evolves with visitor center, amphitheater

Spooner Lake evolves with visitor center, amphitheater

Spooner Lake and Backcountry Visitor Center is open as of Nov. 17. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

While the natural beauty of the 13,000 acre Spooner Lake backcountry is captivating in all seasons, a man-made structure has actually enhanced what this Nevada oasis has to offer.

On Nov. 17 the $8 million visitors center and amphitheater was unveiled.

“Our focus is on environmental education and sustainable recreation,” Bob Mergell, administrator for Nevada State Parks, told the assembled crowd.

The amphitheater from which he was speaking is expected to be the center of outdoor programs. Four rows of granite benches, so to speak, form a semi-circle facing the podium. Each is broken into sections for ease of seating, and coming and going.

Philanthropist Linda Pascotto, left, with Amy Berry of the Tahoe Fund. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Mergell acknowledged a project of this size is a group effort, which he pointed out included prison inmates building all the cabinetry inside

The building houses a shop to buy souvenirs, resource guides and the opportunity to talk to someone to obtain more information. Also onsite are indoor rooms for classes or meetings, as well as a warming hut. What might excite many recreationists are the nice restrooms.

Donors are recognized on these metal bears. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

With 150,000 visitors to Spooner Lake each year using the 60 miles of trails, the built infrastructure was beyond outdated. Limited parking and a few port-a-potties are all that greeted people. What was there was 35 years old. Even the old kiosk to pay one’s entrance fee looked like a dilapidated hut.

Prior to the festivities, Mergell in an interview said planning for phase three of the project is under way.

“We are going to put in a kayak launch to make the lake more usable,” he said. A fishing platform is also in the works. A start and end date can’t be set until designs, permitting, and funding are secured.

It’s possible to fish at this late that sits at 6,983 feet, but it’s hard to get on the lake unless it’s frozen. That’s when ice skaters show off their skills. It’s about 23 feet deep.

Bob Mergell with Nevada State Parks talks about the Spooner project on Nov. 17. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

A price tag for this next phase has not been set, but one of the key donors was at the dedication.

Linda Pascotto, who has a house nearby, has been re-creating in the area since her parents bought a place at Lake Tahoe in the 1970s. Later she and her husband bought their own place.

Pascotto is a philanthropist who has donated to many causes in the Lake Tahoe Basin. The Haldan Art Gallery at Lake Tahoe Community College is in honor of her parents, Jim and Ethel May Haldan.

The amphitheater will be the site of outdoor education at Spooner. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

She is one of seven donors to the Tahoe Fund that accounts for that nonprofit’s $300,000 contribution to the current Spooner project. Pascotto and the others have metal bears scattered near the amphitheater with their names on them as a sign of thanks.

Pascotto’s next contribution of $250,000 is for phase three, which she wants to pay for the wildlife viewing platform at Spooner Lake.

“My dad was into wildlife,” she explained after all the presentations were over. “I wanted to do something for my parents.” After all, they are the ones who introduced her to the Spooner Lake area.

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