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Cafe Brasil: Charming Brazilian Bistro Worth Waking Up For

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Santa Cruz

Written by Tara Leonard

SANTA CRUZ (June, 2009) – Here’s the thing. I’m not really a breakfast person. I’m not wild about morning in general, which explains how I’ve managed to live on the Westside for more than ten years and never eaten at Café Brasil. I’d heard plenty of rave reviews for this colorful Brazilian bistro, but every time I passed by the vibrant green building there were daunting crowds of people spilling out the door, sprawled on bright blue benches in the lush garden or sipping coffee on the steps—crowds that I’d heard could wait for up to an hour for a table. An hour during which one could still be sleeping. However, one fog-free morning, curiosity beat inertia and my daughter and I decided to ride our bikes over for a mid-week breakfast. Surprisingly, it’s a ride I expect we’ll make many times in the future.

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Defeat the Gophers Without Poisoning Your Pets

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Farm & Garden

Written by Maria Gaura

SANTA CRUZ (June 2009) - There’s probably not a gardener in California who hasn’t tenderly planted a rose, or heirloom tomato, only to watch it be dragged underground by a hungry gopher.
All too often, irate gardeners have retaliated with poisoned baits and gases, tainting their soil with strychnine, arsenic, zinc phosphide, and other nasty poisons. In addition to finding their intended targets, poison baits for gophers and moles have been known to kill songbirds, owls, fish, amphibians,and even family pets. Obviously, a large enough dose of these toxins could also be fatal to a human.
But there are alternatives to turning your backyard into a Superfund site. A combination of trapping and gopher-proof garden design can keep your yard mostly gopher-free without resorting to chemical warfare. Also, if done correctly, trapping can be a quick and humane alternative to an agonizing death by poison.

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iPods and Ear Damage, Limiting Dangerous Decibels

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Healthy Living

Written by Maria Gaura

SANTA CRUZ  - When the iPod was introduced in 2001, it was a $400 toy for tech-savvy grownups. Today, with sales in the hundreds of millions, these tiny agents of auditory obliviousness have penetrated every level of society. They’re helping joggers set the pace, providing bus riders with a sense of privacy, and convincing teenagers that they’re living life to the beat of a movie soundtrack.
And those ubiquitous earbuds are increasingly being wedged into the ears of young children. My daughter recently complained that she was one of only three kids in her 5th grade class who didn’t have an iPod. Some of her classmates have owned portable MP3 players for years.
I resisted her pleas. We wear sunscreen and bike helmets, and keep fresh batteries in the smoke detectors. Why would I hand my kid a device capable of blasting 105 decibels directly into her eardrums?

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TLC Ranch Brings Home the Bacon, and Eggs

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Farm & Garden

Written by Maria Gaura

LAS LOMAS (May 2009) -- On a sunny spring afternoon, TLC Ranch in Las Lomas looks like a storybook farm. Glossy red hens chase after bugs, and spotted pigs root contentedly in a grassy pasture. A huge white dog named Angel follows, watchfully, as four-year-old Fiona strides the fields in a stylish pair of pink wellies.
TLC Ranch is exactly the kind of small farm that local-food advocates crave as an alternative to industrial meat production. Animal welfare is paramount here, production is organic, and the food is sold locally. There is an eager market for TLC’s pasture-raised pork and eggs, despite the premium price.
But the cost of farming in the Pajaro Valley is high, and livestock producers are few and far between. If TLC is going to expand, its next move may be to a less-expensive community elsewhere in California.

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Writing From the Heart

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Arts and Review

SANTA CRUZ (May 2009) --  Jill Wolfson used to sit in the bleachers and imagine all the things that could go wrong as her gymnast daughter spun and flipped on the uneven parallel bars.  She imagined her daughter’s hands letting go, the crashing fall to the ground. She imagined broken bones and concussions and even death.
It was those horrible parental imaginings that Santa Cruz writer Wolfson turned to as she sat down to write her third young-adult novel, “Cold Hands, Warm Heart,” which takes on the subject of illness, loss and connection through the story of a young girl’s heart transplant – a book one reader called “the ‘Juno’ of organ transplants.”

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A Gopher-Proof Bed For Your Victory Garden

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Farm & Garden

Written by Maria Gaura

SANTA CRUZ (April 2009 ) - The Victory Garden is back. Given the sad state of the economy this year, interest in home-grown food is soaring. The National Gardening Association estimates that 7 million U.S. households plan to plant new vegetable gardens this year, boosting the number of backyard plots to 43 million. First Lady Michelle Obama has even installed a kitchen garden at the White House, imparting a patriotic feel to the sometimes grubby business of growing your family's food. 
If you, too, are taking the gardening plunge this year, start your growing season by building a sturdy raised bed. Here are directions for a gopher-proof redwood planter that you can build in one afternoon, and is portable enough to take with you if you move.

 

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Pull Up Your Pants!

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Family Life

Written by Tara Leonard

SANTA CRUZ (April, 2009) -- It’s official. I’m old. I didn’t feel that way when I got married and had two kids. It barely crossed my mind when I plucked those first gray hairs and then, without a whimper, turned 40. (40 is the new 30, right?) No, I didn’t actually realize I was old until I heard myself saying to my 13-year-old son, “Pull up your pants! You look like a hoodlum!” With that simple phrase, I joined the pantheon of parents throughout the ages who have responded to their children’s fashion choices with confusion and disapproval. I’ve crossed a line and there’s no going back. And that line hovers just south of my adolescent son’s narrow hips.

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A Different Time, A Different Stimulus Package

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La Vida Local

SANTA CRUZ (April 2009) -- Most of the drivers rushing over the Valencia Bridge in Aptos never even see the sign. It’s set low in the mossy concrete railing on one end of the span -- a tarnished plaque that marks the history of hard times.
The plaque, which someone had recently graffitied with chalk, commemorates the 1935 construction of the narrow, tree-shadowed bridge.  The span was built with funds from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, his program to restart the economy with a flood of stimulus money for social and public works projects.
That money -- distributed for half a decade through acronym-heavy agencies like the WPA, PWA and TRAP -- changed the face of Santa Cruz, although most people might not realize it now.  

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The Carnivore's Dilemma: Natural, Organic or Grassfed Beef?

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Food

Written by Maria Gaura

SANTA CRUZ (APRIL 2009) - So you’ve read Michael Pollan’s books, and vowed to buy as much locally-grown, organic food as your grocery budget allows. But the tradeoffs get complicated when it comes to buying meat.
Step up to almost any meat counter in Santa Cruz and prepare to be confronted with a consumer dilemma. There’s grassfed organic beef, most of it shipped in from Uruguay, a 9,000 mile, oil-fueled journey. Other brands of organic beef hail from the U.S. Midwest, and require somewhat less shipping. But those cattle spent the last three to six months of their lives on feedlots, which many activists consider contrary to the principles of organic farming.
You can find several brands of “natural” beef raised in California. But the term “natural” can legally apply to cattle raised on corn, hormones and antibiotics, and kept in confinement for a full year. You just want the best for your family and the environment – how do you separate the beef from the bull?

 

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Human Care Alliance Provides Safety Net to Santa Cruz

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La Vida Local

Written by Tara Leonard

SANTA CRUZ (April, 2009) -- Maybe you have a family member who found support and guidance through her battle with cancer at WomenCare. Perhaps your aging neighbors enjoy food delivery from the Grey Bears. You might have a colleague who comes to work each morning knowing that her children are safe and happy at the Emeline Childcare Center. In fact, almost every resident of Santa Cruz County has a neighbor, friend or family member who has been helped by a local, nonprofit, health and human service agency. But most of them have never heard of the Human Care Alliance.

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Santa Cruz Techies MeetUp for the Future

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La Vida Local

SANTA CRUZ (April 2009) —Amid the glum economy that has cleared storefronts and hampered business, Santa Cruz techies have been packing the rooms of a monthly local geek-friendly gathering with an irrefutable optimism about the future.
The Santa Cruz New Tech Meet-Up, a networking and educational event for locals, has been so popular in recent months that organizers have had to turn members away at the door of their monthly meetings in downtown Santa Cruz. It is, they say, just one indication that the ongoing effort to galvanize the local design and tech community is gaining some serious traction.

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Uncle Funky Takes On The Recession

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La Vida Local

By Brad Brereton, Special to SantaCruzWire
SANTA CRUZ (March 2009) -- Uncle Funky ain’t scared of no recession. Neither, apparently, are two dozen other brave entrepreneurs who recently gave public notice of their intent to start new businesses during the worst financial downturn in seventy years.
Local businesses such as “Uncle Funky’s Productions,” “Santa Cruz Critter Sitter”, and “Wenikas Wonders” gave public notice last week of their intent to start new ventures, roll up their collective sleeves, and begin pulling the country out of its economic quagmire.

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Tragedy Becomes a Miracle for Sand Dune Collapse Survivor

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La Vida Local

Written by Tara Leonard

SANTA CRUZ (Feb, 2009) -- Living near Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, Erin Dawn was often awoken by the sound of medical transport helicopters churning through the still, dark sky. She never imagined that one night it would be her own son taking that fateful ride. But on October 11, 2008, it was 9-year-old Aidan Dawn being rushed from the emergency room to a waiting air ambulance for transport to Stanford’s Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital.
Due to weight restrictions, Aidan’s parents weren’t allowed to ride along, so for the first time in six hours Dawn tore herself away from her child’s side. “That was very painful,” she recalls in an anguished voice. “But I had to let go, surrender, and trust that he would make it there.”
Erin and her husband, Chazz, could only watch helplessly as the helicopter circled and disappeared into the darkness, racing towards Aidan’s only hope of survival.

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Helping The Homeless Escape The Street

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La Vida Local

By Maria Gaura
SANTA CRUZ (January 2009) - When Ken Cole took over the Santa Cruz Homeless Services Center ten years ago, his new office was in the bedroom of a tiny, dilapidated house -- and shared with two other people. The other facilities at the center weren’t much better. The wait in line for the center’s shower could be three hours long, and meals were served out of a battered catering truck.
The city’s approach to homeless services was also in disarray. The City Council was embroiled in a circular political battle between advocates of street camping and horrified neighborhood groups, and downtown merchants were demanding that the council do something – anything -- to rein in begging on city streets.

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Is Horse Manure Safe For Organic Gardens?

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Maria Gaura

By Maria Gaura
SANTA CRUZ  - It may be stinky and attract flies, but nothing makes a garden grow like a steaming pile of horse manure. Horse droppings make an excellent garden fertilizer and, better yet, can be collected for free at many stables. But is horse manure as natural as it smells?
Horses are prone to a host of parasites, and most horse owners regularly dose their animals with vermicides – medications toxic to intestinal worms and other insect pests. These medications pass through the digestive system, prompting some gardeners to ask whether tainted manure may be harming their crops, their families, or the environment.

 

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