Tour Blake Garden, Kensington

A group at the garden tour in Blake Garden, KensingtonEvery second Thursday from 2 pm to 3 pm you can join a free tour of Blake Garden in Kensington. Here you learn about the history and design of the garden. This is a fascinating walk starting from the former residence of Anson and Anita Blake with the koi pond to the redwood grove, and to the more experimental parts of the garden.

The former residence of Anson and Anita Blake with the koi pond in front.The garden was deeded to the University of California in 1957. From 1967 to 2008 the former residence was used to house the UC Berkeley president. Now structurally unsound because the Hayward Fault Line runs underneath it, and crucial maintenance has been deferred. On clear days, as we had, you can enjoy a view of the Bay and Golden Gate Bridge. 

A stack of sticks and a sign that reads: Create with natureI really liked the projects that included art but also a few play gardens. There is a huge boulder and a wonderful tree that would invite kids to climb, but for security reasons it is not allowed. Luckily they created a few play garden areas that will inspire kids to interact with nature. 

Bay view from Blake GardenNowadays, Blake garden is part of UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design (CED). It serves as a site for experiential learning for students in the Department of Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning.

Starting in 2009 the garden opened to the public. The next garden tour is Thursday, April 11, 2024 from 2 pm – 3 pm. The tour meets at 70 Rincon Rd., Kensington. Parking is free. To register for the tour email Kathryn Lincoln, Blake Garden Manager, at

A bee hotel at Blake Garden, KensingtonBesides the monthly tour, Blake Garden is also open for exploring on your own, weekdays, Mondays through Fridays, 8 am – 4:30 pm (closed for major holidays). Admission is free. 

Please remember that you should not pick any flowers. Leashed well-behaved dogs are also allowed on the tour. Due to some steep hills and uneven ground this is not wheelchair or stroller accessible.  


Follow the Bagels at Boichik Bagels Factory

Follow the Bagels at Boichik Bagels Factory

A bagel bot and conveyer belt where bagels are madeI love seeing things being made. At Boichik Bagels in Berkeley you can watch the conveyor belts of doughy bagels being made into their glutenous treat. The factory is located at 1225 Sixth St. in Berkeley. Opening hours are from 7:30 am till 1 pm. If they run out of bagels they might close early!

When we got there to order lunch we were almost too late for the taste test. 

And we were too late to watch the bagels being made, though we were able to try the bagels and their famous white fish spread. I definitely plan to go back and see the factory during operation hours. 

A platform of legos. The sign says: Caution Standing on this Lego could result in injury and it is at your own riskNonetheless I liked the big window where a whole school class could put their noses on to get a closer look at the machinery. But the most sensible thing was the block for shorter people – I saw a little girl standing on it  – to get a better view. 

The outside seating was great, except for the next door neighbor who has an automated triggering system that tells you you are trespassing even if you just crossed the street. 

Boichik has four more locations in the Bay Area and is expanding. There is a factory tour on Saturdays at 8:30, but I’m not sure I can make it that early. I will report if I do. Mahjong Mondays 10am – noon might be an option for further exploration. 

One half of a bagel with white fish spreadHave you ever seen bagels being made?

The Boichik Bagels factory is located at 1225 Sixth St. in Berkeley. Their opening hours are every day 7:30 am – 1:00 pm (or until sold out).  

Visit the Lacis Museum of Lace and Textiles, Berkeley

Visit the Lacis Museum of Lace and Textiles, Berkeley

One of my earliest blog posts was about the Lace Museum in Sunnyvale. A small storefront in a stripmall with amazing examples of lace and rotating exhibits.

A table with leaflets about upcoming classes at the Lacis MuseumI was expecting a similar small space for the Lacis Museum of Lace and Textiles in Berkeley. It turns out the Berkeley museum is exponentially larger! They have a store that sells lace, and equipment for embroidery and lace making. If you’d like you can take one of their classes, on embroidery, tatting, or bobbing in their upstairs classroom. To receive an overview of the museum we enjoyed the two tours they offer. 

Mannequins wearing pajamas at the day's end exhibit Our first tour was Day’s End: Personal Glamour Exposed, a fascinating look into the history of night time fashion. From the rather starchy looking undergarments of the 1860s to the silky, lacy nightgowns of the 1920s, a collection of nightcaps and bonnets, and the pajamas of the 1930s. They made a YouTube video of the exponents, but of course it is more stunning to see them in person.

A collection of handkerchiefs from the Transcending Fashion exhibitThe second exhibit is a lesson in lace history: Transcending Fashion: The Lace Accessory. First you learn about the secret language of handkerchiefs, while you bend over a looking glass to see the snowflake like miniature patterns. The history of the communal work of Irish lace and other different techniques to create these intricate patterns are truly amazing

Lace seen through the looking glassEach tour is $3.00 per person, Monday through Saturday, at either 1:00 or 3:00 pm. Tours are by appointment and can be scheduled by calling the Lacis Museum at (510) 843-7290 during regular business hours.

The Lacis Museum is located at 2982 Adeline Street, Berkeley. Hours are Monday to Saturday from noon  to  6pm.


Road sign for the Grand Opening art salon and the famous Illusion Room

Stop by the Grand Opening with its Famous Illusion Room, Berkeley

Grand Opening art salon sign The perfect roadside attraction, off the beaten pass, but close enough to amenities, interesting things to look at, bathroom and a sample of local tea. We visited the Grand Opening and enjoyed all of the above. Grand Opening is an art collective with some events, for example on Saturday, March 9th, 2024 from 1 – 7pm, you can experience the 𝐻𝒪𝒰𝑅 𝒫𝐿𝐸𝒜𝒮𝒰𝑅𝐸 {𝕒 𝕘𝕠𝕠𝕕 𝕥𝕚𝕞𝕖} event, in celebration of the time change. Who could say no to a free event with food, beverages, and art? 

Inside Grand Opening in BerkeleyIf you already booked up that weekend, stop by another time and immerse yourself in the Illusion Room. You have to take off your shoes, your cellphone will be Lock box with a chain for your phoneslocked away in a box that will stay with you, then you may enter the Illusion Room. You have some time to chill and look around the room. When the bell chimes you know your time is up, but unless there are people waiting no one will force you to leave. I won’t tell you what you will find, but I can tell you I now have a sticker advertising this place on my car! 

It is $4 per person, stickers are $3 and you’ll get an offering of tea from nearby Blue Willow Tea

Front entrance of Grand Opening located at 1220 4th St, Berkeley. Triangle sign reads Are We OpenThe art is priced to sell with nothing more than $300. But a lot for less than that. 

You can find the Grand Opening and Illusion Room at 1220 4th St., Berkeley. Hours are Saturday and Sunday, 1 pm – 6 pm. Follow them on Instagram at @grand.opening.arts

Follow up of People’s Park, Berkeley

Follow up of People’s Park, Berkeley

A barrier on one side and shipping container on the other side ending in a dead end.After a long legal battle the UC Berkeley moved ahead the night of January 3rd, 2024 to clear People’s Park from its inhabitants and wall it off with double-stacked shipping containers. The park near Telegraph Ave, on the corner of Haste and Bowditch Streets and Dwight Way, will be reinvented with much needed student housing. The plan also includes affordable housing units and almost ⅔ of it will remain greenspace. The large greenspace is to commemorate the park’s history as a meeting point for free speech and protest culture. 

Double stack shipping containers blocking off People's Park in BerkeleyThe City thought that the unsightly container wall was needed after protestors destroyed $1.5 million worth of equipment last year. 

So who is opposing the development? 

Is it just wealthy progressive people being NIMBY’s (Not In My BackYard)? Or are these nostalgic hippies, recollecting the historical fights planned out in the park?

A tree peeking out over the shipping containersI think it is a mixture of both. The halt of the building project by a court order in 2022 citing environmental reasons. This definitely was a NIMBY move. In a KQED report on the park, students expressed  concern that not all possible sites were evaluated before People’s Park was chosen. People’s Park is a historic landmark, and already has a bloody track record each time the UC decided to develop it.

Who is responsible for the housing shortage? 

Barbed wire on top of the shipping containersBerkeley has the lowest rate of housing offered to their students among the UCs (about 20% for undergraduates and 9% for graduates). When the university was founded in 1868 it modeled itself after German universities that offer a great education but no housing. The Bay Area, being one of the most expensive places in the world to live, worries students each year in search of affordable housing.

Are you a supporter of affordable housing or People’s Park?


The sun is setting overlooking the Bay at César Chávez Park in Berkeley

Look up at César Chávez Park in Berkeley

Originally we came to the César Chávez Park in Berkeley to see the kites. But even the waterfront park is not always a windy place. This park was known for its annual kite festival, organized by Highline Kites. But due to a rate hike by the City of Berkeley, the once beloved annual kite festival at the end of July will be canceled.

Info panel explaining Chavez relationship to dogsA nice surprise were the info panels educating you about César Chávez. One of the stations explains Chávez’s connection to dogs and even has an excerpt of the poem A Dog Has Died by Pablo Neruda. Unlike kites, dogs were plentiful the day of our visit. There is a large off leash area where many friendly furry friends meet up. 


Determination chiseled in a stone The highest point in the park is used for the crossroads observation point. Four virtues of César Chávez: hope, determination, courage, and tolerance are celebrated and each has an info panel connecting these to Chávez. The four words are chiseled in stone, appearing like an altar for each of them. 

If you come to find a relaxing place you can sit on one of the many benches and enjoy the view of the San Francisco skyline. But be aware that some dogs might come and say ‘hi’. 

A dog coming to say 'hi'The 90 acre park is located at 11 Spinnaker Way next to Berkeley’s marina. Hours are from 6 am to 10 pm (unless otherwise indicated). 

Have you been to César Chávez Park?

Fourth Street in Berkeley with Holiday light display

See the Holiday Lights on Berkeley’s 4th Street

Stars are hanging from a tree wrapped in lightsA great inexpensive activity for the holiday is walking or driving through the holiday lights display on Berkeley’s 4th Street. Unless of course you end up buying a lot of things in the stores and restaurants of this high-end shopping street.

4th St in Berkeley decorated in Holiday lightsThe canopied shopping district wraps all its trees in tiny lights, then decorates them with stars and colored bulbs. Garlands of lights with blue snowflakes in the middle hang across the streets. 

Until December 31st the lights will turn on at 5pm. During the weekends stop by for some caroling and crafting events. You can even drop off a letter for Santa in front of Peet’s Coffee. Last day for mailing your letter is Wednesday December 20th, 2023. All letters with a return address will receive an answer from an elf!

This Saturday is the annual Artisan Asian Market, 11 am – 4 pm, along the paseo between Warby Parker and Cafe Reville, 1911 4th Street. Additionally, from 5:30 – 7:30 pm, you can wave at the participants of the Holiday Fantasy Parade – You Drive, We Wave

Each Friday and Saturday participating shops will stay open until 7 pm. The holiday lights spectacle is on Fourth Street between Hearst and Virginia Street in Berkeley. 

Where is your favorite holiday light display?

Flames and Tears by Vojtech Blazejovsky

Experience the Flame Within, ACCI Gallery, Berkeley

Metal sculpture Round and Round by Barbara M. Berk The Metal Arts Guild provides its members with opportunities to show off their creations in galleries and museums. Their current exhibit ‘The Flame Within” is at the ACCI Gallery in Berkeley. Until November 12th, 2023 you can marvel at the creative ways these thirty three metal artists express their medium. From jewelry to sculptures the material was heated, bent, and formed into beautiful designs. 

Inside the ACCI gallery in BerkeleyWhile there is a space dedicated to the Metal Arts Guild, I also enjoyed the other artists’ creations. As the oldest Arts and Crafts co-op west of the Mississippi, it consists of over 100 juried artists.

Floral Fancy by Kim WebsterI highly recommend checking out the ACCI Gallery for gift ideas. Are we getting close to that time of the year already? Unique gifts from paintings to jewelry to pottery and other creative art, there was so much to see! I really enjoyed the urban garden in the back with the decorative glass flowers and other sculptures. 

The Flame Within will be open until Sunday, November 12th, 2023. 

Entrance to the ACCI Gallery in BerkeleyACCI Gallery is located in the middle of Berkeley’s Gourmet District, at 1652 Shattuck Ave. Opening hours are Monday to Saturday from 11 am – 6 pm, Sunday noon – 5 pm.

Purchase Plants at Cactus Jungle, Berkeley

Purchase Plants at Cactus Jungle, Berkeley

Plant related gift items at Cactus Jungle in Berkeley.If you are planning to go see the Berkeley Potters Guild please consider stopping by Cactus Jungle afterwards. They have a great selection of not only cactus, but succulents, carnivorous plants, airplants, and perennials. Plus interesting pots and other plant related gift items, like living ornaments. 

Micah, the red foot tortoiseIt was fun to discover Micah, the red foot tortoise. She is not for sale, but feels right at home. If you have little kids they might enjoy learning about Micah. I was told the Marin Cactus Jungle has baby tortoises!

Cactus Jungle in Berkeley is located one block from the Berkeley Potters Guild at 1509 4th Street. They are open Tuesdays to Sundays from 9:30 am to 5 pm. From December 25th to Jan 2nd they are on their Winter Break.

Have you gathered all your gifts yet? carnivorous plants

For another experience while plant shopping I suggest going to Shelldance Orchid Gardens in Pacifica. 

*I’m not affiliated with Cactus Jungle (or anyone else). 


Pottery by Kimi Masui

Gift some Pottery, Berkeley Potters Guild

Pottery by Margarete Grisz DowThe Berkeley Potters Guild welcomes visitors to their 51st anniversary Holiday Open Studio. This year’s event is under the motto: Vibe of color. Every Saturday and Sunday of December from 11 am to 5 pm and the whole week of the 17th till the 24th you can shop handmade pottery. 17 artists will show off their work and celebrate the season with live music.

Last year was the 50th anniversary of the Berkeley Potters Guild. Even during the pandemic they organized a splendid event, with much social distancing. Nevertheless you could also chat with the artists and learn their motivation and love for the craft. Since we are now going into the 3rd year of the pandemic they still require you to wear masks at all times. A kiln at the Berkeley Potters Guild

From bowls and vases to little magnets, tiles, and jewelry the selection is holding a gift for everyone on your list. The gallery shows off the highest priced pieces, so you are also treated to an arts and craft exhibit. I like the old kiln and the building itself with its nooks and history.

It was quite revealing last year when an artist told us she thought one of her creations was stolen, and someone had to tell her that it just got sold. Yes, you can be quite attached to your work. If you give any of these creations you know you have a unique work of art.  


Berkeley Potters Guild is open from 11 am to 5 pm every Saturday and Sunday of December and the whole week from the 17th to the 24th, closing the 24th at 2 pm. The gallery at the Berkeley Potters Guild

Admission is free. There is no parking lot, but the street parking was relatively easy.

Are you giving unique gifts this season? 

(Images are from last years open studio at the Berkeley Potters Guild)