People entering the California Honey Festival in Woodland (2023)

Taste some Honey at the California Honey Festival

A sign post advertising cooking demonstrations, honey lab, and garden areaIn February there is the Almond Festival in Capay Valley. Honey Bees are a business related to almonds and other orchards. These flying workers ensure that the almond blossoms get pollinated. A valuable byproduct is the honey that the bees produce. 

A stand at the honey festival to sample honeyThe annual California Honey Festival on May 3rd, 2024 along Woodland’s Main Street celebrates everything honey related.  From 10 am to 7 pm you can learn about honey bees, games for the kids, and honey tastings at every stand that sells the golden nectar. They have a stage for speakers and you can also meet the current Honey Queen. 

A couple enjoying a photo opportunityThe California Honey Festival is happening on May 3rd, 2024 along Woodland’s Main Street. The admission is free.

Explore Six Times History in Sonoma

Explore Six Times History in Sonoma

A sign reading Dining RoomSometimes you have to show interest and interesting things will happen. Like when I was looking into the window of the Toscano Hotel near Sonoma Plaza and someone with a small group came by and let me in, too. 

Chalk board with menu for the Toscana HotelI really enjoyed the collection of old kitchen utensils and the chalk board with the menu of the day listed. Imagine getting a minestrone, a roast chicken or pot roast, ravioli, salad and bread and a glass of wine for 75 cents! This is equivalent to $8.70 today; assuming this is from 1955 when the place closed. I found one reference noting that the hotel is staged for 1890; this means this 75 cent multi-course menu would cost about $25 today.

Dining room at the Toscana HotelWe only briefly visited a few of the other sites, since this was an add on after our hike of the Overlook Trail. I liked the old, blue U.S. mail peddlers wagon from the late 1800s. And we spent some time reading the information signs. 

Information signage for the Sonoma State Historic ParkThe Sonoma State Historic Park is a park of buildings in downtown Sonoma. It is scattered over six sites near Sonoma Plaza. Mission San Francisco Solano, the Blue Wing Inn, Sonoma Barracks, the Toscano Hotel and Kitchen, and the Servants Quarters are right at the Plaza. General Vallejo’s Home, also called Lachryma Montis, is less than a mile west of the Plaza.

Sonoma State Historic Park is $3 per person, 17 years and up. Kids from 6 to 17 pay $2. The admission includes visits to the Sonoma Mission, Sonoma Barracks, Toscano Hotel, General Vallejo Home and the Petaluma Adobe on the same day. There are also free docent-led tours available on weekends. 

Park hours are from 10:00 am to 5 pm every day at all venues. Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day.

 

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 klincoln@berkeley.edu

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).  

Buy Chocolate in Bulk, Ghirardelli

Buy Chocolate in Bulk, Ghirardelli

A shelf full of Ghirardelli's chocolatesGhirardelli is the longest continually operating chocolatier in America. In 1849, Domenico Ghirardelli opened a supplies and confections store to miners in Stockton, CA. Within the same year he established himself in San Francisco. The San Francisco store at  900 North Point, near Fisherman’s Wharf, is now labeled the original store. In 1965 San Francisco declared Ghirardelli Square an official city landmark.

Little Ghirardelli chocolates by the poundAs a bargain hunter I was intrigued by the outlet store. In fact they have four outlet stores in the Bay Area! We went to the San Leandro’s outlet store. It’s fun to see all the different products they offer, from small packaged chocolates to hot chocolate mixes, and all chocolate related baking ingredients. As an added bonus you can also sip a mocha or enjoy an ice cream fudge. Which is a nice idea so you won’t shop hungry. We found that the super bulk items are the best deals. So, if you eat a lot of little chocolates, you might consider visiting. 

A bag of chocolates by the pound from the Ghirardelli outlet store in San Leandro including a chocolate bunnyGhirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Factory Outlet Stores: 

1111 139th Avenue, San Leandro

1015 Promontory Pkwy, Tracy

11980 S Harlan Road, Lathrop

447 Great Mall Drive #189, Milpitas

 

Are you a chocoholic?

Sign for the UC Davis Putah Creek

Watch Otters Frolicing, at the UC Davis Putah Creek Riparian Reserve

Putah Creek Riparian Reserve. In front some berry bushes, the muddy creekThe UC Davis Putah Creek Riparian Reserve is a gem amidst agricultural land south-west of Davis. The 640-acre natural riparian, meaning wetlands adjacent to rivers and streams, and grassland ecosystem is a model in wildlife protection and restoration. Right now you’ll be enjoying the wildflowers during your walk along the river. But a surprising movement in the river – a family of river otters playing. Because there are many species of wildlife you should leash your dog.

A river otter on the bank of the creekIn 2000 a lawsuit mandated year-round flow of the creek and was an invitation for wildlife. In fact, this scenic pass by the water is a green oasis that now hosts woodpeckers, kingfishers, and other birds. A paper on ecological restoration found that during the year 1999 and 2012 a significant increase in “the abundance of 27 breeding bird species as well as increases in the size and diversity of the entire breeding bird community”. 

Grassland with the Putah Creek in the backgroundThis is a reserve owned by the UC Davis and you can see student volunteers and interns removing invasive species and helping out with repairs. Nonetheless, it is open to the public for swimming, boating, fishing and hiking. They seem to have had trouble in the past with people vandalizing benches, and destroying experimentsThis was especially true in 2020 when people sought nature as an escape from the shelter-in-place policy. Please be mindful of this model for riparian restoration.

There are four parking lots with gravel roads for the Putah Creek Riparian Reserve. The parking lots, due to recent rain, might be a bit bumpy. We entered Pedric Rd, which had space for maybe 10 cars. Please note that the south side of the creek is private property. 

Two Barbie dolls, one has its hands above her head

Reclaim and Reinvent Barbie, Sonoma Community Center

The Sonoma Community Center put together two popular concepts – reusing materials and Barbies as fashion models in its annual Trashion Fashion events. A funny wordplay on trash fashion. And who could be a better model than a Barbie doll? 

A tub full of Barbie dolls at the Sonoma Community CenterYou can pick up a doll at the community center for no charge. But to enter the contest you have to pay the non-refundable entry fee of $25 for one entry or $40 for two entries. If you, on the other side, have Barbie, Ken or other under 12 inches dolls to donate you can drop them off at the community center or at Bon Marche at 19405 Riverside Dr, Sonoma. Bon Marche is a Thrift Store that supports the community and funds building health clinics and gardens in Rwanda. Bon Marche accepts donations on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10 am to 3 pm. Please don’t leave your donations outside. As a plus, if you buy something you will be a zero waste star to reuse!

A selection of dolls for the Trashion Fashion exhibitAfter you acquire your doll the fun starts. Decorate your childhood style icon with recycled materials (please only wholesome images!). There will be a silent auction from March 28th – April 12, 2024. If your entry hasn’t sold in the auction it will be returned to you.

Your Barbie applications are due on or before: Friday, March 15th.

The Trashion Barbie: Reclaimed & Reinvented Gallery exhibit and auction has its opening night on March 28  and the exhibit will run through April 12th, 2024. The Sonoma Community Center is located at 276 East Napa Street, Sonoma. It is open 7 days a week from 8 am to 9 pm.

Trashion Classes & WorkshopsA group of dolls for the Trashion Fashion exhibit

February 10th

Trashion Design for Kids & Teens

10:00 am – 12:30 pm

February 12th, February 26th

Free Open Trashion Design Studio & All Star Demo’s

5:30 pm – 8:00 pm

 

There will also be two Trashion Runway Shows on April 6, 2024,  2:00 pm & 5:00 pm. These are wearable trashion creations. Tickets go on sale early March with SCC members 48 hour pre-sale. On the second floor of the SCC you can see previous examples of the winners.

 

Entrance to the exhibit Different Worlds at the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art

View Different Worlds, Sonoma

View of some of the artworks by Tsherin Sherpa. In front is one of the carpets.Different Worlds is the title of the new exhibit at the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art in downtown Sonoma. The exhibit shows works by Bay Area artist Tsherin Sherpa

SA carpet depicting a tiger and in the back some of the paintings by Tsherin Sherpaherpa was trained in his home country of Kathmandu, Nepal as a thangka painter. Thangkas are traditional Tibetan Buddhist art. The artist invites us to his different worlds as an artistic mixtape of his religious roots and contemporary perspectives. The outcome is mystic but familiar. On our visit we caught up with a museum guide who explained some of the symbolism and techniques. I really liked the vibrant deconstructed paintings of swirled thangkas suggesting the artist’s mixed emotions and introducing the western world into his traditional upbringing. 

Multiple collages but also two carpets and a statue are on display until April 28th. Opening reception is Saturday, January 27th from 5 -7 pm. The film screening of ‘Above and Below: The Life of Artist Tsherin Sherpa’ is unfortunately sold out. But the museum might add a second screening. There are also activities for kids, for example free mangalas.

Two of Tsherin Sherpa's paintings with swirlsThe SVMA is located at 551 Broadway in downtown Sonoma. Opening hours are: Wednesday thru Sunday 11 am to 5 pm. Admissions is free every Wednesday, otherwise general admission is $10, seniors, students, and Sonoma Valley residents pay $7, people under 18 are free. 

How would your different worlds look like?

 

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?