Category Archives: temescal

Get your Craft on at the Creative Reuse Depot!

Ok kids… only six days to Halloween!!

How are the festivities coming along?  Are  you putting the finishing touches on your costume?  Or just scrambling to figure out what the heck you’re going to be?  Whichever, you may want to take a little trip down to the East Bay Depot for Creative Use for some inspiration…

east bay creative reuse, cheap art supplies oakland, cheap art supplies temescal

Now located in Temescal (previously in Berkeley), the mission of this wonderful organization, started more than 30 years ago by two Oakland teachers, is three-fold:

  1. divert waste from the waste stream through creative recycling and reuse
  2. provide low cost materials and supplies for local art, education, and social services
  3. increase awareness of the green benefits of reusing materials

How can you not love that? I’ve been a frequent visitor of this venue for years, at both their current and previous locations.  I donated boxes of old CDs and CD cases and bags and bags of old National Geographic and Photo District News magazines. I was thrilled to take these items somewhere where I knew they’d be put to good use… perhaps even transformed into masterful works of art.  Who knows?

recycled goods at East Bay Depot, turning waste into art

recycled materials, diverting waste from waste stream

On the other side, I’ve purchased everything from goods for my Burningman art project, to rolls of industrial margarine foil to use as goofy wrapping paper. It’s kind of what’s so cool about this place… you never know what you are going to find. And there is definitely some weird stuff to be found.

Where else can you find bins of old doll heads? Or boxes of scientific beakers? Of course there’s the more mainstream stuff too… teachers’ educational materials, fabrics and sewing supplies, arts and craft materials, and much much more, all at prices that can’t be beat.

knitting supplies, sewing supplies, fabric supplies

teacher resource center, teacher resource zone, green educators

They also keep busy doing good works in the community. In addition to diverting approximately 400 tons of waste from our landfills each year, they also provide community aid locally, nationally, and even internationally.  For example, right now they are sponsoring a collection drive called “Parkas for Pakistan” to support the 20 million flood victims in Pakistan who are now homeless.

Items most urgently need are winter coats, blankets & comforters, sleeping bags, tents, tarps, etc.  I know I’ve got a few old coats I can get rid of.  How about you? Drive runs through Friday, November 19th. Check link above for drop-off directions.

Whether you’re looking for creative supplies for your kids, your students, or yourself, or just wondering what to do with that pile of junk that’s been sitting in your garage for 3 years or more, the East Bay Depot for Creative Use is a great place to go.

East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse, 11 a.m.–6 p.m. daily, 4695 Telegraph Ave., (510) 547-6470, stop waste, reduce waste stream

Clausen House ~ Nifty Thrifty

Clausen House, Clausen Thrift, Clausen Annex, oakland thrift stores

I love this little thrift shop… which isn’t so little anymore. The Clausen House Thrift Shop recently took over the space next door –  adding their Annex space, which is quite awesome, and at the same time alleviating some of the complaints about their original space.

I checked them out recently on Yelp and was surprised to see they only got 3 stars.  In looking over some of the lower ratings, it seems most complaints were about the crowded chaotic clutter of the original space.  One visitor wrote “This place needs a new face lift.”  Well, it’s gotten it.

Their primary space is still a funky thrift with hit or miss finds.  But then again, that’s half the fun of thrifting… you have to hunt for the treasures. But the space is much more open, organized, and inviting.  I was kind of blown away when I walked in a few weeks ago. “Wow… you guys have really spruced things up a bit!”

Amidst the requisite old records, teacups, and funky furniture, there’s a smorgasbord of stuff to peruse.  Right now they’ve got their costume stuff out front so it might be fun to stop by if you’re still struggling to figure out what you’re going to be for Halloween.  (Tomorrow’s post will feature another hot spot for costuming supplies.)

Their prices are extremely reasonable (in my opinion), and the best part is that the proceeds support the Clausen House, which works in Oakland and the greater East Bay to support people with disabilities.

At CLAUSEN HOUSE, we build self-confidence, teach everyday living skills, and encourage an optimal level of independence in people with developmental disabilities. These vibrant men and women discover opportunities for inclusion in the community while pursuing education, employment, and volunteer work with increasing command over their own lives.

It’s a great cause, and the thrift store itself is even utilized as a training facility for many of the adults served by Clausen House.

clausen thrift annex, oakland antique store, oakland thrift store

But my favorite thing is the new Annex (pictured above). I see the Annex as the upscale arm of this thrift enterprise.  It features primarily antique furniture and art, most of which is really quite lovely.  I purchased an antique Japanese print on silk, gorgeously framed in muted blues, grays, and silver.  I knew it would look perfect in my new kitchen, and the price was right.

I asked the employee about the expansion of their collection and he said the manager had started going to estate sales to acquire inventory, in addition to the regular stream of donations they receive (which are tax deductible by the way). They also accept consignments, splitting proceeds between consignee and the store.

I spotted this Ikki Matsumoto bird print immediately, because we have three of them in our home.  I wanted to round out our collection at four, but the price was a bit steep for me, but actually a very good value for one of his original signed prints.

Ikki is an internationally renowned artist. Born in Tokyo, he moved to the United States as a young adult to study art. He worked for many years as an illustrator and graphic designer in advertising, but eventually grew discontent. He and his wife moved to Sanibel Island, Florida to work on fine art and open their own gallery – this influence is seen in his many bird and fish prints. Other claims to fame include illustrating several editions of The Joy of Cooking, and painting an Easter egg for then First Lady Nancy Reagan – it’s now permanently stored in the Smithsonian Museum.

bird print, japanese bird prints, ikki

If you’re looking for a great place to buy reasonably priced art or antiques, I highly recommend the Annex. Or if you’re in the mode of purging rather than acquiring, consider taking your donations to Clausen Thrift. You’ll be supporting a great cause either way.

Clausen House Thrift & Annex
4834 Telegraph Avenue
Oakland, CA 94609

HOURS:   Mon-Fri 11am – 6pm, Sat/Sun 12pm – 5pm

Temescal, Telegraph & Traffic Boxes

I don’t know who did these… the interweb has nothing for me.  Perhaps my search terms are flawed… These were done by students at Peralta Elementary, which is situated just off the corner of Telegraph and Altatraz. (Thanks to Fragmentary Evidence for this info).

temescal public art, temescal art on traffic boxes

I’m assuming they were, at the very least, orchestrated by the Temescal Telegraph Business Improvement District, whose mission is to make the Temescal Telegraph commercial corridor a better place to live, work and shop.  They were installed at least a year ago, along with large flower filled planters that also run the length of Telegraph in Temescal.

telegraph temescal business improvement district, TBID

oakland utility boxes, temescal public art

Likely modeled after Emeryville’s Signs of the Times public art project (which I truly love… you can read more about it on my post Words By Roads ~ part III), these images certainly add a shiny happy people feeling to the corridor.

portraits of temescal, faces of temescal

oakland public art, telegraph temescal business corridor

public art traffic boxes, paintings on traffic signal boxes, temescal telegraph

I’m interested to know who produced the artwork.  Studio One? CCA? A local school? If anyone has info, please send in a comment.

A more recent project by City Canvas has been installed in the Uptown District, also on traffic signal boxes… (another post)

Temescal Public Art, telegraph temescal business improvement, telegraph corridor improvement

Oakland Traffic Signal Boxes, Public Art Temescal

The Mixing Bowl

I’ve recently spent some time in my old old hood of Temescal, so my next few posts will focus on the short stretch of Telegraph between 51st and 40th…

First up – The Mixing Bowl. Located on the same block as Betty’s Bakesale, Doña Tomás, and Pizzaiolo, this little gourmet cafe seems more in line with its upscale neighbors than its predecessor the Temescal Café.

mixing bowl temescal, mixing bowl cafe, mixing bowl oakland

I remember when the Temescal Cafe first opened… I lived just around the corner on Clarke at 49th. The only restaurant on the block was the Ethiopian Asmara, which is still there and celebrating their 25 year anniversary in just a couple of weeks.  G&G Hardware was still selling anything and everything hardware and houseware related… it was one of those old school hardware stores that carried all kinds of stuff, like kitchen appliances, bakeware, country mailboxes, and more.  Next door was a small fresh produce market, which was actually a wonderful thing to have in a walkable neighborhood like Temescal.  I can’t remember what else, but what I do remember, is there was nowhere walkable to grab a quick cup o’ joe.  The Temescal Café was going to be our salvation.

Or not. I tried tried tried to love the new cafe. But there were just too many funky things about it.  Their prices were certainly good, but the food was just ok, the art and decor a bit haphazard, and their service extremely inconsistent.  But enough about the old…

The Mixing Bowl opened a couple of years ago and though I no longer lived in Temescal, a friend did.  She groaned about the opening, complaining about the lack of wi-fi and how it just wasn’t the type of cafe she and her community wanted.  I had to disagree… I told her if she and her friends wanted an internet cafe, then they should open one.  The owners of The Mixing Bowl had a different agenda in mind, which I fully supported… food.

The team behind The Mixing Bowl, Grace Lee and Armando Koghan, are foodies. They care about food… the quality, the deliciousness, and ultimately the actual experience of eating it, which is why they opted for a wi-fi free zone, wanting to discourage a room full of people with attention solely glued to laptops. My friend found this maddening… I found it refreshing.

Grace Lee, temescal cafes

What’s also refreshing is their menu… it’s yummy California cafe fare to be sure – organic, local, sustainable – but with a strong Asian influence and some really interesting combinations. I particularly love their salads (Watermelon with pickled rind, shaved feta, and shiso vinaigrette… YUM!) and a popular favorite seems to be the Soba Noodle Salad (see Yelp below).

The sandwiches are equally good and reasonably priced given the healthy portions. Next time the line for Bakesale Betty’s (which I also love dearly) extends down the block, you may just want to pop into The Mixing Bowl for their Pulled Pork Sandwich or Korean Tacos… You won’t be sorry.

More recently the cafe has added a line of homemade country goods like pickled vegetables and jams.  Though I haven’t tried any yet, I will say the presentation is beautiful, as it is with everything here (check out their light fixtures fashioned out of antique mason jars… lovely!)

I’m also quite fond of the current art installation, which may be permanent as it seems to have been up for awhile now.  It features a series of large scale B&W historical photographs of the Temescal region and community from the late 1800’s to early 1900’s. It’s fascinating…

For example, we’re informed that the men above are garbage collectors setting off to ride throughout the town picking up their payments from individual property owners with whom they’ve contracted. And further, that the whole business of trash collection in the early part of the 20th century was dominated by men from the Italian American community, specifically of Genovese descent (I am assuming these Genovesians are also responsible for the wonderful Genova delicatessen, a fixture in Temescal for 80 years! – but that will have to be another post…)

shared ground, Oakland Baseball Club

The installation was made possible through the support and resources of the Oakland History Room (a program of the Oakland Public Library), Temescal historian Ray Raineri, and Shared Ground founder and Temescal community artist Jeff Norman. To learn more about Temescal history and Shared Ground’s local projects, visit

More reading…

The Mixing Bowl on Yelp

The Mixing Bowl on SFGate

The Mixing Bowl on Oakbook

Not your basic lost dog…

Well I thought I’d be a bit more present after Labor Day, but this short week’s been cut even shorter by the need to attend a funeral, so in the interest of brevity (and cheering myself up) here are some unusual pet signs spotted around Oaktown recently…

lost chicken, unhappy chicken, funny lost pet signs, unusual lost pet signs

unusual pet signs, funny lost pet signs, bunny missing ear

unusual lost pet signs, unusual found pet signs

Hope to be back on a more regular schedule next week… please stay tuned.

Temescal Creek Cohousing Community

I’ve been thinking (and writing) about creeks lately, so I thought I’d share this gorgeous gate marking the entrance to the Temescal Creek Cohousing Community…

temescal creek cohousing community, metal sculpture gate

I love the little squirrels!

temescal creek community gate

For those who don’t know, a co-housing community “is a type of collaborative housing in which residents actively participate in the design and operation of their own neighborhoods.” Typically consisting of single family residences clustered around a courtyard or pedestrian area, they often can include a common house as well, utilized for shared meals, childcare, etc. The concept originated in Denmark and was promoted in the United States in the 1980’s by architects Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett. (

The interesting thing about the Temescal Creek Cohousing Community is that I used to live in one of their houses, before the “conversion”.

It was my first apartment in Oakland, many years ago, and I love love loved it. It was a flat on 49th street in a large two-story 1920’s Craftsman with beautiful built-ins, a funky old stove, a spacious breakfast nook off the kitchen, a laundry room, a backyard, AND a garage!  I used to do furniture refinishing projects in the garage and was so excited to have a place to store my tools, other than crammed into my closet.

The house was a duplex, my friend Susie & I lived in the downstairs (a two bedroom), and a couple lived upstairs.  At the back of the property was another duplex split left and right rather than up and down – a brother and sister occupied each of those.  We all knew each other and were friendly and shared the back yard space for gardening and general hanging.  It was swell.

Sadly, in 1999 we were forced to move when the landlord decided to sell.  Apparently the lot behind ours contained another duplex, also for sale, and a group of creative and enterprising individuals decided to buy the whole tract and create a 6 unit co-housing community.

We were mad and referred to them as “the hippies.” But the truth is, we were just mad because we couldn’t afford to do it ourselves.  We had to give them credit – it was a great idea.

By that time I was so in love with Oakland and the Temescal area (keep in mind this was before Bakesale Betty, Doña Tomás, and the like) that I moved just down 49th Street.  It was interesting to keep an eye on what the folks were doing with our home… they tore down the fence at the back of the property, which I thought was cool, and painted our mustard colored house lavender – not so cool in my opinion.

In any case, many months later I noticed they had planted a community garden.  I’m an avid gardener myself and had worked a deal with my new landlord to get a discount on rent by tending the yard.  I had just pulled up some overgrown iris bulbs (dividing them) and had far to many to put back into the tiny yard.  I walked the few blocks down 49th street to my old home and introduced myself, offering the flower bulbs as a housewarming gift.

I haven’t been back there in a long time, but I wonder if those iris bulbs still flower each year.  They would have matched the house perfectly. They were purple and lavender.

There’s a great write-up on the origins and later developments of the Temescal Creek Cohousing Community in Retrofit cohousing: A different kind of fixer-upper by Karen Hester.

The Book Zoo ~ weird & wonderful

Next installment in our series of independent bookstores is Book Zoo.  Not exactly the antithesis of our starting point Walden Pond Books (the owners actually worked there before opening up their own shop), it is, however, the smallest bookstore I’ll be covering.  So from largest to smallest, we bookend our collection… we’ll fill in the rest of the shelf over the next week or so.

oakland book stores, independent bookstores oakland

independent bookstore east bay, indie book store oakland

Book Zoo is a rare breed of bookstore.  I was going to say “dying” breed, but I didn’t want to start off on a dour note, because this is truly something to cherish rather than mourn.  These guys are old-school.  Really old-school.  They don’t even have a cash register… instead using a secret compartment in a hollowed out book as their cash stash.  It’s incredible.

Book Zoo, Erik Lyngen

What’s more incredible is their uniquely curated collection of books. Limited by their small store, they don’t try to be everything to everyone, and they don’t carry books that are easily found elsewhere.  In fact, owner Erik Lyngen has an almost disdain for the commonly popular.  And as one who fails to understand the mass-appeal of much current pop-culture (e.g. – American Idol), I completely get where he’s coming from.

Book Zoo sells almost exclusively used books, about 95%; the other 5% are remainders.  They buy their books from the local community and are highly selective about what they’ll take.  You’ll find this is the case with most used bookstores these days (other than places like Half Price Books in Berkeley who’ll take your whole load, but give you pennies on the dollar).  They have to maintain inventories that they think will move, or that will at least be uniquely interesting.

When I asked Erik specifically what type of stuff he was looking for, he said, “the juicy stuff.” I asked what that meant, and he said, “you know how people are constantly cycling through books, clearing off their shelves to make way for new ones, but no matter how many garage sales they have, or how many used book stores they sell to, there’s one corner of the bookcase that they just can’t part with.  That’s the stuff we want.” The unusual, the eclectic, often radical, and weirdly unconventional… drugs, sex, occult, philosophy, poetry, sci-fi pulp.  You get the idea.

discount books, cheap books oakland, eclectic bookstore oakland

flag with peace symbol, radical politics

You can see this from just a quick glimpse at their storefront.  While others typically host the current top sellers, Book Zoo features titles like The Ballet Lover’s Companion, Ecology of Fear, Visions ~ A History of the East Bay African American Community, Female Desires, Fighting for G.O.D. (Gold, Oil, & Drugs), and Cuntionary (you’ll have to go see for yourself what that one’s all about).

I asked about the challenges of competing with the likes of Amazon or Borders, but these guys aren’t competing in that arena at all. They’ve really carved out their own niche, creating a one of a kind experience that can’t be replicated online, or in a homogenous chain.  This is not the bookstore you come to with a book in mind, expecting to find it, or counting on them to order it for you.  No.  You come to Book Zoo to browse.  To explore.  To find something unexpected. For example, there’s a small rack of poetry books & pamphlets near the front door, including handmade books by the likes of  Greying Ghost Press who “seek to reassure the reading public that printed matter won’t vanish.”

Book Zoo Oakland

This falls in line with Erik’s philosophy as well. He’s not worried about the future of reading printed books. He offers this brief exercise… Imagine you could create your own dream community Main Street. What would you have? Among other things (grocery store, cafe, post office, etc.) you would undoubtedly have a bookstore, wouldn’t you? I would.

Independent Bookstores oakland

book zoo oakland, eric Lyngen

Erik and partner Nick Raymond have created a warm & comfortable spot at 6395 Telegraph Ave. near the intersection of Alcatraz. It’s a tough location, being more car-friendly than pedestrian-oriented, but they’ve established Book Zoo as a destination in itself. Unusual art, posters, and artifacts decorate the walls, comfortable chairs & couches beckon visitors to sit and stay awhile, and a nice children’s section in the back welcomes kids too. They might even get to meet Ramona, Erik’s daughter and spunky helper on-hand (pictured above).

Their hours are limited… signs and website playfully say “By Appointment and or Chance.” Some may find this frustrating, but the truth is they simply don’t have the luxury to be open all the time,  both owners having other jobs to make ends meet.  The store is a real labor of love, and while friends pitch in to cover shifts, Erik admits they are chronically understaffed. You’ll mostly find them open Tuesday – Friday Evenings and most weekends. They also host frequent events, typically featuring live music. Check out their schedule here, as well as Erik’s photos of events and collection of customer portraits.

Go visit Book Zoo, and support your local independent booksellers!