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More Best of the East Bay

As a treat for our online readers, we offer even more Best of the East Bay editor picks.


"Not Your Average Giraffe"/A Bunny A Day

There are so many great things about the East Bay, we sometimes can’t fit them all into the magazine!  Here are more editor’s picks from Best of the East Bay 2009.

Nursery Décor
Moms can’t get enough of Nicole Leigh Smith’s sweet stuffed animal portraits. The 29-year-old Walnut Creek artist creates mini oil paintings daily for her website, A Bunny A Day, and donates 10 percent of sales to animal charities such as House Rabbit Society and the SPCA.

“I love the texture and color,” says Smith of her subject matter. Since the project began in early 2008, she’s collected more than 300 stuffies, many from thrift stores. “If I see one that’s unique, I have to get it.”

The outrageously cute portraits of plush giraffes, bears, and well, bunnies, range from $85 to $130. And, Smith will accept commissions if your little one has a beloved stuffed animal you’d like to immortalize in paint. abunnyaday.com.  —LeeAnne Jones

Place to Get Your Cartier Fix
With one corner of their shop dedicated to Cartier watches, pens, and clocks, Spitz Jewelers in Walnut Creek is not only the best place in the East Bay to buy a piece of this ultra-luxe brand—it’s the only place. You’ll probably see more than a few magazine stories this year about Cartier because this “jeweler to kings and queens” is celebrating its 100th anniversary in North America. We don’t really care how long they’ve been here, we just want to know where we can pick up a $2,200 Tank watch, named in honor of General Jack Pershing, or if we are thinking of going big, the $41,000 Santos Demoiselle watch with 49 diamonds. There’s also the perfect gift for any Diabloite—the Diablo pen, for $265. 1333 N. Main St., Walnut Creek, (925) 932-8877, and at City Center, Oakland, (510) 350-5101, spitzjewelers.com.  —Susan Safipour

Way to Help Two Causes at the Same Time
Shoe boxes, toilet paper rolls, glass jars, rubber stamps: East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse has a lot of crap. But anyone with an enterprising spirit can quickly see the inventory in a different light—as an arts and crafts goldmine. That’s the point of this nonprofit shop, started more than 20 years ago by two teachers. Their mission is to encourage the conservation and diversion of waste through creative recycling, while providing cheap materials for educators and artists. With landfills expanding and educational budgets shrinking, that sounds like a good goal. 4695 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, (510) 547-6470, east-bay-depot.org.  —Ethan Fletcher

CD for Babies
Sandi and Stevie, rockstars to the East Bay elementary school set, are expanding their repertoire. The duo, best known for their fun children’s songs and shows, have just released a CD of classic lullabies, called Bedtime Favorites. You can sing along to classics like "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean," but if you’re lucky, the songs will lull your little one to sleep. sandiandstevie.com.  —Susan Safipour

Bottomless Sake
$3.50 doesn’t buy much these days, but at Coach Sushi in Oakland, it buys you a river of sake. This tiny Lake Merritt gem is packed with locals, and it’s not hard to see why. Free sake refills flow swiftly, poured by the owner “Coach” himself. Patrons can even decorate their sake boxes and keep them at the restaurant for their next visit. And don’t worry—phone numbers of cab companies are posted on the wall for those who swim in the river too long. 532 Grand Ave., Oakland, (510) 834-7867, coachsushi.com.  —Miriam Wilson

Recycled roses from FloraliRecycled Roses
What could be better than getting a beautiful bouquet of fresh flowers? How about roses that last forever? That’s the concept behind recycled roses, the latest idea to bloom at Florali in Walnut Creek. Susan Donley, Florali’s owner, crafts the roses out of magazine pages and old maps. She’ll even make custom designs, as long as the paper is workable. Donley got the idea from an ad for recycling that she saw in Diablo. We’re glad to hear that Diablo helped inspire a pretty eco idea. 2345 Boulevard Cir., Walnut Creek, (925) 934-6877, florali.com.  —Susan Safipour

Science Camp
When you drop your child off at Mr. Shargel’s Science Adventures, chances are you’ll be late for your next appointment. Not horribly late, but at least a few minutes because you won’t be able to resist going in to see what your child is building. A rocket? A robot? RC planes? Submarines? A boat they can race across a pool? If Matt Shargel sees you, he might start demonstrating things that are likely to explode, and then he’ll ask your child to explain why it did. Your child will explain in great detail, perhaps more than you needed to know as you look at your watch. But when you do finally leave, you will leave knowing that your child will be having the time of their life building things and learning about science by middle school science teacher, who is also something a camp expert, being the prodigy of parents who are both camp directors themselves. 975 N. San Carlos Dr., Walnut Creek, (925) 207-4000, shargelscience.com.  —Susan Safipour

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