5 Famous Folks You May Not Realize Grew Up Near Kensington

Living and working in the Bay Area, it’s no surprise that some famous faces have passed through the neighborhood. It’s the California coast, after all!

Kensington is a tiny unincorporated community, but hop next door to Berkeley and you’ll find that some very interesting people have grown up here. Here are a few of them!

Rebecca Romijn

This beautiful actress is known for fan favorite roles in movies such as the X-Men series and shows like The Librarians, but she probably wasn’t having action-filled adventures in Berkeley, where she was born and raised – though we could be wrong about that. Berkeley can be a crazy town, after all!

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Philip K. Dick

Even if you don’t know Philip K. Dick’s name, you know his work. A graduate of Berkeley High School, Dick was a somewhat obscure science fiction writer for many years, then people started to take note. Soon his work began to reshape the mainstream. His stories have been adapted into movies like Blade Runner, Minority Report, Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly, and others. The late PKD is now one of the most influential science fiction writers of the last 50 years!

Billy Martin

Billy Martin was a baseball legends thanks to his fiery temperament and competitive spirit. When you hear the name you probably think of New York – after all, he played for the Yankees dynasties of the 1950s, and then managed to the team to more World Series wins in the 1970s – but Billy is actually a Berkeley guy, born and raised.

Ben Affleck

We don’t need to tell you who this guy is! People often associate Ben Affleck with Boston, in no small part thanks to Good Will Hunting and his close friendship with Matt Damon, but Affleck was born in Berkeley. He’s a California guy through and through.

Andy Samberg and The Lonely Island

If you’ve spent more than three minutes on the Internet, you know Andy Samberg and his partners in crime in The Lonely Island, Akiva Schaffer and Joma Tacconne. As a Saturday Night Live alum and one of the brains behind The Lonely Island, you wouldn’t have seen Natalie Portman do crude rap songs or Justin Timberlake make fun of himself without Samberg’s music-focused skits. It’s funny stuff (but not for the kids!).

We know there are PLENTY more big names who have come out of Kensington and the surrounding area, s tell us who we missed in the Facebook comments!

5 Fantastic Places to do Holiday Gift Shopping Near Kensington

The time of year is finally here when we scramble from store to store looking for the perfect gift. It can be a lot of fun, it can be a hassle, and it can be everything in between.

We happen to love the hunt, in no small part because we love giving someone the perfect gift, and we’re happy to share some of our secrets with you. Here are five great gift shops in our area that are worth checking out as you do your shopping this season.

Fern’s Garden (Berkeley)

This quirky gift shop specializes in handmade goods that you won’t find anywhere else. We’re talking hand-crafted jewelry, home goods, decorations, and more, all from a wide array of artisans and craftspeople.

Great signs, wall décor, glass art, and much more. You’ll find a lot to look at and a load of terrific gift ideas you won’t find in big chain stores!

Five Little Monkeys (Albany)

If you have to do some shopping for kids, consider Five Little Monkeys, a truly unique toy store that has lots of cool stuff, current favorites, and (bonus) free gift wrapping. Most gifts are tailored towards younger kids, though you’ll find some items for older kids (10-12) too.

Lots of creative and educational stuff, which are excellent choices when it’s time to give a gift to a child!

Kathmandu Imports (Berkeley Hills)

A beautiful space packed with even more beautiful gifts, Kathmandu Imports is the perfect place to go when you’re looking for something exotic, something interesting, and something beautiful.

From incense to art to home goods and décor, knickknacks, fabrics, clothing and accessories, and more, this shop is a hidden treasure trove of great shopping. Give it a try and find something unexpected!

See’s Candies (El Cerrito)

You can never go wrong with candy, especially around the holidays. They have all the variety of sweets and chocolates you’d expect, with lots of traditional chocolate assortments, but this time of year you’ll want to pay special attention to their holiday candies. Their special holiday chocolates are a real treat!

Granshaw’s Flowers (Martinez)

Flowers are nice any time of the year, but during the holidays you may find yourself in need of a few more arrangements than usual. There are a lot of great florists in the area, but consider giving Granshaw’s a try.

Not only are the staff friendly, they are true artists who do more than just throw some flowers into a vase. They make gorgeous arrangements you’ll be proud to give as gifts!

 We know this time of year can be stressful, especially if your list of giftees is a long one, but drop by one or two of these shops and we’re sure you’ll find something unique.

We know there are many other great places to recommend in the area, too, so let’s hear about them! Know of a great local gift shop with interesting gifts? Let us know about it in the comments!

5 Great Charitable Organizations Near Kensington That Deserve Your Support

‘Tis the season for giving, and there are a lot of worthy organizations in the region worth giving to.

In the spirit of helping out those who need it, we thought we’d share five great organizations who deserve your support this holiday season.

And believe us, we know there are MANY more, so tell us about them in the comments on Facebook!

Habitot Children’s Museum

(Yes, that spelling is correct!) A hands-on museum that allows children to come in and learn in a fun, enjoyable environment. It looks like play, but it’s much more than that. It’s about education in a way that kids actually ENJOY. They’ve won awards for good reason! They do need help to expand, though. Learn more about what they’ve done for the community and how you can help here: http://www.habitot.org/

The Pollination Project

On the surface this one sounds a little unusual – it’s a charitable organization based in Berkeley that doesn’t focus on any one specific goal or need – but look a little closer and you’ll see the good they do. They have given out nearly 3,000 seed grants in over 100 different countries, with the goal of helping new and small organizations and groups improve their communities. These grants are small, usually $1,000, but they can make a big impact. Learn more about them at https://thepollinationproject.org/

Seacology

Anyone living in our area knows how important the environment is. Seacology takes a specific focus with their environmental mission, working to save and preserve island ecosystems across the world. And they’re not just about the environment of those islands. They also work to preserve the unique cultures that have developed on those islands, too. If you want to learn why they’ve chosen such a unique focus, visit https://www.seacology.org/

Cal Shakes

 We all need the arts! The California Shakespeare Theater, affectionately known as Cal Shakes, is a beloved local institution because of what they bring to the community. One of their goals is to bring the theater to people who normally don’t experience it, and that is commendable. Learn more about them (and get tickets to a show) here: http://www.calshakes.org/

Red Rover

Everyone loves helping animals, and thankfully there are many great charities designed to do exactly that. There are far too many to list, and most of them are worthy of your support. For this article, we’ll give some attention to Red Rover. Based in Sacramento, Red Rover focuses on animals rescued from disasters, neglect, and homes with domestic violence. These furry friends need a home! Find out how you can help here at https://redrover.org/

The time to give is all year ‘round, but now more than ever, think about helping organizations that make the world better. We know there are MANY more, so tell us about them in the comments on Facebook!

10 Strange Things You Didn’t Know About California

We love California for the amazing people who live here, and we also love it for another reason: it’s in one of the country’s quirkiest states!

Don’t believe us? Check out these 10 oddball things you may not know about California:

1. Soup Strainer

If you’re a man with a mustache, you may not want to pucker up in Eureka, CA. It’s actually illegal for a man with a mustache to kiss a woman there!

2. It’s North United States

When people compare California to entire countries, it’s for good reason. It’s not a small place. In fact, California’s population is larger than all of Canada’s!

3. The Twain Shall Meet

If you go to the exact midpoint of California, you’ll find a palm tree and a pine tree planted next to one another.

It’s not a coincidence. The planting is a symbolic joining of the two halves of the state, with the palm representing southern California (obviously) and the pine the north.

4. Keeps On Ticking

Head to Livermore and visit the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department, and you’ll see a light bulb. Not that unusual, right? Except this light bulb has been burning since 1901. Yes, that’s 115 years! The Guinness Book of World Records calls it the world’s longest lasting lightbulb.

5. (Not Quite) Anything Goes

Hollywood may have a reputation for being a crazy town where anything goes, but that’s not the case – at least, not when it comes to livestock. According to an old law still on the books, it’s illegal to drive 2,000 sheep down Hollywood Blvd. Anyone willing to test the law?

6. Nuked the Fridge

If you have a nuclear weapon, don’t bring it to Chico, CA. That city enacts a $500 fine for anyone who detonates a nuclear weapon within the city limits. Harsh penalty!

7. Made For Walkin’

If you enjoy wearing cowboy boots, you’d better have two cows to go with them, because in Blythe, CA it is illegal to wear cowboy boots unless you own at least two cows. Yes, seriously, this is a law that is on the books!

8. Thanks For The Guac

If you love Guacamole, you not only have California to thank for it, you have a single tree to thank for it. All Haas avocados are descended from a single tree in California, the origin of which is unknown.

9. No Discounts For You

Ladies Nights are popular promotions in night clubs across the country, but not in California, which is one of just four states where Ladies Nights promotions are against the law due to gender discrimination. 

10. Yum, Yum

There is a lot to see and do in Disneyland, and plenty to eat, too, but here’s one thing you probably never imaged you could eat: the plants. But in fact, you can. All the plants in Tomorrowland are edible!

11 Things You May Not Know About Bay Area History

Kensington is a vibrant small community located in a BIG and thriving area: the San Francisco Bay region.

And it’s a pretty amazing region, too, with a rich, interesting history. Here are 11 things you may not know about the history of the San Francisco Bay area:

  • There is no official designation as to what constitutes the San Francisco Bay area. The exact boundaries will differ depending on the source.
  • The area has been inhabited by humans since at least 3000 BC, and some evidence points to even older settlements in the region.
  • The first European to claim land in the area was Sebastian Rodriguez Cermeno, a Spanish explorer who landed here in 1575. Sir Francis Drake landed in the area a few short years later. But interestingly, neither actually discovered the San Francisco Bay. That would take another two centuries!
  • The bay was discovered by Europeans by Gaspar de Portolà in 1769. Further expeditions followed, and then came settlements.
  • In 1821, the Bay Area became a province of Mexico, populated by ranchers and trappers.
  • Just 25 years later, the area was declared part of the independent Republic of California. The Mexican-American War started immediately after, and California would become part of the United States.
  • For a time, the capital of California bounced around between three Bay Area cities: San Jose, Vallejo, and Benicia. It wasn’t until 1854 that the state settled on Sacramento.
  • The great earthquake of 1906 was a disaster that killed thousands according to modern estimates, and destroyed over 28,000 buildings. There is no telling what the devastation would have been like in modern times.
  • During the 1929 market crash that helped plunge the nation into the Great Depression, banks all across the nation failed except in San Francisco, where not a single bank failed. Not even one!
  • Following World War II, the United Nations was chartered to prevent such a conflict from ever happening again – and it was chartered in San Francisco.
  • World War II also ended in San Francisco – sort of. When Japan finally officially surrendered to the Allied Forces, the ceremony took place in the city.

Interesting stuff, right? And that’s only scratching the surface when it comes to getting to know one of the country’s most lively, interesting regions. No wonder we love living and working here!

5 Common Dental Fears (And How to Get Over Them)

It’s not unusual to be afraid of the dentist. A lot of people are. There's much less reason to be in the modern world, but we've talked to enough patients to know what those still-common fears are.

No worries! We can alleviate most of them!

Below are some of the most common fears when it comes to the dentist and what you should keep in mind when they worry you.

Getting Bad News

You might avoid the dentist because you don’t want to learn that you need major work done. We get it! No one likes bad news, and we’re all insecure about our dental habits. 

The truth, though, is that if you have taken care of your teeth it’s not likely you’ll get bad news. And hey, even if you DO, that’s not a bad thing. Spotting a problem when there is still time to fix it is a positive thing!

Remember a Bad Experience

Some people were frightened at the dentist when they were kids. We get how that bad memory could linger, but you’re older, wiser, stronger, and smarter now.

That’s why you’re reading this! A childhood experience shouldn’t stop you from enjoying good oral health.

Afraid of Pain

The truth is, these days your visit to your dentist is almost guaranteed to be pain free. Modern dental techniques have improved dramatically when compared to the old days. Dental procedures are more painless than ever before, and usually have you in and out of the office in no time.

You Don’t Want to Be Scolded

Believe it or not, we get this one a lot. No one likes to be told they’vebeen doing a bad job with their teeth. We get it.

Just keep in mind that if your dentist has feedback for you about your oral health – and it’s feedback, not a scolding! – it’s for a reason. Their job is to look out for you! Even better, what they point out to you can help you in avoiding procedures in the future.

You’re Anxious

This is something you can handle. Often, your fear of the dentist is an extension of your existing condition. The best option is to tell your dentist up front about your anxiety. They can help ensure your experience is much better than you expected!

5 Gorgeous California State Parks To Hike This Summer

There are many things we love about being in Kensington, but one of the things we love most is the amazing access we have to truly stunning state parks.

We have many fantastic local and county parks, too, but in many ways the state parks are the crowning jewels of the area. Here are five you HAVE to visit this summer:

Mount Tamalpais State Park

Rising up out of Marin County just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, climbing to a height of nearly 2,600 feet and boasting views that stretch all the way out of the Farallon Island, Mount Tamalpais State Park is a local treasure with plenty to do.

After you’re done at the visitor’s center up top, see what plays and programs are taking place at the Mountain Theater down below. You can even camp for the weekend in rustic old cabins.

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Crown Memorial State Beach

When you hear the word “beach” you probably conjure up images of fun in the sun, surf and sand, but Crown Memorial State Beach is something different.

This historic park looking out over the San Francisco Bay features a bird sanctuary, lovely trails, boating and board sports, and picnicking. And yes, of course there is swimming, too!

McLaughlin Eastshore State Park

One of the most gorgeous destinations on the San Francisco Bay and a testament to the power of open space preservation, the McLaughlin Eastshore State Park boasts 8.5 miles of shoreline and over 1,800 acres of uplands – and it’s all beautiful.

Trails for hikers and bikes crisscross the entire park, offering spectacular views of the bay and summer day you’ll never forget.

 

Mount Diablo State Park

A whopping 20,000 acres comprised of 38 preserves, with an even larger 90,000 acres total on or around Mount Diablo, this state park and its surrounding lands offers stunning views, fantastic hiking, some of the best camping in the area, and plenty of history.

It’s a short drive from Kensington, and the fact that the mountain has one of the best viewsheds in the western U.S. makes it a great destination for anyone who wants their jaw dropped. The Diablo Valley Overlook is a must-see!

San Bruno Mountain State Park

This unique open space on the peninsula is over 2,400 acres strong, with rugged landscapes, excellent trails, endangered wildlife, and much more. Its unique location means it can be cool here even in the summer, sometimes even downright chilly, which makes hiking here a great choice for the adventurous.