We are well into autumn, yet the earth has never looked so alive. Just ask hills artist Laurie Stratton, who is busy gathering gourds, leaves and pods for her living wreaths. A former floral designer, Stratton has been making and selling her wreaths for four years. She loves the fruits of fall, using everything from lemons to flowers and herbs in her botanical art.
In many ways, working with nature is therapeutic. For Stratton, it reminds her of childhood visits to grandma's garden. "She and I would take our time to smell each rose and gardenia we picked. We would place each rose in a Folger's coffee tin, filled to the brim with roses. Each gardenia was placed in a huge zip lock bag, carefully sprinkled with water and wrapped gently in paper towels."
Stratton's living art has graced many a home in Oakland and Piedmont. Her autumn wreaths are like a warm embrace before your host even opens the door. They say "Welcome, dear friend .... I've been waiting to see you."
Palate pleaser: Last month's first ever Taste of the Nation East Bay raised a whopping $40,000 to fight child hunger. The Claremont Hotel hosted the event and some of Oakland's best restaurants were serving. Favorites included event chair Tanya Holland's smoked brisket from B-Side BBQ and A16's crostini with albacore tuna crudo. Look for one of the participants to be opening a new restaurant on Lakeshore soon. Local chef Tim Nugent is partnering with fellow foodie Jen Biesty to open Shakewell Bar and Kitchen. The location will be unveiled soon.
Around town: Montclarions "took a bite out of crime" last week when they gathered at Tutti Frutti Yogurt Shop. It was the second town meeting with Oakland police Capt. Anthony Toribio, who shared safety tips and explained how he deploys officers to the hills. The Montclair Safety and Improvement Council's Sandra Pohutsky says Toribio inspires her trust. "I believe he will do whatever is possible to improve our safety," she says.
Plan on arriving early for this one. Best selling author Joyce Maynard comes to the Montclair Library at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 26. Maynard has written 13 books, including "Labor Day," which comes out on the silver screen soon starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin. You can buy copies of her latest work at A Great Good Place for Books in Montclair.
Halloween hangover: If you haven't had your fill of the holiday, yet, you may want to give this a try. Oakland bar and restaurant, Rock Wall, is hosting a Hallowine happening today complete with pumpkin bowling.