Archive for January, 2010

Home is Where the Heart Is

Posted in BUYERS on January 28, 2010 by Julie Nachtwey, the Claremont Hills Real Estate Expert

Home is Where the Heart Is

Diana Meckfessel has a new home.  And the home has undergone a facelift – again! 
The former kitchen designer purchased the property last fall.  She opened up the living room and integrated it into a spacious new kitchen and dining area.  An open floor plan lends itself to her love of cooking and entertaining. In the process, Diana incorporated the sun room and moved the fireplace.  Upstairs, she redid the bathroom, added laundry facilities and connected the master bedroom to a small bedroom, to be used as a dressing room.  The house now feels spacious, light and graceful by anyone’s standards.  In the spring she plans to enhance the already lovely gardens.  The general contractor Diana worked with  and recommends highly is Tom Ratcliff  who happens to be the grandson of the famous architect Walter Ratcliff.

This house in The Claremont neighborhood was designed by James Plachek in 1910.  At this point in time, it’s hard to tell exactly what  happened to the place.  Diana’s house was literally one with the house next door!  Both houses are sections of the large manor house that was subdivided in 1949.  The huge entry hall and front staircase were torn out and the walls closed up on both sides.  This created exterior space, separating the (now) two houses, where there once had been one. How creative!

Diana’s new home is adjacent to the historic stone pillars marking the main entrance to The Claremont neighborhood, at the intersection of Claremont and The Uplands.  These handsome stone structures were designed in 1905 by John Galen Howard and were landmarked in by the City of Berkeley in 1984.  Many of the architect-designed houses in the area have been featured in numerous books, articles and house tours, including the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Assn


Where the Wild Things Are…

Posted in CLAREMONT HILLS on January 26, 2010 by Julie Nachtwey, the Claremont Hills Real Estate Expert

Wild things are alive and well in The Claremont Hills, above the historic Claremont Hotel.  For those of you who care about such creatures, visit .  It includes 1,225 pictures by 54 local photographers and a list of all the birds, butterflies, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians reported in the North Oakland/Berkeley Hills last year.  A devoted birdwatcher, Kay Loughman, is the CEO of this informal neighborhood census.  She was thrilled when a neighbor just sent photos of a newt!

Kay’s interest in the birds and the bees began in her 20’s, when she worked at UC Berkeley.  One of her office mates put seed on the window sills for the birds.  Kay found herself looking for birds around campus and at home in her yard.  Through the years, she has found herself becoming friends with other “bird people.”  She is inspired by knowing that so many folks care about what’s going on nature.

Kay finds it fun to share.

New York, New York

Posted in ELMWOOD on January 26, 2010 by Julie Nachtwey, the Claremont Hills Real Estate Expert



The dynamic duo Marion Bundy and Ann Leyhe just dashed off for dinner in NYC this week with Nora Ephron.  Marion and Ann are the owners of Mrs. Dalloway’s Literary & Garden Arts in the historic Elmwood commercial district.  The two friends won a nationwide contest sponsored last summer by Random House. Their store window display was coordinated with the release nationwide of “Julie & Julia” directed by Nora Ephron, based on the book by Julie Powell: JULIE & JULIA: MY YEAR OF COOKING DANGEROUSLY. 

Their promotion also tied into a wine-tasting at the Elmwood wine shop and the opening of the film itself at the Elmwood movie theater  Mrs. Dalloway’s Literary & Garden Arts features talks by authors and related events each month.  You can pick up a schedule by visiting the bookstore, 2904 College Avenue. Or visit their website and click on “News & Events.” Or request automatic monthly online notifications by emailing

Mrs. Dalloway’s is named after the novel with the same name by Virginia Woolf.  The first line of MRS. DALLOWAY reads: “Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.”  Both Marion and Anne Leyhe have lived in the Elmwood neighborhood for more than 25 years.

Bake Sale Bunnies

Posted in NEIGHBORHOOD with tags , , , on January 23, 2010 by Julie Nachtwey, the Claremont Hills Real Estate Expert

Bake Sale Bunnies

“Home baked goodies for your tummy!”  That’s the slogan for Bake Sale Bunnies, owned and operated by two ambitious 11-year-old girls in my neighborhood. Izzy lives across the street from me…by the way, in a home I sold her parents ten years ago.  Since Izzy was three, off-and-on she has come over and we bake something. “I like baking because it is your own master piece, but you can eat it!” she says.  No wonder kitchens are the most important room in the house for many people.  When homebuyers are looking at property, one of their priorities is usually a new or remodeled kitchen, or kitchen with potential. Recently Izzy came over with her friend, Sophia, and they made yummy cupcakes. Next we teamed up and made blueberry pies!  The girls have often cooked with their parents, who are good cooks.  Now the girls feel confident enough to start their own cake baking business.

Three birthdays are coming up in my family, so naturally I’ve ordered three yummy cakes and one batch of cupcakes from Bake Sale Bunnies.  If you too would like to place an order, contact Izzy at

Botanical Art and more…

Posted in EVENTS with tags , , , , on January 23, 2010 by Julie Nachtwey, the Claremont Hills Real Estate Expert

Botanical Art and more
At UC Botanical Garden

Today was another inspirational day to visit the UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley.  At the entrance window, I renewed my family membership for $65.  So many interesting programs and events are offered, it’s impossible to fit them all in my Day-Timer. 

Next I browsed through the “Plant Clearance Sale.”   It was exciting to find several shade plants with promise of bright orange blooms. Many of the plants are suitable as house plants, which help make a house feel like a home. The majority of plants are best suited for life in the outdoors.  Investing in your garden and landscaping make the property look its best, adding value.

This morning was cloudy and rainy and sunny…ever-changing by the minute. The weather seemed to mirror the plants themselves, endlessly evolving through the seasons.  Because it was a little cold, my friend and I followed signs to the 1st Annual Botanical Art Exhibition.  We trekked along the paved path to the show.  Walking in, we were dazzled by the bright hues of blue, red, yellow, pink, green and shades in between.  The wild flowers were delicately illustrated in water color and framed, “for sale.” On our way out, we talked with one of the artists herself, Eliza Jewett of San Francisco.  Eliza said she has been drawing flowers as long as she can remember. The show includes works by approximately 20 members of Northern California Society of Botanical Artists.  It continues through Friday, January 16.

By the way, the Sick Plant Clinic usually scheduled the first Saturday of every month did not take place this month.  It will resume on Saturday February 7 from 9 am to 12 pm. For an online listing of all the activities and events available each month, feel free to Visit


Posted in EVENTS on January 19, 2010 by Julie Nachtwey, the Claremont Hills Real Estate Expert

Yes!  You are invited to sample both…at the Chocolate & Beer Festival coming up Saturday afternoon, Feb 6, from 2 to 6 pm. The Chocolate & Beer festival is a benefit for a non-profit group, Saffron Strand, dedicated to employment-focused solutions for homeless citizens in West Contra Costa communities.  Learn more about this group at
At the Chocolate & Beer Festival you can also enjoy live entertainment, raffle prizes and more…showcased at the historic Craneway Pavilion on SF Bay, near Pt. Richmond.  For details visit  Questions? Just email our son Rob

One of the leading festival chocolatiers is Bittersweet Café owned by our long-time neighbors, Penny & Charlie Finnie.  You’ve probably seen their popular Café in Rockridge at 5427 College Avenue below Broadway, with two other Bittersweet Cafes in SF and Danville.

Our family will be supporting the Chocolate & Beer Festival – to help a very good cause — on Saturday afternoon, Feb 6.  Hope to see you there.

Enjoy Learning with The City Commons Club

Posted in EVENTS on January 19, 2010 by Julie Nachtwey, the Claremont Hills Real Estate Expert

Please find a list of upcoming topics offered through this lunch-and-lecture series covering the end of January and February, sponsored by the very special City Commons Club  2010 is the Centennial year for this non-profit organization.  It invites interesting speakers on most Fridays to a luncheon at the historic Berkeley City Club designed by Architect Julia Morgan.  By the way, the Berkeley City Club’s location at 2315 Durant is convenient, near UC Berkeley, BART and parking.  Visit for information room reservations for overnight stays as well as events and dining.

Before perusing the list, allow me to quickly tell you about the last two luncheons I attended.  Each was compelling in its own way.  Photographer James Martin showed slides related to his new book “Islands of SF Bay.”  The following week Dr. Bert Lubin, new CEO of Children’s Hospital & Research, talked about the promise of stem cell research.

Friday Jan 22 — Rachael Brahinsky, UC Doctoral Candidate in Geography, will talk about the making and unmaking of Southeast San Francisco.  The early settlers there began a colorful and often contentious history.

Friday Jan 29 – Rita Maran PhD teaches International Human Rights at UC Berkeley as well as USF.  There is a lot she plans to talk about. Scroll down for February’s calendar of topics and other information. Visitors are welcome with advance notice.

City Commons Club February, 2010 Programs City Commons Club meets in the historic Berkeley City Club at 2315 Durant Avenue; Berkeley. The building was designed by noted architect and BCC member Julia Morgan. For information about City Commons: or call (510) 527-2173 or (510) 428-0222. Pre-meeting coffee, soft drinks, wine, and conversation from 11:20 in the Venetian Room. Lunch served from 11:45 to 12:15; lunch is $15.50; coffee only: $5.00. Speaker begins at 12:30 and meeting adjourns at 1:30. Visitors welcome:  please call for lunch reservations by noon the day before the Friday meeting:    (510) 527-2173.

Friday, February 5, 2010  NO MEETING There will be no meeting on February 5. Berkeley City Club, where meetings are held, has a large event scheduled that will occupy their entire facility.

Friday, February 12, 2010  Noon Luncheon Sue Reynolds, Writer and Photographer “Understanding Native American People” Sue Reynolds has spent nearly five years documenting Native Americans at their celebrations across the West.  Through her beautiful images and her insightful stories, Ms. Reynolds offers a rare glimpse into the seldom-seen world of timeless Native traditions as well as a realistic view of how Native people live among us today.

Friday, February 19, 2010  Noon Luncheon George Lakoff, Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics, UC-Berkeley “Bringing Democracy to California: Ending Governance by Gridlock” The 2/3 rules in the legislature mean that 1/3 + 1 — a 34%  minority in either the Senate or the Assembly — controls the legislature by saying no until it gets what it wants, which has resulted in economic disaster. The California Democracy Act ( can return democracy and responsible government to California, simply by changing two words in the state Constitution, with the result that all legislative actions on revenue and budget will be determined by a majority vote. Professor Lakoff will explain his concept in a non-partisan presentation. 

Friday, February 26, 2010  Noon Luncheon Norman Bowen, PhD, Associate Professor, Dept of Political Science, Cal State University—East Bay “Nuclear Non-Proliferation: What Does It Really Mean?” Dr. Bowen will explain the nuances of nuclear non-proliferation in our complex world. With strong possibilities that North Korea and Iran are both trying to develop nuclear weapons, and with Pakistan—which already has nuclear weapons—operating with internal political instability, what are the implications for the world? Dr. Bowen teaches courses in International Relations, International Security, Public Policy on the United Nations, and World Problems. As Director of CSU’s International Studies Program, he promotes study abroad, language acquisition, and international internships. He taught in France for twenty years and he has a keen interest in European integration and international organizations.