Oakland's Temescal district has transformed itself into a foodie haven, but it's also home to a do-it-yourself culture. One place that encourages locals to get their hands dirty is the Temescal Branch Tool Lending Library (5205 Telegraph Ave., 510-597-5089, OaklandLibrary.org/branches/temtll.htm), where you can check out anything from a shovel to a tile saw. "We have a lot of people depend on us," said tool-lending specialist Ty Yurgelevic, who has overseen the operation since its opening ten years ago. Modeled after Berkeley's Tool Lending Library, the shed-like rooms behind the Temescal library loan out an average of 3,000 tools a month (and it's open only four days a week). Most borrowers are homeowners from North Oakland, but folks from Emeryville, Piedmont, and East Oakland use the collection, too. It's not just middle-class homeowners with fixer-uppers; it's also people who can't afford their own tools or who garden as a side gig. The tool library may just be keeping them afloat. Check tools out for three days, or pay the sometimes-hefty late fees.
Visit Ruby's Garden (5095 Telegraph Ave. #C, 510-595-5325, RubysGarden.com) for locally designed kids' gear. The owners stock up on the usual suspects like Tea Collection and Oaklandlish, but also carry lesser-known designers like New Skool and Jasper Hearts Wren, the latter making clothes with adorable felt appliqués. For the superkid-in-training, pick up a sateen cape by Baby Leo. The little shop recently added a used section with surprisingly affordable yet stylish choices.
The plethora of beautiful yarn at Article Pract (5010 Telegraph Ave., 510-595-7875, ArticlePract.com) makes anyone apt to pick up sticks and start knitting, or at least fondle the soft yarn. The selection of cotton, wool, and cashmere skeins isn't cheap, but the shop is a knitter and crocheter's dream. Classes are offered in the back for folks who need inspiration or guidance, and free help is available for customers.
For the rummager, check out East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse (4695 Telegraph Ave., 510-547-6470, CreativeReuse.com), where someone else's junk can become your treasure. Perfect for the artist or anyone who can find a purpose in old cassettes, statues, and more.
For a break from all this creativity, dine on some Korean soul food at Sura (4869 Telegraph Ave., 510-654-9292, SuraOakland.com). Orders comes with more than a dozen small plates of appetizers, or banchan, each tasty in its own right. The restaurant also has BBQ dishes, though it never seems to smell smoky. Kid-friendly, with an immaculate bathroom and baby-changing table.
Don't miss: For the foodies, Bakesale Betty (5098 Telegraph Ave., 510-985-1213, BakesaleBetty.com) still holds it down on the hearty fried-chicken sandwich and baked-goods fronts, and the long lines out the door are proof of it. ... Try out Burma Superstar (4721 Telegraph Ave., 510-652-2900, BurmaSuperstar.com), where egg and okra curry with brown rice make a spicy and tasty lunch. ... For a break from urban life, stroll through FROG (Friends of the Greenbelt) Park (between Redondo at Clarke sts. and Hudson St. at Claremont Ave., FROGPark.org), which connects Temescal and Rockridge. It's anchored on one side by a toddler playground and on the other by a larger playground as well as Hardy Dog Park, one of the only spaces in Oakland that allows off-leash dogs, albeit in a fenced-in area.