Event Round-Up: Mar. 23

It’s finally Spring, everyone! That means less hiding inside from the rain and a lot more hiking, biking, and going-outsiding! Here are some outdoor-centric events coming up for the next few weeks. Hope you enjoy!

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Spring Brews Festival – Mar. 30th (Concord)

This is a TSBA Arts Foundation benefit from 12-4 p.m. A ticket will get you access to tastings from more than 60 breweries, plus live music and food! More info available here.

Makenplay Robotics – Mar. 30th (Walnut Creek)

Okay, this one isn’t outside. But it’s a really cool opportunity for your kids to get a crash course in robotics and other STEM-related learning! Ages 6-13 welcome, and it’s at Sweetwaters Tea downtown. It isn’t cheap, but it is a great 3-hour course. Check it out!

Shops & Hops Craft Brew Stroll – Apr. 4 (Danville)

Cute downtown Danville? Check. Shopping? Check. Beer festival? CHECK! From 6-9 p.m. the Museum of San Ramon Valley is hosting this craft beer stroll and tickets are only $25!

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Meet the Easter Bunny! – Apr. 13 (Alamo)

Make your kids’ day by bringing them to Alamo Plaza Shopping Center from 12-2 p.m. to meet the Easter Bunny! There will be other child-friendly activities there, too. Just make sure to bring your own camera!

Downtown Walking Tours – Apr. 13 (Walnut Creek)

The Walnut Creek Historical Society can answer all of your questions about the history of downtown on this $5, 90-minute tour. It starts at Liberty Bell Plaza and check-in will commence at 9:00 a.m. sharp! More details.

Divorcing and selling a home

My friend Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending put out a good blog recently about a tricky subject: divorcing and selling a home. Apparently, March tends to be the peak divorce-filing month because it’s after the holidays but before summer.

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Jay has some go-to advice for those who need to know about mortgages and divorces:

  1. The only way a spouse can get “off a loan” is with a full refinance.
  2. Stay cordial before the divorce, because if you want to buy before it is finalized, the non-buying spouse must sign a quit-claim.
  3. It takes 6-12 months of court-ordered payment history before spousal support income of any kinda can be used.
  4. There need to be at least 3 years of future payments before one can qualify for spousal support (i.e., can’t use income if support ends at age 18, and the kids are currently 16 and 17).
  5. Lenders must have a court-approved settlement agreement before a transaction can close, once they find out about a pending divorce.
  6. Divorcing spouses can hire private judges to expedite settlements in order to close mortgages sooner. This can be an affordable alternative (as little as $500 sometimes).
  7. Increasing a mortgage to buy out a spouse is not considered “cash out” as long as all cash proceeds go to the spouse getting bought out.
  8. All marital debt must be accounted for when qualifying, unless there is a court order or decree that specifically states which spouse is responsible for which debt.
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Okay! That’s a lot of information that I hope none of you ever have to use. However, it is good information if you do or are thinking about it. Call me if you have any questions.

Best Hikes in the Bay! (UPDATED)

I love hiking. That’s probably why, over the years, I’ve given you all countless Road Trips blogs with hiking involved. I’ve also written about the best hikes near Walnut Creek, best hikes with a bar at the end, and my own take on the best hikes in San Francisco.

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What can I say? It’s habit. So, with Spring right around the corner and the sun starting to shine on our beautiful state, I have another hiking list for you, this time courtesy of TimeOut.com. They’ve listed their 9 favorite hikes in San Francisco, and who am I to argue?

  1. Lands End
  2. Bernal Heights Summit
  3. Glen Canyon Park
  4. Marin Headlands
  5. Redwood Regional Park
  6. Muir Woods
  7. Golden Gate Bridge
  8. The Presidio
  9. Angel Island
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As you can see, they were a little bit generous describing a few of those as “San Francisco hikes.” But they are all great choices, nonetheless! If you’re venturing out that way, I’d also suggest spending half a day doing the entire Dipsea Trail or the Steep Ravine Trail from Pantoll campgrounds to Stinson! You won’t regret it!

Art Town: Skinny Grove

Last time we wrote an Art Town blog, we went to The Orchards for some neat, interactive weather vane-type sculptures. Well, we’re right back at The Orchards again today for this piece: Skinny Grove by Cork Marcheschi.

The sculpture is mesmerizing, especially at night. It was created in 2016 out of aluminum and LED lights. It pays homage to a 500-acre fruit and nut orchard that used to stand at that exact corner of Walnut Creek for almost 100 years!

Marcheschi, the San Francisco-based artist says he only changes one thing when he works: the gradual shift in intensity of light. It’s pretty cool to see the differences between each individual sculpture up close, and especially so once the sun goes down and the lights come on. Marcheschi has works across the country, as well as in Europe and Asia.

How is the housing market changing?

According to a Zillow Senior Economist, the housing market is changing: “The number of homes on the market is hesitantly inching higher — now approaching the highest level in a year and a half. The first quarter of 2019 is shaping up to be more competitive than the lull we saw as 2018 come to a close.”

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I have some thoughts about this! We are seeing the market pick up locally, but I am still seeing price reductions and then some that surprise me. Overall, homes priced right and in turn-key condition will always fare well over the competition.

The number of homes for sale has increased in four of the last five months after years of decreases, but that doesn’t mean there’s suddenly a huge amount of houses available. Don’t get fooled into thinking there is a hot, new market while you’re buying.

Further, mortgage rates are trending downward over the last year, according to Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey (Feb. 14 week). They cite a “combination of cooling inflation and slower global economic growth” for this drop.

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My take on this is that we are truly operating in a global economy and the softening of Europe with their various issues has had an impact. The Fed has stated they now have the least amount of control over mortgage rates than in their entire history. I have no crystal ball on rates, so enjoy them while they stay low. That may be why we are having an uptick since the winter of 2018.

Have you been to Fat Maddie’s?

There’s a burger restaurant taking the East Bay by storm. The closest location to Walnut Creek is in Pleasant Hill, so you can wander over to our neighboring town anytime to catch a bite of Fat Maddie’s!

According to their website, Fat Maddie’s is a family business with locations in Pleasant Hill, Blackhawk, and San Ramon. They create Southern food with ingredients from a family farm at the base of Mt. Diablo. They use herbs, eggs, and more from the farm to create the delicious meals at the restaurants.

I went with some friends to grab a bite before a movie. I had the Cali Chicken sandwich, but switched out broiled chicken for fried chicken and it was very good. My team member Denise went with her daughter and a friend – those are the pictures you see in this blog. It is a cute, but small, restaurant with sandwiches, salads, soups, a few entrees, and a bar. Perfect for dinner before the movies or lunch with some friends.


Sweetwaters Tea brings its first location to California

In the new Lyric building on Bonanza St. downtown, Sweetwaters Coffee and Tea has made its California debut. Lucky for us, they chose Walnut Creek as their flagship store in the state, and they serve up tasty coffee and tea to compete with major chains and other smaller coffee houses around town.

The franchise, which was originally started by Wei and Lisa Bee in 1993 in Ann Arbor, MI, has expanded to locations all around America. The Bee’s celebrate classic cafe fare and have a long list of creative hot, cold, and frozen drinks to choose from.

Sweetwaters also has pastries, and light food like salads, sandwiches, and quiche, which will appeal to the lunch crowd that needs something quick to go. They bottle their own tea and Arnold Palmers, but after taking a look at the sugar content, I opted out. The coffee shop competition is getting crowded in Walnut Creek; I count 10 just in the downtown area. If you’re looking for a new coffee or tea shop in downtown, give Sweetwaters a try! Let me know how you like it!

Road Trips: Squaw Valley

Come on, how could I not do one more road trip to Tahoe with how this winter is going? It has been dumping record-breaking levels of snow on the resorts up there, and I’ve been lucky enough to go skiing a few times within it.



Besides Mt. Rose, one of my favorite places to ski is Squaw Valley (ideally not on a weekend). The mountain itself is amazing, especially as I get to know the terrain more intimately. The village is great, and the surrounding areas are also nice, but I come to ski Head Wall, Siberia and Granite Chief.

My most recent trip on the 24th did not disappoint. We took the scenic route around the lake (I was staying in South Reno) – check out all the snow on Mt. Rose Highway and the image with Tahoe in the background. So beautiful!

When we got to Squaw, Head Wall, Granite Chief and the Tram were closed due to wind. Not to be discouraged, we headed to Siberia and took a few runs and then checked out Shirley Lake and the bowl. The snow was fantastic and there were no crowds; I think with the coming storm and the wind, all the California folks headed home to our delight! The bowl protected us from the wind and we made run after run.

Around 1, we headed in for lunch and when we went back out the sun had come out and we went back to Siberia for a couple more runs and finished off the day again at Shirley! Awesome day with great friends – one who had never been to Squaw and now he has the perfect first experience to want to return.