Are You Doing the Things That Are Most Important to You?

relaxI periodically send out the American Lifestyle Magazine alternating to past clients, friends and potential clients.  I decided to share the introduction I wrote for the latest issue in this blog post.   The theme is about the ways in which people go to great lengths to relax. Each pursuit is noble and all the tales are interesting, but you don’t need to ride across a desert or build a boat, like some folks do in American Lifestyle, to find your path to a happy, healthy life. In fact, for me, it’s much simpler than that.

We’re all busy, so sometimes just taking a moment to breathe is helpful. I work a lot of hours and juggle many responsibilities, so lately I have found yoga to be a big stress reducer with its emphasis on breathing. It allows me to disconnect, take a deep breath and just relax for a while.

At one point in my life, when I was trying to work on my marriage, we attended a weekend retreat and they asked us to write down five things that were important to us. I wrote out my list and skiing was one of the things on it. Then they asked us how often we did those things, and when was the last time? I was astonished to realize I had not done something I was so passionate about for more than two years. I made a change; I love to ski, and this year I hedged IMG_4022my bet with El Niño and got a pass to Squaw Valley.  (note: picture to the right is taken on 1/15/16, my ski birthday weekend, bluebird day, waiting to ride up Siberia for fresh tracks at Squaw)

As I get older, I find it is extremely important to take more time to disconnect and get away from everything in order to regroup and start fresh the following day. As we approach Valentine’s Day, I’m sending out my love with a reminder to share yours with the people you care about, and take the time to disconnect, relax, breathe and do those things that are most important to you.

I would love to hear some of the things you do to disconnect and relax! Please e-mail me your ideas, and they could be featured in one of my next blogs here on WalnutCreekLifestyle.com.

21 Football Facts to Fake Your Super Bowl Street Cred (via EventBrite.com)

I stole this blog word for word from Daisy Barringer of EventBrite.com because I loved it so much. Check out her awesome key Super Bowl facts for this weekend. And if your head has been in a hole, there are a ton of activities going on this week for the Super Bowl – check it out!

***

21 Football Facts to Fake Your Super Bowl Street Cred

nflWe’ll assume you know the football basics, like that a touchdown is worth six points, they’re “uniforms” not “costumes,” and a tight end lines up “tight” to the offensive line (though, he usually does have a tight end).

But, just in case you don’t know anything about football, here are a few—or  21—fun facts about Super Bowl 50. Make this the year that you actually have something to say about the game, rather than just the commercials.

Key Super Bowl Facts

It’s Super Bowl 50, Not Super Bowl L

For the first time ever—since Super Bowl V, anyway—the NFL is using regular ol’ numbers and not Roman numerals. Apparently L, the Roman numeral for 50, isn’t aesthetically pleasing due to its lack of symmetry. It also conjured up visions of the word LOSER. But after this year, things will return to normal Roman numeral business as usual. Why Roman numerals at all? Because the NFL season takes place over two calendar years, which can get confusing.

Opening Kickoff Turned Touchdown Has Only Happened Once

The opening kickoff in a Super Bowl has only been returned for a touchdown once. Chicago Bears returner Devin Hester ran the ball 92 yards for a touchdown in Super Bowl XLI in 2007, marking it as the first. Despite the quick score, the Bears still lost to the Colts 29-17. Pro Tip: If you’re going to bust this piece of trivia out, do it right before the game starts.

There are 4 Teams That Have Never Been to the Super Bowl

There are four current NFL teams who’ve never played in a Super Bowl: the Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, and Jacksonville Jaguars. But if you think that’s depressing, try being a Minnesota Vikings or Buffalo Bills fan. Both teams have appeared in four Super Bowls, but have never won.

Sorry, No Overtime

Despite the hopes and prayers of advertisers and networks, the Super Bowl has never ran overtime. Oh, and this year? It’s about $5 million for a 30-second spot.

The 49ers Ruled the Super Bowl

The San Francisco 49ers hold the record for most points scored in a Super Bowl with their 55-10 victory over the Denver Broncos in 1990.

Levis_stadium_aerialHosting Teams Can’t Play

A host team has never played in the Super Bowl, much to the disappointment (this year anyway) of 49ers’ fans everywhere. However, Super Bowl XIX in 1985 was hosted by Stanford University and the Niners did make it to (and win) that one, which is pretty close.

What You Should Know About Super Bowl 50

The Starting Quarterbacks are 13 Years Apart

Peyton Manning, Quarterback for the Broncos, is 39 years old. Cam Newton, Quarterback for the Panthers, is 26. That’s a 13-year age difference AND the largest between starting quarterbacks in Super Bowl history.

Both Quarterbacks are Numero Uno

This is the first-ever Super Bowl where both quarterbacks were drafted No. 1 overall. Peyton Manning played his rookie season in 1998 for the Colts and Cam Newton was selected by the Panthers in 2011.

Show ‘Em the Money

The Super Bowl is one of those games where you get paid just to play. Each player on the winning team pockets $100,000, and the losers? Well, they still get $51,000, which is enough cash to buy approximately three seconds of one Super Bowl commercial.

Peyton Manning Lives for the Super Bowl

Peyton Manning is the only QB (Quarterback) to take multiple teams to the Super Bowl on more than one occasion. He’s been twice with the Colts and twice with the Broncos, though he’s only won once: Super Bowl XLI, when the Colts beat the Bears 29-17. You know, the one we mentioned earlier—see how it’s all coming together?

The Unlucky 13

There are 13 teams that have never won a Super Bowl, like ever. The Panthers are one of them. They’ve only been once before in 2003 and they lost to the Patriots.

Facts about the Denver Broncos

Manning’s Struggle is RealPeyton

Peyton Manning’s QB rating this year is one of the worst ever for a starting quarterback playing the Super Bowl. Thanks to nine TD passes and 17 interceptions in the regular season, Manning’s regular rating is 67.9. So, it’s not the WORST ever, but it’s pretty close. In comparison, Cam Newton’s is 99.2. This might be Manning’s last season, so still expect him to bring it—or at least try.

Manning’s Old

If Manning does win, he’ll be the oldest QB ever to do so. John Elway helped the Broncos beat the Falcons in Super Bowl XXXIII (1999) and still holds the current record for oldest Quarterback. He was 38.

The Broncos Lose (a Lot)

The Broncos have lost more Super Bowls than any other team, with a total of five losses. But, if they win, they’ll be the ninth franchise with at least three Super Bowl titles.

But, The Broncos Bring It

The Broncos lead the NFL in total defense this year. They were also No. 1 in pass defense and No. 1 in sacks. So, it’s gonna be pretty fun to watch them against Carolina, who currently lead the league in scoring.

The Broncos Dress to Win

Each designated home team gets to choose which uniforms they wear. Teams wearing white uniforms have won 10 of the past 11 Super Bowls. So, naturally the Broncos are wearing white.

And Now, The Carolina Panthers

Cam, the All-Star Quarterback

If Cam Newton leads his team to a victory, he’ll be the first quarterback to win the Heisman, National Championship, NFL MVP, and a Super Bowl. What have you accomplished this week?

camThe Panthers are NFL’s 29th Franchise

They started playing in 1995, originally in the NFC West with the 49ers, Falcons, Rams, and Saints. When the NFL expanded to 32 teams in 2002, they were relocated to the newly-created NFC South.

“The Cats” Meow 8-0

The Cats (but, uh, probably don’t call them that unless you’re actually a fan) were the only team to go 8-0 at home this season.

Look Out, Steelers

Carolina’s rushed for over 100 yards a game in 29 straight games. That’s the longest streak in the NFL since the Steelers did it 43 games in a row from 1974-77.

You Should Probably Cheer for Them

The line’s still changing, but no matter where it ends up, the Panthers are definitely favored to win Super Bowl 50.

And, if you’re still not sure which team to root for, ask yourself which animal you like best: horses or cats? There you go.

***

Home Buying 101: Having a Good Lender in Your Pocket

4439276478_109791356b_o (1)When you’re in the market for a new home, having a good lender is essential. In a seller’s market or at entry-level price points, where many first-time home buyers are also submitting offers, the information in this blog becomes even more critical.

I like to have a buyer’s lender call and speak to the listing agent when I submit an offer. I want to know what their qualifications are, and more importantly, the lender’s ability to close in the time stated on the residential purchase agreement. This is where a local lender becomes very important; it is unlikely if you go with an out-of-state lender or one where you have to speak to somebody different each time, that they’d be willing or able to make that call to the listing agent.

However, if the listing agent has worked with the lender before (odds increase if they are local) and had a good experience, the buyer is one step closer to getting their offer accepted over others. Simply put, people like to work with people they know they can trust.

Another question to ask your lender is if you’ll be completely underwritten with a complete file in hand. This prevents surprises. If you walk into a bank and give them the basics, oftentimes they will give you a pre-approval for a certain amount, or for the amount you stated you would like to have (provided you qualify).new home 2

This is fraught with land mines – once you are in contract, that lender is now asking for additional paperwork and, surprise! Something comes up under Freddie and Fannie guidelines that won’t allow you to get the loan for that amount, or at all. This is not a happy situation for anyone involved, so it is also helpful if the underwriter is somewhat local and they work closely with the lender on a daily basis. Communication is key!

One of the many benefits of working with a mortgage broker is the appraisal managment company most likely has better quality appraisers, who know the neighborhood they appraise in. They can’t select who will appraise the property, but they can choose who is or isn’t in the group.
Finally, if you are shopping a loan, make sure you are comparing apples to apples. If you get a quote for a condo, make sure the other company is also quoting a condo and not a townhome. I know some great lenders – contact me if you would like their names and numbers.

Livermore Valley Wineries

vineyardIn a follow-up to my post “East Bay Booze Boom,” I thought I’d write about the amazing wine scene that’s also blossoming in the Livermore Valley.

I have toured there several times and always find the wines to be delicious, the sites beautiful, and the people friendly. And it’s so close to home!

Although wine has been cultivated in Livermore since the 19th century, it has only recently started to gain popularity. Wente Vineyards has long been the largest producer in the Livermore Valley, making around 700,000 cases of wine annually.

The region has a predominately gravel-based soil and lies on a unique east-west orientation, unlike many other wine-growing valleys. Due to a reliable onshore afternoon/evening breeze off of the Bay, there is a wide fluctuation in temperature between sites, making the growing conditions similar to St. unnamedHelena or Calistoga.

The Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association has a great website that allows you to research different wineries, and plan a self-guided tour through the wine county. To the right is a list of some of the top wineries in the region.

Another great way to explore the area is on the Livermore Wine Trolley! This trolley is the newest way to explore wineries throughout the Livermore Valley.

They offer an all-inclusive wine tour, where you will be transported through lush rolling hills, beautiful canyons, and award-winning wineries. You can also book the trolley for your group’s own private charter.

46feb38a-7de0-481f-a8c6-642b84b88ac2

One other perk of staying local for your wine tasting tour is that the prices are much more affordable than those in Napa. For example, the top-rated wine tasting in Livermore on Yelp is at Bent Creek Winery.

There, you can pay a $10 tasting fee to try 11 of their wines, and then even apply that $10 towards the purchase of a bottle!

You don’t have to go all the way up to Sonoma, Napa or Healdsburg to get quality California wine anymore.

If you’re living in the East Bay, you can make an easy day trip out to Livermore with your friends to sip on some unique, local wine.

If you have been to any of these Livermore wineries, let us know how your experience was!

 

Can China & Saudi Arabia Affect the Real Estate Market?

On January 11, I attended a speech by Carol Rodoni about the Bay Area real estate market with an emphasis on the East Bay. My blogs are going to spread out over a handful of posts to give bite-size tidbits of her speech, which I always find very entertaining:

3dp_china3dp_map_flagCarol started off by saying that 2015 was an extraordinary year in real estate and outlining a few global situations to keep in mind that may have an impact on our 2016 real estate market.

China devaluing their currency:

Carol sees this move as a growing pain and a way to try to support their economy. Every Nov. 11, China celebrates “Singles Day,” the biggest on-line shopping day of the year. Nov. 11, written out as “11/11,” represents four singles, which is also referred to as “Double Eleven.” This past November, Alibaba broke its own record and increased sales by 60 percent, or $14.3 billion. By comparison, American sales on Cyber Monday were $1.35 billion. I don’t think we need to worry about China.

Middle East and the price of oil:

Oil now costs less than $27 per barrel and is still dropping, when only a few years ago it was $109 per barrel. Saudia 4695206-Oil-prices-dropping-vector-illustration-of-fuel-barrels-with-currency-icons-and-a-down-arrow-signify-Stock-VectorArabia has refused to cut down production, perhaps in the hopes of pushing out a few competitors. Saudi Arabia has a tremendous advantage, as their technology to extract oil is inexpensive compared to other countries; this includes the U.S., where fracking has become a provider of jobs in the Midwest. Saudi Arabia may be okay with lowering prices to eliminate smaller competition, like Iran, now that oil sanctions have been lifted.

As a result of how chaotic the world is, Carol doesn’t believe the Fed will raise rates more than twice in the next year. She said she believes the next rate hike won’t happen until June, and felt the hike in December was at the wrong time.  All this still makes for a great time to purchase or refinance as rates are still hovering below 4%.

 

Top (Fur) Baby Names in the U.S.

Top-Dog-Names-in-U.S.-1

Around this time every year, we always find out what the top baby names in the country are. That’s always interesting, but what about our other babies’ names?

As a dog lover, this blog caught my attention a few months back. It included this infographic that broke down the most common names of dogs, and then went further and broke it down by most popular name by breed, too.

Apparently the top dog names in the U.S. right now are Bella, Max, Daisy, Bailey, and Buddy. My dog is named Bodie, so I was pretty close!

Our team here at Walnut Creek Lifestyle Group is full of dog lovers, and we wanted to share some photos of our fur children here with you to start the New Year. I think we did a little better on creativity with our naming!

Let’s start with my boy Bodie, an 8-year-old Weimaraner rescue:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We got Bodie when he was 18 months old. We rescued him through NorCal Weim Rescue where they found him running around Fresno.  He quickly warmed up to us and became a loved member of the family. Bodie is a big, 90-lb Weimaraner (the type that basically takes you for walks rather than the other way around!), but he loves to cuddle and play. In fact, he usually feels left out if he doesn’t get to sleep on the bed!

Let’s move along to Liz, and her two dogs, Poppy and Willow. Poppy is a 3-year-old miniature poodle, and Willow is a one-year-old Cavapoo. Liz bred Willow herself, and Poppy is the mother! For those wondering, a Cavapoo is a mix between a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and a Poodle. Here are a couple pictures:

FullSizeRender IMG_4452

Liz started breeding Cavapoos two years, ago, and kept Willow from the most recent litter. Cavapoos are wonderful dogs, combining the look of the Cavalier, the non-shedding coat of the Poodle, and the sweet temperaments of both breeds. Also, Cavaliers are great dogs, but have been so inbred throughout the years that the majority of them develop a deadly malady called Mitral Valve disease. Since poodles are not largely affected by the disease, the cross-breeding drastically lowers the Cavapoo puppies’ chances of inheriting that disease.

For more information on Cavapoos, you can check out Liz’s company California Cavapoos, which bring healthy, beautiful, friendly pets to the best families. Take a look at her Facebook page!

Lastly, our freelance writer Jeremy has had dogs in his family forever. From a golden retriever when he was a baby, to a black lab throughout childhood, to the current ARF rescue mix his family loves…meet Sydney, the 8-year-old Australian Shepherd/Blue Heeler/Hound mix:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Sydney (or “Syddie” for short – she responds to that especially well if you use a high-pitched voice) has an endless amount of energy and absolutely adores humans. If Sydney isn’t on her back with all four paws in the air, begging for a belly scratch within 30 seconds of meeting you, there’s something wrong. As you can see from the photos above, Sydney also loves to go to the Open Space in Walnut Creek!

Share some photos of your dogs – do you have any with creative names?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering 2015, Looking Ahead to 2016

New yearsAccording to History.com, the tradition of celebrating the new year dates back nearly 4,000 years to ancient Babylon. Though they weren’t on our modern Gregorian calendar at the time (so, New Year’s was actually in March back then!), they still rang in the new year with feasts and celebrations, much like we do today.

Back then, Babylonians would make promises in order to earn the favor of the gods and start the year off on the right foot (can’t confirm whether they broke their promises in the first month like we do today…), thus beginning the practice of making resolutions.

Obviously the norm today is to eat, drink and celebrate wildly at midnight, and then watch fireworks over the night sky. The explosions signify the closing of the past year and the ushering in of the next. So, as we remember the Sydney fireworkscraziness of 2015 and look forward to a fresh start in 2016, which questions do you ask yourself? What resolutions will you make? What does this time represent for you?

For me 2016 will be continued self improvement and finding balance between work and home and what truly feeds me and makes me happy.  This past year I found Yoga – it has helped  loosen those tight hip flexers and release the stress in my shoulders.  I even went on a one week Yoga Retreat to Costa Rica.  The comments I received at how well rested and relaxed I look made me think more than just in passing about balance.  I also hedged my bet on El Nino and bought a ski pass to Squaw/Alpine, totally the right decision and am looking forward to some awesome days on the slopes in 2016.

Other notables was Jackson off to UNR … empty nester, not so bad.  A nice trip to NY to celebrate Ryan’s birthday and hanging out with my friends and dog Bodie … all good stuff.

2015 flew by me, as I am sure will happen to 2016, just another reason to savor the moments.  On that note, I wish you a happy,  prosperous and balanced New Year!

~k

Happy Holidays, Coat Drive and Market Update

Hi everyone! If you didn’t receive a hard copy of my most recent newsletter at your door, here is the PDF to tide you over. There is still time to donate to the coat drive, as I’ll be dropping off any more donations I get at the Trinity Center as they come in. Thanks to everyone who has already contributed!

(Don’t forget to scroll at the bottom of the PDF to see page 2!)

Coat-Drive-newsletter-2

Thank You! … for supporting the coat drive

IMG_8135 Walnut Creek is now home to a temporary winter homeless shelter at The Armory sponsored by Trinity Center. It houses up to 30 homeless families while providing transition assistance in an effort to place them back in homes after their stays at the shelter.

As many of you know, I did a One Warm Coat drive that was featured in my latest newsletter. Trinity Center was the beneficiary of those coats, blankets and sweaters, along with a few of the Trader Joe’s gift cards I was giving out to the first 10 respondents. I want to thank all who donated. We ended up with about five large-sized trash bags full of warm goodies.

If you have never stopped by to drop off food or clothing, I highly recommend it. It is an eye-opening and rewarding experience. We were greeted by a group of men sitting in the living room staying warm and eating chips and dip. They kindly offered to carry in our bags of clothes. The staff is kind and grateful.IMG_8136

The Trinity Center is a non-profit based in town here on Trinity. It provides basic human services such as food, showers, laundry, clothing, mail and telephone access.

The City Council of Walnut Creek passed the proposal earlier in the year, to use The Armory on Carmel temporarily through the winter and now it’s officially in operation.

I first heard of the program when it was called Fresh Start and a neighborhood boy asked his mom how he could help the homeless. As a result, Creek Kids Care was born with local kids of all ages having art parties and creating note cards to sell. The money raised was donated to what is now the Trinity Center. What a great story that shows what one small child can set into motion.

 

 

 

 

 

Things to do Around Walnut Creek for Christmas!

ice skating WCLIt’s that time of year again when the tree lots spring up, lights blink on every corner and familiar movies play on every TV: it’s Christmas time!  If you are like me, it caught up to me quickly, as I barely got my tree up, with Christmas Cards still needing to be created – maybe they will be New Year cards (now if I can only my Costco certificate for the print shop I bought 2 months ago).  Thus with only a few days left until Christmas, there is still  a lot of things to do….

Even though Walnut Creek is nestled in the cozy Bay Area where snow is a day trip away, the town gets into a wintery spirit for the holidays. With students coming home for winter break and relatives flying into town for Christmas and New Year’s, families are reuniting all over the Bay Area.  After catch up is played, meals are devoured and egg nog is drunk, here are a few fun, local holiday events around Walnut Creek for the whole family to enjoy:

Walnut Creek on Ice

For just $15, you can enjoy some quality ice skating time right in downtown Walnut Creek. The ice rink, which has been a fixture in Civic Park for many winters now, throws fun events and never gets overly crowded. For more information about Walnut Creek on Ice, visit their website.

Santa visits at Broadway Plaza

A winter classic is taking the kids (of all ages!) to visit Santa Claus, ask for a gift and take a photo. This year, you can head right down to Broadway Plaza in Walnut Creek to see him. Make sure to hurry on this one, though; he can only hang around through Christmas Eve, before taking off on his sleigh to deliver his gifts!

091220-N-XXXXX-001 FUJISAWA CITY, Japan (Dec. 20, 2009) Petty Officer 1st. Class James Durrance acts as Santa during a visit to distribute toys to children of the Misono Orphanage. The community service project was supported by the First Class Petty Officer Association of the guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens (CG 63). (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

Holiday Train in Blackhawk

Take a little drive to Blackhawk and get a nice meal with the family, before rewarding your kids for their patience with a fun train ride at Blackhawk Plaza! All you need is to make a purchase at the plaza, and you’ll receive a ticket for the train too. Nothing says holidays like a wintery train ride for the little ones.

Volunteer in the East Bay

There are endless volunteer opportunities around the East Bay, especially around the holidays. From helping distribute food, clothing and toys to less fortunate families, to caroling at local senior centers, there are tons of ways to help give back with your family this Christmas. Here are just a few ideas to get you started.

Catch a Christmas movie

Everybody has their favorite Christmas movie, but many people don’t realize that they can watch some of the classics from the Century Theaters in Walnut Creek! For example, this Wednesday night the theater will be showing Miracle on 34th Street, and then It’s a Wonderful Life on Christmas Eve. What better way to spend some warm, relaxing family time than getting a Christmas classic on the big screen?

Do you have any other fun ideas for this week and weekend around Walnut Creek? Happy holidays!