East Bay Booze Boom!

The Bay area is leading the nation in innovation, and not just in the tech sector. A new industry on the rise in the East Bay is the alcoholic beverage market!

75e4cb_70530afefa2c4ac597c7198da59bd280With the craft brewing industry on the rise, many local entrepreneurs have hopped (get it?) on the bandwagon, starting many new breweries in Oakland, San Francisco, and even Concord! Many of these East Bay brewers are really pushing the envelope by making unusual beers, like sours, rare varietals, and other creative concoctions.

One such brewery in the sour beer market is Rare Barrel in Berkeley. They go the extra mile by aging their beer in oak barrels for about a year to develop the lovely tart flavors in their brews. Some other notable East Bay breweries are Linden Street Brewery and Pacific Coast Brewery in Oakland, Jupiter and Pyramid Brewery in Berkeley, and EJ Phair in Concord. Don’t sleep on 21st Amendment Brewery, famous for their Hell or High Watermelon beer, which just opened a huge new brewery in San Leandro. Or the popular Calicraft Brewing Co. based right here in Walnut Creek which is my favorite; I love their Buzzerkeley champagne beer.

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Beer is not the only game in town, however. The wine and liquor industries in the area have also been growing in popularity. St. George Sprits in Alameda has become well-known for their brand, and Hangar One vodka is named after the old World War II-era hangar where the distillery is based. Although they recently sold the brand to be produced next door, the distillery is excited to have more space to focus on new experiments in distillation. Some of their more creative liquors include Green Chili Vodka, Absinthe Verde (I know this one from personal experience and it was not a good one), Agricole Rum, and several Fruit Brandies. They have a great guided tour for $15, which includes a tasting of six spirits! They even have a small outdoor seating area where you can hang out with a drink after your tour and check out the San Francisco skyline from the other side of the Bay.

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Many wineries have also begun to spring up throughout the East Bay. Although this may seem like a new development, the East Bay, especially the Walnut Creek area, was actually one of the main wine-grape growing regions until prohibition in 1920. One such winery making a revival in the area is Urban Legend Cellars in Oakland. They source grapes from other local regions, and use various blending and oaking techniques to produce unique and delicious wines.

Walnut Creek has also been put back on the map with Shadowbrook Winery. This vineyard grows Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah, right on the foothills of Mount Diablo. Mark Lavezzoli, the Winemaker there, combines traditional and innovative techniques to create some very tasty vino. The entire team there is very excited about Walnut Creek’s potential to produce a first-class wine.

With so many great beverages to try right here in the East Bay, it’s hard to find a reason to leave and another great reason to own a home in this amazing area.

Have you been to any of these places? Please share your thoughts – we would love to hear from you!

A Walnut Creek Art Show…Made from LEGO’s!

IMG_7796Everybody is familiar with the little multi-colored plastic bricks that we all used to build towers and spaceships out of. Well, New York artist Nathan Sawaya has taken LEGO creativity to a whole new level. He builds everything from life-size skulls to dresses out of LEGO’s.

If you visit the Bedford Gallery in Walnut Creek’s Lesher Center for the Arts through December 20th, you can see Sawaya’s exhibition “The Art of the Brick” and a collaboration with photographer Dean West called “In Pieces.”

The art looks truly amazing and impressive. Whether you go alone or take your kids, this is a fun way to spend a few hours in downtown Walnut Creek this holiday season.IMG_7830

On Tuesday, I visited the Bedford Gallery to see the exhibit myself. One that really caught my eye was “Dress,” which shows a woman’s red dress, made entirely out of LEGO’s, disintegrating into the wind. According to the placard next to the piece in the exhibit, the piece leaves it up to the viewer to decide who she is, why she is standing there, and what happens to the little red bricks of her dress floating in the wind.

Another cool exhibit is his multi-colored skulls which represent his rocky past with LEGO, which initially sent him a cease and desist letter for his work using the trademark.
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The artist’s ability to speak to the emotions of the viewer and human nature in general is what makes the artwork resonate with me. His intricate portrayals of human nature and the general struggles one faces in a lifetime is what draws us in. The ability to create these messages out of a children’s toy is what will keep me coming back.

Bedford Gallery will also display an exhibition of sculpture by Jud Bergeron during this time, which reflect the experiences of becoming a parent. To see all the exhibitions at Bedford Gallery, get more information here.

General admission for “The Art of Brick” is $7, youth (5-17) are $3 and children 4 and under are free. Also, First Tuesdays are free admission for everyone. This weekend, it’s free with an arts and crafts show dispersed throughout the Lesher Center. Go check it out! Here are some more photos of “The Art of the Brick” exhibit below:

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The Tax Benefits of Home Ownership

money in pocketMoney Management 101: Buying a home, especially in California, has its benefits from a tax perspective – buyers can deduct their mortgage interest and property taxes from their income after they purchase. For buyers in high tax brackets, these savings can amount to more than $1,000 per month in high-end markets.

Why is this benefit important? For payment-sensitive renters who are considering a first-time purchase and are nervous about their housing payment jumping from $2,500 in rent to $4,000 (for PITI = Principle, Interest, Taxes & Insurance), it may be enough to make them change their mind or scare them into being a renter for life.

What most people don’t realize or most lenders and realtors don’t emphasize (or bother pointing out at all), is that IRSbuyers can recognize their tax benefit right after purchasing by increasing their allowances or exemptions on their IRS W4 form and giving it to their HR contact. By increasing the number of exemptions – because now you own a home and can write off the interest – you don’t need to withhold as much money for the IRS. This allows the new home owner to maximize their take-home pay with each check and mitigate the pain that results from the increased home payment.

Buyers should consult with a CPA or tax planner to figure out their optimal number of exemptions. The idea is that on April 15th, you don’t pay any additional money or you don’t receive a refund from the IRS. If buyers are already claiming a handful of exemptions, then it is unlikely this benefit will give much in the form of extra income flowing into their paychecks.

Some information in this blog taken from JVM Lenders Daily Comments.

Halloweekened is Coming!

Fall is a great time of year. With the change in weather and light, I tend to cook more and want to snuggle up to a good book or movie. As the holiday season approaches, it’s fun to decorate your house with pumpkins and wreaths, but Halloween has always been my favorite.

I happen to live on a street that is flat and shaped like a horseshoe, so it’s a great place for kids to safely trick-or-treat. Many of my neighbors decorate their homes – some quite extensively! Our street gets about 300 trick-or-treaters on average.

Of course, one of the best parts of Halloween is seeing the costumes. Below I am sharing some of my favorite costumes from a few years ago (it rained last year).

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This year, with Halloween falling on a Saturday and fair weather predicted, I’m expecting record numbers! I’m hosting a few friends for chili and drinks, where we will hang out in the driveway around the fire pit and pass out candy. In our neighborhood, it isn’t uncommon to see parents walking their Disney princesses and superheroes around the neighborhood, pulling a red wagon with a six-pack stashed in the back for socializing with the neighbors.

On a related note, Daylight Savings Time ends with the hallowed eve this year, so remember to turn your clocks back before you go to bed.

Happy Halloween to all, and to all a spooky night! Stay tuned for tomorrow’s blog: what to do if you want to escape the neighborhood and find a fun getaway this Halloween…

Chili Cook-Off Results

On Saturday, October 10th, the Parkmead Community Association held their first Chili Cook-Off. Eight chili recipes were entered and the big crowd of tasters judged them while enjoying beer and cornbread.

Kids crafts and ping-pong also filled the area, and to ensure safety, Lee St. was blocked off for the event.

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First place in the cook-off went to Adam Neilkie for his classic pork and beef recipe. Yours truly took second place with Willie’s Chili, which is a traditional beef concoction with a secret added tang. Michael was awarded third place for his chili dish. These chili recipes and the rest were devoured within two hours!

The combination of food, drink and perfect weather made for a memorable afternoon. Neighbors of all ages came by to join in the fun, making it a true community event. Because of the success of our first Chili Cook-Off, this may become an annual affair; bring your chili next year to spend a day in the sun with your neighbors and to test your chili against the best!

Main Street Kitchen

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I recently tried the new restaurant on Main Street, creatively named Main Street Kitchen.  Luckily the menu was much more interesting than the name.  The restaurant features farm to table, local ingredients, and seasonal menus.

 

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To start, I had  the Grilled peach salad with Point Reyes bleu cheese, bacon, and mixed greens.  It was very tasty and refreshing on this warm evening. For my main course, I chose the fish of the day, which happened to be swordfish.  The dish came with a seasonal vegetable salad, consisting of kale, corn, roasted squash, blue lake beans, cranberry beans, and saffron pistachio pesto.  It was delicious and filling, without being overly heavy.  For desert, I nudged in a peach crisp with almond streusel topping, and house made ice cream.  This was my favorite part of the meal, especially the home made ice cream.  Yum!

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I went there again for breakfast recently, and was able to enjoy the peaceful patio.  I had 3 duck eggs, with toast and fresh tomatoes.  I have never had duck eggs before, but
they sure were yummy

With its eclectic variety of California cuisine, made with fresh and local ingredients, Main Street Kitchen definitely earned my repeat business.  I definitely recommend you check out this great new eatery in town.

Walnut Festival 2015

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On Saturday September 19th, the 78th annual Walnut Festival kicked off with the Twilight Parade, which wen through downtown Walnut Creek on Main Street.

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Following the parade, a carnival opens at Heather Farms Park, with over 30 rides and many other attractions. The 4 day event run from Thursday, September 24, through Sunday, the 27th.  This celebration of the arts will provide many hours of family fun, with kid zone, live music, beer garden, great food, and a showcase of local artists, and craftsmen

images-2The Walnut Festival has a long history in this city, dating back to 1911, which the first festival took place.  The original festival was a celebration of the grape harvest, and was called the Grape Festival.  Wine grapes were a major crop in the area until prohibition, when most of the grape vines were replaced with Walnut Trees, changing the event to the Walnut Festival in 1936._8469241

For more information about this fun festival click here.  Hope to see you there next year!

 

Making progress on the Newell Pathway!

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Per my earlier blog post on September 9th , we began work on the new Newell Ave. pathway on September 12, 2015.  After years of rain and wear, the pathway had become very eroded and dangerous.  The new pathway will allow the kids in the neighborhood, dog walkers, & pedestrians to walk to school without trudging through the potholes and mud or by-passing them by walking in the street.
To repair the pathway, the area had to be excavated with a rototiller, replaced with compacted decomposed granite, and sprayed with water.  We had many members of the community donate and volunteer their time to this project.  Thank you to all of those who came out to help.  Special recognition goes to Chris Hockett & Adam Nelkie who coordinated the effort with their knowledge, resources and sweat equity.  Chris’s company Cal Engineering & Geology, Inc., donated $200 to buy everyone lunch – thank you!
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Chris Hockett to the left in the yellow vest.  Myself & Richard West as volunteers, I primarily directed traffic and it was great hear all the positive comments from the drivers – stating they would like to help!
We have completed about one half of the pathway, but the project is not yet complete.  We still need more donations and volunteers to finish the part from Magnolia to Olympic and from the Freeway to mid-Newell.  To help, please contact parkmead@parkmead.org.
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And, remember, kids play and walk to school here, so please Drive Slowly!

Parkmead Block/Pool Party 2015

Parkmead Community Association Block Party

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As a board member of the association and having lived in Parkmead for 20+ years, I’m fortunate to know many of the residents and have been active on our board with the last few years, I have coordinated the Block/Pool Party held at Dewing Park.

Our wonderful neighborhood has 620+ homes that are primarily built in the 1950s, centrally located near 680/ 24, Kaiser, and a big plus, walking distance to downtown!  Parkmead primarily attracts families who want great schools and like the idea that they can walk to the movies or a great resturant and safe enough to walk home in the dark.

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The Parkmead  Community Association hosts various events throughout the year with a focus on bringing the community together.  This year on the last weekend of August we held our annual Block Party. The weather was perfect in the low 80’s, with kids and adults enjoying a cool dip in the pool.  We had  burgers and dogs on the grill with neighbors bringing their best side dishes… baked beans, peach crisp and meringue pie were some notable favorites!

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Dave Andre from Smokin’ Jay’s played acoustic guitar in the background.

unnamed-8The kids enjoyed the pool, while the adults enjoyed beer straight from the keg!

unnamed-52 local business also participated with informational tables:  Steve Allard, from Redcard Sportswear and Screen Printing, was giving out free t-shirts and Debra Minigerode displayed her Stella & Dot jewelry.

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Hope to see you next  year!

Newell Avenue Pathway Repair – Sept 12th


FullSizeRender-3With the cool weather in the air and kids walking to and from school it’s time to come together as a Parkmead community and spend Saturday September 12, 2015 on the Newell Avenue Pathway Repair project.

Our treasured pathway was originally build in the late 1990’s and since we’ve been through period’s of crazy downpour and years with little more then a drop the ground has become uneven creating potholes in some areas. The path is a danger for walkers, runners and quite difficult for pushing strollers. The overall pathway leads half a mile froFullSizeRenderm Olympic to the I-680 overpass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re looking for volunteers to help on Sept. 12 as we improve the path area at the entrance to Parkmead Elementary on Magnolia Way and Newell Ave. Through donations from our neighbors we have raised $4,000 to complete this area of work. While we love to include the community, this is definitely an adults job! Come, support your neighborhood, as we need volunteers to run a rototiller, spray the path with water, rake the new decomposed granite material to level the pathway, use a vibratory compactor plate and various other responsibilities. If we can get enough people to help we’ll complete this project in one day! If you can volunteer please contact Chris Hockett at parkmead@parkmead.org.

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