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!

1077 Wesley Ct. #8 Open House

Wesley CtYou can’t miss this recently-updated top-floor end-unit in Walnut Creek. With fresh paint, new carpet, granite counters and new flooring, this 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom is ready for move-in. Not to mention it’s a short walk to BART, has easy freeway access, underground parking, extra storage and a pool! The list of perks never ends.

Open for a Broker’s Tour tomorrow (Tues. 12/15) from 10:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., and then for an Open House this Saturday and Sunday from 1:00-4:00 p.m. both days. Come check it out!

You can see a virtual tour of 1077 Wesley Ct. #8 right here.

Just in Time for Thanksgiving!

FullSizeRender-2Having a bad hair day?

Apparently you’re not the only one…This wild turkey, spotted near Walnut & Marshall, just discovered that he’s bald!

Vanity withstanding, he is definitely not alone!  I was driving away in my Mini after an Open House at my listing in Clayton, when I came around the corner and — to my surprise — found a gang of turkeys (yes, “gang” is the technical term for a group of turkeys)!

I have seen a few gangs here and there around Walnut Creek, and many at the Lafayette Reservoir! This got me thinking: do we have a turkey problem?

Lo and behold, it’s been an issue in the East Bay since the early 2000’s. Apparently, the turkeys continue to move East, oftentimes destroying gardens, nicking paint on cars and leaving cement-like patties of you know what along the way.

FullSizeRender-1Here are a few facts about the wild turkey that were new to me:

  • There are almost 7 million wild turkeys nationwide
  • They have 5,500 feathers and males have 18 distinct tail feathers
  • Ranging from 5-20 pounds, they can run at speeds up to 25 mph and fly at 55 mph

Watch yourself around gangs of turkeys, too! By nature, they have a proud demeanor and protective instincts, with vision three times better than humans – maybe the turkey above couldn’t believe what he was seeing!

So, think twice before trying to score a free Thanksgiving meal when you see these guys on the street.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

 

 

1408 Babel Ln. Open House

1408 babel drone shotAny investors out there? Take a look at this single-family home (3 BR/2.5 BA with 1 BR/1BA in-law unit). You can rent out both properties, or live in one and rent out the other.

Open both Saturday and Sunday from 1-4 p.m. Come by, have a cookie, and check it out!

You can see a virtual tour of 1408 Babel Ln. in Concord right here.

Best Sandwich in the Bay Area: Morucci’s

One of my favorite lunch time eateries in Walnut Creek is Morucci’s. They have great sandwiches, soups and salads. My personal favorite is the #1: Roasted Turkey.

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One of the best aspects of this deli is their creative menu, which lists their sandwiches from 1-17 (with some items being fractions, too!). It is always fresh and tasty and has my vote as the best deli in the area.

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Some of the most popular sandwiches are the 6 3/4, which is a delicious combination of caprese salad-style tomato and mozzarella, turkey, lettuce, roasted bell peppers, and balsamic dressing, all on a perfectly-toasted ciabatta; and the #5 (California club – fully loaded with turkey, swiss, bacon and veggies).

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For the vegetarians the Caprese is also tasty. I can truly say that every concoction they make at Morucci’s is awesome, and apparently everyone agrees – just check out the line at lunch time! Try to get there in off-hours, though. The secret got out a few years back and now East Bay residents from high schoolers to retirees form lines around the block on any given day at lunch to nab one of these famous sandwiches.


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Consistently voted one of Walnut Creek’s best, Morucci’s is a must-try if you are living in or visiting the area. From their sandwiches, to fresh Italian salads, Morucci’s definitely earns their rave Yelp reviews.

Which sandwich at Morucci’s is your favorite?  Please let me know.

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!

Top Five Date Ideas in Tahoe

Attention! We have snow in Lake Tahoe!

While the main draw to a winter in Tahoe may be cozying up to the fireplace in your cabin or hitting the slopes at Heavenly, Squaw, Kirkwood or Sierra Ski Ranch (just to name a few), there are some fun ways to create a less traditional wintertime date. Inspired by some suggestions we came across, here’s a list of five fun date ideas in Tahoe:

The Landing
Photo credit: TheLandingTahoe.com

Dinner at The Landing

Tahoe’s newest top-ranked boutique hotel has brilliant lakeside views and a cozy dining room. This is the perfect place to warm yourself up with some wine and a good meal while watching the snow fall on the lake and surrounding mountains.

Hot Springs

The one time it’s acceptable to wear a swimsuit in the Tahoe snow is when you’re soaking in hot springs. At Sierra Hot Springs, a non-profit retreat and workshop center, you can dip into the springs at any hour of the day for just $20-25 per person (though we don’t recommend this for the first date, clothing-optional pools do exist here…). Grover Hot Springs State Park, where minerals turn the pools green, is also a good post-Kirkwood stop for a relaxing dip. For more of a resort feel, there’s always David Walley’s in Genoa, close to Carson City, which will pamper you with a full-service spa and dining options in addition to the pools.

Movie in Heavenly Village

Heavenly village
Photo credit: TheShopsAtHeavenly.com

Even if you’re a traditionalist and don’t always gravitate towards the new, upscale resort villages, you can’t ignore the beauty of Heavenly Village and all the amenities it has to offer. In the mood for a cheaper, casual date in a beautiful setting? You’ll find no shortage of showtimes at the cinema at Heavenly.

Dinner at Cafe Fiore

Another well-known dinner spot in Tahoe is Cafe Fiore – a small but vibrant restaurant in South Lake that has earned its reputation as a go-to destination. It’s not cheap, but the food and wine pairings will make for a memorable and delicious night out. Plus, there are only seven tables in the entire place, so you’re sure to get an intimate atmosphere.

Ice Skating

Northstar village
Photo credit: CarrLong.com

What is more “winter romance” than a couples’ skate on an ice rink? The best one around is at Northstar, where the revamped village boasts shops, restaurants and a huge, central rink area. Afterwards, you can have a drink by the outdoor fireplace too! If you’re craving the best view from an ice skating rink in Tahoe, Squaw Valley is the one you want. Panoramic views from the rink on its upper mountain are unmatched. And you can always take a break from the numerous distractions in Heavenly’s village to skate a few rounds as well!

There you have it – get up to Tahoe while the snow is still in town, but be sure to treat yourself to a date night out after skiing or boarding, too!

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.

Escaping the Halloween Madness

DSC02920If you want a change of scenery this Halloween so you don’t have to be around to answer the door for all the ghosts and goblins trick-or-treating, consider Maui.

Last year, while it rained in Walnut Creek, I was enjoying warm sunshine while watching the World Series at the beach bar with many fellow Giants fans.

We also had a great time people-watching at the Lahaina parade! Lahaina is a small town about 15 minutes from Ka’anapali – it’s an oceanfront former fishing village across the channel (in which dolphins and whales tend to migrate!) from the island of Lanai.

People in costume start to congregate on the sidewalk to watch the parade, which has the mayor, a marching band and many more people dressed up.

And just like back home, kids get candy from people standing on the side of the street.DSC02901

Once the parade is over, you can grab dinner at one of the local restaurants – Kimo’s is always a favorite, especially as the sun sets over Lanai (note: reservations for dinner need to be made days in advance for a busy night like Halloween).

After dinner, you can meander the main street (which will be closed off to traffic) to people-watch.

The costumes range from G-rated to PG to the occasional R. Take a look at the pictures below!

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Another fun fact is that October and early November are off-season for Hawaii, so flights are reasonable. A direct, round trip ticket on Alaska Airlines between Oakland and Maui is only about $400. It’s a great time to visit and a great place to get away!