OMG the best Old Fashioned ever!

Craft beer and cocktails are still all the rage among the bar and restaurant scene these days. With breweries popping up all over the place, it was only a matter of time until the cocktail scene blew up a little bit, too. Now, there’s a new spot called Hops & Scotch at the Contra Costa Centre at the corner of Treat and Oak.

I went to experience it myself with a couple of friends and past clients – I chose the distilled menu and have never had a better Old Fashioned (or two).  The menu is an extensive list of whiskey/scotch/bourbon – from everywhere you can imagine – Scotland, Ireland, Japan…and I even saw some from south of the border.  As the name dictates, they also have a good selection of microbrews and, of course, any other type of cocktail you desire.  There is some food in the form of bar bites; we had the naan pizza and wings, but I saw mac and cheese,  hummus, a cheese board, and gyros (which really caught my eye).

There are also TVs for all the sporting events and on Monday nights they have the Geek Squad doing Trivia night, which is always fun.  Overall, Hops & Scotch is a great place to be and, come summer, look for the new patio currently under construction for some chill outdoor enjoyment, next to a couple of cool walnut and oak trees.  This will help with their seating as the place can fill up quickly and it isn’t too large, which creates a cozy ambiance.

Walnut Creek allowing cannabis permits

This past November, the City of Walnut Creek allowed people to apply for cannabis permits that are being processed to fill the two delivery-only medical cannabis operation slots to be opened in town. These are commercial business applications, and will bring a new type of business to downtown.

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With the passage of marijuana legislation in the state of California, which legalizes the sale of recreational products, the city of Walnut Creek is now getting involved. Of course, with new laws come new restrictions, and Walnut Creek’s marijuana policy is no different.

On a personal, non-commercial level, the maximum amount of non-medical cannabis plants allowed to be grown per residential unit is six. Selling the cannabis you legally grow is still prohibited (that’s what the permit application process was for!). Additionally, cannabis plants must be locked up, can’t create an odor, and must abide by all electrical and building permits.

It will be interesting to see how this law changes the business landscape in Walnut Creek. I’m guessing it probably won’t be a massive noticeable difference, since marijuana has been a fairly visible part of the California culture for years. But now that it’s legalized, what will the businesses look like? The delivery services? I guess we’ll find out soon!

Art Town: Folded Square Alphabet G

Have you ever been walking near BART and noticed a few, well…strange structures? Some of the art across the way from the northernmost BART parking lot is made up of some intricate statues. One of my new favorites is called “Folded Square Alphabet G,” and upon close examination, I can see why.
The piece was created by Fletcher Benton in 1984, and is part of a larger series called “Folded Alphabet.” It’s described a geometric puzzle because they contain a letter which is either obvious or hidden. You’re supposed to walk around the sculpture – which is made of painted aluminum – to get the full experience.
According to Benton’s bio, he was born in Ohio and supported himself as a sign painter. He became fascinated with the alphabet and geometric forms created by letters. That led him to create the “Folded Alphabet” series, which intertwine letters within shapes. He perches metal plates atop each other and balances them precariously, which adds a whole new layer of awesome to the piece.
It’s a truly unique, timeless piece that has only gotten more impressive with age. Next time you’re wandering near Walnut Creek BART, keep an eye out for the folded “G,” and see if you can spot it!

Reasons to buy in the off-season!

Lizzie Weakley of RIS Media’s Housecall wrote a blog recently about why it’s okay to buy in the off-season. I want to piggy-back off of that here. First of all, yes, there is an “off-season” in real estate. For the most part, winter is the time of year that the industry slows down in markets around the country.

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However, there are a few good reasons why the off-season might actually be a great time to buy a home, especially in the Bay Area! As Weakley lists, there are fewer buyers crowding the markets. This decrease in competition is an excellent advantage for any prospective home-buyer. On that note, sellers seem to accept lower bids in the winter because of the low competition.  In our area, we also don’t have to worry about trudging through snow storms to see a listing (one of the major reason for a slow-down), in addition to the holidays when most people are entertaining or having family visit.

Everything can move a little bit faster in winter. Home inspections can get done quicker, and mortgage companies tend to finish paperwork faster, too, because – again – they don’t have as much traffic.  I should mention that in the Bay Area, with our warmer climate in Spring, the winter “off-season” tends to be much shorter than in other places, but still usually extends for a couple months at the end of the year and wraps around into January (we are nearing the end of the off-season now).  Often buyers are out in January, but the sellers have not yet readied their home for sale, so we often find a switch back to a seller’s market this time of year.  We will see what 2019 holds.

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One more perk to buying homes in the winter? Us real estate agents have more time to dedicate to you! Sure, we love to give as much personalized attention as possible to each and every client, but the truth of the matter is that we get busy in peak seasons too. When I can focus all of my energy on one listing, it’s almost always smooth-sailing and everything gets finished at the speed of light!

Next time you are thinking of buying a home, and read that you should wait until the weather warms up again, give it a second thought. There are some big-time perks to buying in the off-season!

Get lost in Flowerland

Was it all a dream? Or did I really stumble upon an oasis of flowers, plants, and coffee in the East Bay? Oh, I definitely did. Just North of Berkeley, in the oft-forgotten tiny town of Albany, sits the aptly-named Flowerland, which has been open for more than 70 years and is locally-owned and operated.

Flowerland offers in-house potting, deliveries, custom orders, holiday orders, and a good old-fashioned nursery. They run a gift shop, and have Highwire coffee to keep you warm and hydrated. The plants they sell are hand-picked with the Bay Area climate in mind, and they try to keep a smorgasbord of species around, including those from other continents!

I wandered in here one day after picking up a friend who lives down the street, and she said, “Let’s grab a cup of coffee at my cool neighborhood go-to place.”  If you’re refurbishing your home, or planning to buy a new one, you’ll definitely want to go check out the little trinkets, decorations, and design options there. Grab a few houseplants while you’re at it – that always brightens up a dim room!

Next time you’re in the Berkeley or Albany areas and want to experience a truly magical, quaint slice of heaven, stop into Flowerland. Maybe pick up one of those cute succulents for your desk (and another, for me!), or just have a coffee and enjoy the outdoor ambiance! Either way, you won’t be disappointed.

Road Trips: Half Moon Bay

New year, new road trip! I went down to Half Moon Bay (HMB) to grab some pumpkins, eat seafood and have a drink at the Ritz-Carlton while enjoying the sunset. This blog is specifically about happy hour at the Ritz to enjoy the bagpipes. It was a wonderful experience, but pricey – just to park is $40.  We ordered a tea, Shirley Temple and a margarita for $35.  You are paying for the ambiance and the bagpipes.  If you haven’t been to HMB before, it’s such an easy trip down from the East Bay, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.


Obviously, the view is wonderful, but there are also a lot of parks and bars and restaurants to see. There are distilleries, breweries, wineries and of course, golf. Half Moon Bay is also known for its pumpkin festival; we went down a couple of weekends before the big event – fewer crowds.

This was a little “treat yourself” day trip for me and a couple of friends, as we wound down the day with views of the golf course and a cold drink by the outdoor fireplace. Bagpipes serenaded the crowd from the golf course as an incredible sunset descended over the beach. It was just what the soul needed!

Whether you’re doing a day trip like I did, or going to HMB to enjoy the beaches and restaurant scene for a few days, make sure to fully appreciate how great this little slice of California’s central coast is!

A new seafood restaurant on the outskirts of Walnut Creek!

I recently tried a new SoCal chain in Walnut Creek, and it was good for quick fish dishes! California Fish Grill, primarily located in Southern California, has opened a new spot in Walnut Creek at the corner of Oak Grove Rd. and Ygnacio Valley Rd. in The Orchards, which is continuing to become a go-to place in Northgate.  You can even grab your food and take it over to the new brewery called Mike Hess, which I will have to check out in 2019.

It advertises healthy food, even though the most popular dish at the restaurant is a 1,500-calorie fish and chips dish. That said, there are quite a few good, healthy options here. They serve everything from sockeye salmon, to Hawaiian swordfish, to ahi poke and grain bowls. I tried the shrimp with Dynamite sauce, grilled zucchini spears and Brussel sprouts. The fish tacos actually look really good too.  They have a salsa bar and a help-yourself artisan soda fountain.

I’d recommend checking out California Fish Grill next time you’re hankering for some quick fresh seafood. We don’t have a ton of affordable seafood options in Walnut Creek, so this is definitely a step in the right direction. Let me know if you try it!

Home affordability at lowest point in a decade

I recently read a blog from my friend Bob Schwab, a certified mortgage consultant with Finance of America, that had me thinking. It’s about how the median home price in the fourth quarter of 2018 was the least affordable level since the third quarter of 2008, according to statistics from ATTOM Data Solutions.

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But, it’s not all doom-and-gloom on that front. Nationally, 58 percent of counties analyzed by the data report recorded an improved home affordability ranking on a quarter-over-quarter basis. According to Daren Blomquist, SVP at ATTOM and quoted in Bob’s blog, “home price appreciation falls more in line with wage growth,” and “high-priced areas such as San Diego, Brooklyn, and Seattle saw annual wage growth outpace annual home price appreciation.”

Here are my two cents on this, and about what it means in the local real estate market: You can’t time the market. Buying over renting is always a better long-term strategy.  I have had buyers looking this December and were able to quickly get into a home that had some healthy price reductions (really it finally just got priced right) and we have been able to negotiate on repairs.  They also found a home that was about $70k below their top end budget. They were motivated, they just had a baby, wanted a house, and were very methodical.  They will simply build equity just by paying their mortgage every month and doing some improvements.

Did someone say free WiFi?

I’m keeping it light over here on Walnut Creek Lifestyle for the holidays. Lots of “Happy this” and “Merry that,” and peace and good tidings to all. But, I couldn’t let this one thing I learned slide – consider it a late Christmas gift, or a wonderful way to kick off 2019!

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Downtown Walnut Creek has officially installed WiFi services in the heart of the city. It’s called “ConnectWC” and it covers the section of downtown bordered by Civic Drive and Mt. Diablo Blvd., to N. Main and Locust St. This will fill in all the gaps of downtown that don’t currently have WiFi service.

If you’re trying to connect to WiFi downtown, select “#WalnutCreek” on your phone or other device, and surf away! Your eyes will light up when you see those bars connect!