Main Street Kitchen gets a re-boot

One of my favorite restaurants in Walnut Creek received a bit of a makeover recently, and since it’s been about three years since my last review, I wanted to re-visit it! Main Street Kitchen aka MSK has become a new staple for foodies in Walnut Creek, and now they’ve expanded and remodeled to match their popularity.

I went recently on a chilly, smoky day so nobody sat outside. But that just meant more of an opportunity to take in the beautiful new interior! I really love that this place has opened up a bit and can now accommodate more guests in addition to a full bar with seating. It allows even more locals and travelers alike to experience the excellent atmosphere and cuisine. My favorite feature is sitting by the living wall and eating Sunday Brunch!

We tried a couple different dishes. The first was Burrata with greens, but you can also get it with avocado, prosciutto, heirloom tomato, or tapena (mix and match) and Sunchokes, which were amazing.  Our order consisted of fish tacos with tortilla soup, their the BLT, however the star of the show may have been their signature dish called Chicken al Mattone where boneless thighs are cooked between two cast iron skillets. It was absolutely delicious!

As you can see, Main Street Kitchen is still serving up farm to table gourmet bites in generous servings. And now they’re doing it in a brand-spankin’-new space that really takes the experience to a whole new level. If you have yet to jump on the Main Street Kitchen bandwagon, I’d highly suggest doing so soon!  p.s.  their fried chicken isn’t always on the menu, but it is always available and is fantastic on their delicious salads.

Event Round-Up: November 17th

As the holiday season gets into full swing, take advantage of some unique events around Walnut Creek and the rest of the Bay Area! From art, to nature, to Christmas festivities, I’ve got you covered! If you visit any of these events, let me know how they are!

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The Unreal Garden – thru Nov. 30 (San Francisco)

The Unreal Garden is a digital, immersive art exhibition set up in a 20,000-square foot space on Market Street that is set up by a media company called Onedome. There are moving waterfalls, forest creatures and eight installations by nine different global artists at The Unreal Garden. More details here.

Holiday Parade and Tree Lighting – Nov. 29 (Walnut Creek)

Broadway Plaza’s annual Holiday Parade of Lights, Retailer Open House, and Tree Lighting returns from 6-9 pm on Nov. 29th. There will be live entertainment, caroling, and an appearance by Santa! The event is sponsored by the Capital One Cafe, and more information can be found here.

Night Bloom – starts Dec. 2 (San Francisco)

Just like last year, the Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco will put on what is sure to be a show-stopping light display on the greenhouse facade. The new installation is called “Night Bloom” and will contain colorful lights, sounds, and immersive art experiences. Get more information for this event here.

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Free Redwood Day – Dec. 8 (Statewide)

Every so often, these amazing free days come along and us nature lovers rejoice! To celebrate 100 years of saving California’s iconic redwood forest, Save the Redwoods League and California State Parks are offering thousands of free vehicle day-use passes to more than 40 Redwood state parks! Details are here.

Exploratorium After Dark – Dec. 15 (San Francisco)

Every Thursday night, the Exploratorium offers an adults-only dinner and drinks event with hands-on exhibits from 6-10 pm. The Exploratorium, on Pier 15, offers $20 tickets for this event. And on Dec. 15, the theme will be sugar! Perfect for the holidays. See the event page here.

Two more successful closings!

I’ve had a streak of closings recently, including a long-time client who I’ve worked with seven different times now. She moved to Southern California a few years ago, so this investment property in Antioch will likely be my final transaction with her. She had become a friend and a wonderful client.  Thank you, Lori, for your ongoing support and friendship.
The other closing was 1944 Eagle Peak in Clayton and it was referred to me by a past client. Thank you, Jeff!
The pictures below are of a beautiful home that was my client’s respite. They remodeled it to their tastes and, in addition, it was an end unit overlooking Oakhurst golf course; a very peaceful setting.
Check out my client’s review:
My clients David and Nancy are getting ready to retire and move closer to their kids. The couple from Dublin wanted to live closer to their grandchildren in Clayton. They had a condo to sell in Dublin, thus it was a contingent offer that went smoothly and quickly. All parties were happy! As you can see from these pictures, they purchased a beautiful home with rolling hills beyond their back fences. The hardwood floors and sleepy gray/clean white theme throughout complement the peaceful backyard and the cozy bedrooms. I love a happy end to a real estate experience and connecting with wonderful people who I truly like. Give me a call to see what your real estate story could become.

The first-time buyer’s guide to real estate

Jim McKinley wrote a blog that I’ve made slight edits to below. Let me know what you think!

Buying your first home is exciting, but it can also be full of confusion, fear, and apprehension. After all, buying a home is a huge commitment, and if you’ve never done it before, there can be a lot of questions. However, by getting informed and preparing yourself appropriately, you can avoid many of the common pitfalls of buying your first home and step into this new stage of your life with confidence. To help everything go as smoothly as possible, follow these tips and tricks.

Get your Finances in Order

Many people might assume that it is time to become a homeowner based on their life situation, such as recently landing a well-paying job. However, no matter where you are at in your life, it takes quite a bit of financial preparation to correctly prepare for buying a house. First and foremost, you need to ensure that you have a solid budget. Some people might encourage you to put this off until after you buy your house, but your budget is an indispensable tool to figure out how much home you can afford. Secondly, save up a reasonable down payment. According to the Motley Fool, squeezing out enough money for a down payment might require a lot of expense cutting. We recommend using a savings calculator to help you figure out how much you’ll need to save each month.

Get Pre-Approved

Before you even begin to look at houses, go to some lenders to get pre-approved for a mortgage. This is not as scary as it might sound and can take a lot off your plate later. To be approved for a mortgage, the lender considers your credit score, how much you make, the amount you put down and your debt-to-income ratio, among other things. There are many different financing options available and a good lender will advise you accordingly.

Find a Great Agent

A good real estate agent can provide you with huge benefits when it comes to looking for your home. The housing market and lingo can be confusing. When you work with a real estate agent, they can advise you on how to write the best offer and discuss the current market so you can focus your energy on searching for a home. According to The Balance, an agent is a great asset; they can ask questions for you and obtain disclosures. Real estate agents are particularly helpful for first-time homebuyers who might not be aware of the home-buying process and a good referral source for reputable lenders.

View Houses in Your Area

Now that you have all the preliminary work squared away, it’s time to start looking at houses. Preferably, you’ll want your real estate agent to set up showings based on your criteria. Your agent can point things out that you might have missed and help gauge whether the home is listed for a good price.

Image result for house for saleNegotiate your Closing Costs

Once you find your perfect house, you need to close the deal. There are fees tacked on to buying a home called closing costs. Everything from lender fees, title insurance to title search fees. To the average person, these can begin to sound like a second language. You can shop a rate, but many lenders will quote you the lowest rate of the month, because until you lock in a rate, it is a moving target. Look to reviews and potentially how smooth your closing will go. Review your Loan Estimate closely and ask about all fees you do not understand. Once you understand everything, negotiate with your lender for lower fees.

Move

Give yourself more than enough time to pack and move to prevent yourself from rushing. If you hate packing, you might even want to consider hiring a moving agency. If you have children, you might drop them off at a family member’s house to give yourself a couple hours of uninterrupted packing.

Home buying is an exciting, nerve-wracking process. By following these steps (and hiring the right lender and agent), your can home-buying process will be a lot smoother.

Art Town: Echo

If you’ve been wandering around downtown after a movie, or had a hankering for Chipotle, or really wanted to get a drink at The Cheesecake Factory, you’ve seen the lovely pair of statues on either side of Locust St. in Plaza Escuela. They tower above fountains or pedestals where pedestrians rest their feet. The artist, Yoshio Taylor, created these in 2002 out of bronze, and placed them on terra cotta bases.

 Look closely, and you’ll see a lot of history in these twin pieces. First, did you know that Walnut Creek’s first school once stood in this spot, hence the name of the plaza itself (“Escuela” = “school” in Spanish!)? The female figure is reading, and the male figure is holding several books. In another nod to Walnut Creek’s history, Taylor surrounds the feet of the figures with native plants that have disappeared from the area. If you look closely, you’ll see frogs, birds, foxes and more around the bases. The reason for the grape leaves is to celebrate Walnut Creek’s agricultural history; apparently we celebrated grapes in the Fall Festival long before we celebrated Walnuts!

Taylor says he created this with classical influences and wanted to give a proportional stance to his figures. The columns, in his description, give place, presence, and power to the figures. They serenely invoke a quiet restfulness. Taylor, who got an MFA from UC Berkeley and resides in Sacramento now, has given Walnut Creek’s downtown art scene one of its most treasured and aesthetically-pleasing works with Echo.

Annual Chili Cook-Off!

For those who have been following this blog for a few years, you may remember an annual event we’ve been doing in Parkmead for the last 4 years: the Chili Cook-Off! The 2018 event took place on November 3rd from 3-6 p.m. We had nine chili-makers, a keg of Allagash White, cornbread, brownies, and kids with chalk and scooters running around the blocked off Lee street in the Parkmead community.

Usually, we have a great turn out and many different chilis to try in the neighborhood, then we crown a winner each year with the Parkmead Wooden Spoon!  This year a new homeowner David Chiorini took home the bragging rights. He made an El Pato (spicy style) Texas Chili garnering over 24 votes. There’s nothing better than a few warm cups of chili and a cold beer on a Fall afternoon, especially when you’re doing it as a neighborhood community builder! The Parkmead Community Association organizes these types of events and it is what makes the neighborhood so darn special and desirable.

Hope to see you next year, and what a great idea to organize in your own neighborhood! And, if you are thinking you would like to live in this type of neighborhood, give me a call.

Oktoberfest: Not enough beer, but tons of fun!

I went to the Walnut Creek Oktoberfest at Civic Park a few weeks back – an event I’d recommended in a previous blog! It did not disappoint, however, I don’t think the people running the event had any idea what they were in for. They ran out of beer fairly quickly, and also didn’t have enough pretzels or funnel cake for the hungry and thirsty masses!

Overall, it was still an awesome event. There were a few people dressed up and the beer they did have was served from Brauerei Weihenstephan, which is apparently the oldest brewery in the world. They also had some local artisanal beer selections, as well as wine. The main issue (besides running out of it!) was that the drink lines were so long, that you had to wait for 20 minutes to get a stein or in this case a glass of beer and then you could only have up to two at a time.

So, even though the food and drinks were good, the crowd was large, and the Civic Park venue was much more appropriate than the old location on Locust St., there were some operational issues to work out for future events. There was a kids area, plenty of food vendors, art vendors, beer batter dipped french fries (What?!), music, and a bunch of new people to meet. I went towards the end, but the consensus seemed to be that it was a very successful event.

Oh, and did I mention it was dog-friendly? What a bonus! I would have brought Bodie if he would do well in crowds with dogs everywhere, but I didn’t want to risk it. Still, what a great event for downtown Walnut Creek that will surely be replicated in the Octobers to come and may surpass Clayton – just with more beer next time! Did you go? Let me know what you thought!

Congrats to my clients who bought in Pleasant Hill!

I want to congratulate my recent client Vimi and her partner Liz for closing on their new home! They celebrated in a unique, cultural way that I found really interesting and was thankful to be included in such a personal experience. As you can see in some of the pictures below this was a house blessing which they called a puja. It’s always exciting to help a client find their home, get their offer accepted, and then close. This was definitely a first; they were not allowed to move in until the blessing occurred and they spent the night in the vacant home after the blessing!

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Vimi is of Indian (Hindu) descent and this is how it was explained to me:  A “puja” ritual, which is performed many times to mark lifetime events (birth, wedding, new home, etc.), is not required in their religion but many do it. Some Hindus do a daily puja ritual in the home, some do it at regular temple ceremonies or festivals, and some don’t do it at all! It was a very cool spectacle to witness. We started with an incense stick, flower petals, bananas, spilled rice, boiling milk, fire, and red and yellow powders (that, when mixed with water, allowed them to mark the Om symbol on the frame of the door). There were songs and hymns, and personal prayers.  A Ganesha statue was also part of the ceremony, who is the remover of obstacles. As the god of beginnings, he is honored at the start of rites and ceremonies. What a beautiful way to honor and celebrate a new home.

Everyone has their own way to celebrate buying a new home. I was honored to be a part of this ceremony, and am really happy that I was able to help Vimi and Liz find their home.