Walnut Creek Yacht Club: Better to be lucky!

For the record, it was me who was lucky in this situation! I had reserved a seat to Walnut Creek Yacht Club’s January lobsterfest but had to cancel when my son couldn’t get out of bed for lunch. Then, my friend Laura invited me with her reservation when a friend canceled.

This has been a yearly event that I have enjoyed many times. They used to charge the price of the year (i.e. $20.18), but this year they had to raise it to $25. If you’ve been to the Yacht Club before, you know that its cuisine is well-respected and the atmosphere is slightly upscale but inviting. “Lobster Month” is available for lunch or dinner, it includes 1.25 pounds of Maine Lobster either grilled or boiled, drawn butter, lemon, Regatta fries, and their WC Yacht Club coleslaw.

You do have to be a Loyalty Member (free!) to take part in the special deal, or even hear about them in their scuttlebutt newsletter and they can only accept in-restaurant reservations of 10 or fewer people, but it’s well worth it. One of the best-kept secrets in downtown Walnut Creek, especially since you have an entire MONTH to take advantage!

via wcyc.net

For this year, the lobster boil is almost over (unless you can snag a ticket last-minute for tomorrow), otherwise, you will have to wait until January 2019!

Road Trips: Bay Area Hikes with a bar at the end

John Solaegui, a realtor in San Francisco (ironically, I went to high school with his sister!), shared a blog about five Bay Area hikes that end with a reward – in this case, a drink! I know we typically talk about actual road trips here, but hiking is just as much a way of life in the Bay Area as driving, so we can make an exception this time around, plus you most likely will have to drive to the destination!

See below for a summary of the 5 in the initial blog, as well as two I’ve added myself!

Hike #1: Grape Stomp Trail (2.4 miles) in Sonoma

The best part of this hike is that you start AND end at Bartholomew Park Winery. So, if you lose motivation at the beginning, you can just sit down with a bottle and enjoy the sunshine anyway. But, for the purpose of respecting the hike, let’s talk about Grape Stomp Trail – it is a 2.4-mile loop that starts and finishes at the winery, just to the left of the tasting room. You can see views of San Pablo Bay and cross Arroyo Seco Creek twice. If you stay left on the You-Walk Miwok Trail, you can “summit” the trail at 640 ft.

Hike #2: Zinfandel Trail (2.9 miles) in Cupertino

A beautiful hike that starts from the southern end of Picchetti Winery’s parking lot and loops back a few miles later. The winery itself is a sight to behold – more than 100 years old, shaded by oak trees, and home to a brood of peacocks! On the hike, you’ll walk past wild roses, small ponds, and a creek. At the end, you’ll end your day with a nice glass of Picchetti’s famous red wine.

Hike #3: Dipsea Trail or Sun Trail (1.5-4 miles) in Mill Valley

You may have heard of this one. A hike through part of the Dipsea Trail in Mill Valley will take you to the Nature Friends Tourist Club. The German lodge, buried within the trees of Mt. Tam and erected in 1917, is a local favorite. But you either have to be a member, or plan your hike on a day that they open to non-members. You can hike straight from Panoramic Highway down the Sun Trail, or start in Mill Valley and climb all the steps for the first part of the Dipsea Trail to get there and enjoy some German lagers, food and music!

Hike #4: Muir Beach to Tennessee Valley Trail to Green Gulch Trail (9.7 miles) in Mill Valley

Wow, that’s a mouthful. But so is the meal and drink at the Pelican Inn when you arrive. If you’ve hiked the entirety of the Dipsea Trail, you’ve probably seen the Pelican Inn at some point. This is a little bit longer, more difficult route that will start you at Muir Beach, take you through the Tennessee Valley Trail (can’t-miss views of the ocean!) in Mill Valley, and eventually out onto the Green Gulch Trail. That will bring you back close to the Muir Beach parking lot, where you’ll be ready to gorge and splurge at the Inn.

Hike #5: Coastal Trail/Lands End Trail (3.3-6.6 miles) in San Francisco

Ah, a Bay Area classic! For being a big city, San Francisco has an enormous amount of beautiful, natural hiking spots within it. One of the best, and most popular, is the Lands End trail that gives you unobstructed views of the Golden Gate Bridge. If you take this trail down the coast, past the Sutro Baths, you’ll end up at one of the most iconic restaurants (with a surprisingly affordable bar), Cliff House. You can’t beat this one!

Now, for a few of my more local favorites…

Hike #6: Danville Fire Trail in Las Trampas 

Las Trampas Regional Wilderness towers over Danville on the West side of 680, and most people don’t seem to bother with it. There are so many hiking spots in the Bay Area (and the East Bay specifically), that it might not seem worth the trouble. But the Danville Fire Trail loops back onto itself, and spits you out just a few blocks from the cute downtown area of Danville, where you can do anything from grab a beer at any restaurant or taste wine at Auburn James.

Hike #7: Lafayette Reservoir Loop

No list like this would be complete without a local favorite like the Lafayette Reservoir. You can take your fur baby up for a short loop around the reservoir, or take a friend on the long loop for spectacular views of the East Bay. Once you’ve looped back to the start, tack on another half hour walk, or jump back in your car, to get to downtown Lafayette. Once there, you have no shortage of drink options, but I’d highly recommend Rustic Tavern, Chow, and The Cooperage.

New year, new kitchen?

Every year, just like in the fashion industry, there are new styles and trends to consider in real estate design. As told by foodandwine.com, there are going to be some flashy changes to kitchens in 2018. While I personally wouldn’t do some of these things to my kitchen, I can’t deny most look good! Check out a summary of their story below:

Trend #1: “Unicorn” colors

Apparently, white, glossy kitchen units were paired with gentle tones of pale pink and blue, with gold accents and a little glitter in late 2017. I don’t get this one, and not sure why it is popular!

Trend #2: Two-tone cabinets

This one I can get behind. While cabinetry is typically a light or dark shade, it seems more and more people are opting for colorful options in their kitchens. And doing two different, complementary tones is a style gaining in popularity. I  like the look of a dark blue against a light blue or a bright red against a standard neutral.

Trend #3: Morocco themes?

Consumers are playing with colorful, mosaic backsplashes, pendant lanterns, and other Moroccan-style decors to warm up their kitchens. I think if done properly and in moderation, this trend can look fantastic, but it might only be for people who really like that style.

Trend #4: Statement patterns

Some people are starting to add cabinetry, doors or islands with intricate designs and patterns on them. I don’t personally like the look – it feels like a stretch – but you may be seeing more of this in 2018.  For example, you may see zig-zagged cabinet doors or a herringbone pattern on the wall of islands.

Trend #5: Matching living room furniture

This trend is gaining momentum because having an open concept is now so popular. If you have a kitchen that opens up into a family room or dining room, you may see homeowners trying to mesh the two looks in the connected rooms. For example, a TV stand might have colors and patterns that match the kitchen, while also being a storage area for extra dishes.

Trend #6: Eco is in

More people are starting to consider environmentally-friendly options when creating their kitchens. More organic materials are being used, including plywood cabinetry, cork flooring, concrete tiles, walnut worktops and bamboo lighting.

Trend #7: Gold & copper

Even with all the eco-friendliness and experimentation, kitchens can still look glamorous. That may be the case, considering foodandwine.com expects there to be more shimmery metallics this year, especially with gold and copper. From handles to tiles to lighting to small appliances, expect more flash this year!

Trend #8: Water & wine

Hot water taps are quickly overtaking the use of kettles as they become more affordable and more practical to install. Similarly, wine coolers are cheaper and cheaper, as well as smaller, so finding a good, usable model is becoming easier. You’ll see more wine coolers in kitchens and fewer kettles in 2018.  (Side note: still love my hot pot!)

You’ve Gott’s to try the new burger joint in Walnut Creek

See what I did there? Gott’s Roadside officially opened in the old Fresh Choice space on S. Main St., across the street from The Container Store. I tried dinner there recently, and enjoyed it!

Their picture of Mt. Diablo on the wall kind of looks like my logo!

I went to Gott’s around 4:30 and there was a line out the door – the first sign that a place is new, and/or worth eating at in Walnut Creek! When we left after our meal, around 6:30, the line was just as long. The location is excellent – very easy and convenient, especially if you want a quick bite while you’re out shopping or before you go to a movie.

Some highlights of the Gott’s menu includes their milkshakes, salads and, of course, the burgers. I had a bacon cheeseburger with sweet potato and regular fries. Everything was really delicious, including the Mahi Mahi tacos my friends ordered. I also liked that they have roll-up garage doors for the summer, so you can order a wine or beer with your food and hang out in the warm months, too.

With its proximity to downtown and Broadway Plaza, as well as being walking distance to the movie theater, I think Gott’s will have staying power in Walnut Creek. Not to mention they have good food. I did find it to be a bit pricey for a self-serve restaurant, but they have to pay Walnut Creek rents.  All in all, it’s a massive improvement over what used to be there, and should be a go-to spot for hungry locals and visitors alike!

Gott’s Roadside gets 4 out of 5 Mt. Diablo’s from me.

Applying for a Home Loan? See JVM Lending’s “Don’t” List!

Once you’re pre-approved, the last thing you want to do is knock yourself out of qualifying range. My friend Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending is a great source on this issue, as he’s seen hundreds of borrowers in this situation. Now, he sends them a list of “actions to avoid” with every pre-approval letter. Heeding his advice will help you at least prevent delays and extra paperwork. Take a look!

1. Do not make large deposits that can’t be explained. When you are trying to qualify, any large deposit – think $500 for a new mattress, or all-cash payments – must be explained. Otherwise, an entire account can become invalid and unusable for qualifying. Always keep a paper trail to make large deposit explanations easier!

2. Do not take on new debt. If you increase your credit card balances, finance a vehicle, or take on debt in another way, your ratios will be impacted and it will reduce your maximum purchase price.

3. Do not take vacation days if you’re paid hourly. A single day off work can push you out of qualifying range if your debt ratios are high and approaching your limit.

4. Do not spend liquid assets. Pre-approval software relies on specific liquid asset levels. So, pre-approval amounts can change if liquid assets are significantly reduced.

5. Do not miss payments on any debts reporting on a credit report. This one is pretty obvious, and you should avoid missing payments anyway, but missing monthly payments that reduce your credit score may also reduce your qualification amount!

6. Do not co-sign for someone else’s debts. That’s a dangerous maneuver anyway, but even if you’re just a co-signer, the debt will show up on your credit report. That makes you responsible for the debt and the payments.

7. Do not file taxes with a tax liability owing, or with less income than in previous years. This mostly applies to self-employed borrowers (especially during tax season). The most recently filed tax returns will be what the qualifying income is based on, and all tax liabilities must be proven paid. JVM recommends that borrowers file an extension when possible if they are making offers during tax season.

Art Town: Geological Evolution of Mt. Diablo

Most of the art we feature here are one-off pieces. This piece, however, is multiple independent parts that come together to form one. And it’s a dazzling recreation of one of the Bay Area’s most treasured jewels: Mt. Diablo. You can check it out by the Century Theaters downtown. Give a quick stroll before or after your next movie to see it!

You can see the cascading art from the top piece (above), to the first part of the next (below). It’s granite in stone, created by Doron Robinson in 2003, and represents the geological transformation of Mt. Diablo. What a cool piece! Follow along as Mt. Diablo is created from top to bottom (or, in geological terms, from bottom to top!).

Rent in Walnut Creek causing massive restaurant and bar churn

It’s no secret that rents are extremely high in California. Rents are high in the Bay Area, especially, and Walnut Creek is no exception. For how crazy home rents can be, commercial rent prices are even worse! That’s why we’re seeing so much turnover in bars and restaurants in downtown Walnut Creek.

Napa Food and Vine

It seems like we see 10 new restaurants per month popping up downtown which keeps my blog interesting. And when those come in, something must go. Some are so short-lived, we hardly even have time to try them before they disappear!

One especially pricey area is the corner of Locust and Cypress. Sauced has taken over for Pyramid Alehouse, Sunol Ridge came and went incredibly quickly, Lark Creek Cafe is closed, and new places like Urban Alley and Gotts are popping up every time we turn around. Not to mention, the place where Chili’s was a long time ago, which most recently was Caffe Stella, is clearly too expensive for anyone to come in and stay. Not to mention Crogan’s shut down, too, which may be a blessing.

That entire intersection is constantly changing, and it’s happening all over the place in downtown Walnut Creek. I know people who have moved out of Walnut Creek, and every time they come back (even if it’s only been a few months), they say certain parts of downtown are unrecognizable. Even Walnut Creek mainstay Vic Stewart’s is going to be replaced by retail!

Roam Free

This has both good and bad effects for Walnut Creek residents. As more fancy, expensive stores go in downtown, they will raise their prices to afford their own rents. More out-of-town shoppers will clog up downtown, too. But, those of us who do live here will benefit from having more amazing new restaurants and bars to try!

Things NOT to do when your house goes on the market

You’ve probably seen endless lists about how to sell your home. Everything from choosing the realtor, to the staging, to the deliberation is under the microscope. But how often do you get told how NOT to do things? RIS Media has put together a good four-step process for how to not get in your own way when selling a home.

First, don’t over-improve the house, the article says. This is good advice. While it’s important to clean up any holes and cracks in the wall, and make sure the lighting is fresh, etc., doing too much can be damaging to your case. But if you go out and make your dream changes to the house right before you sell it, you better hope your potential buyers see it as an awesome improvement, too, and not a large project to fix.

Next, don’t over-decorate. Simple, neutral colors and decorations will be just fine. Similarly to the first point, if you decorate your home with a bunch of lace, lavender and lemon scent because they are things you like, you’ve done too much. What if a buyer walks in and is immediately overwhelmed by it all? Keep it simple. Remember, the buyers are the ones who get to decorate when they move in. This is why I pay for a staging consult; because it tells you what to remove, and then I highly recommend doing some staging as it makes a huge difference in how your home is photographed. The online view of those photos will be the first impression a prospective buyer gets, and will help them decide if they want to see your home in person.

Third, and probably most important: do not BE THERE when the buyers arrive. If your realtor is going to show the house, try to get everyone (pets included) out for a couple hours. Go to a movie. Have lunch at the park. Find a way to get out of the potential buyers’ ways, so they aren’t attacked by a bunch of people upon walking in. Remember, they want to see themselves in the house. Not you!

Lastly, don’t take things too personally. You’ve put a lot of blood, sweat, tears, money and memories into your home. When a buyer lowballs you or requests repairs, don’t be upset. They are trying to afford their newest home, too. And they might tell you the reason they have to offer low is because of something they think needs updating that you disagree with. Bite your tongue, and keep negotiating. Remember, it’s all a business!

Road Trips: Mt. Rose

Winter is here, and it’s time to hit the slopes! Hopefully, we get some more snow this week! I love going up to Tahoe to ski, especially when the sky is blue and the snow is powdery. But, unlike many who probably prefer Northstar, Squaw and Heavenly, I love Mt.Rose!  It is where I learned to ski growing up, it is a local’s resort and it has some great runs, especially if the chutes are open.

skirose.com

Mt. Rose is the highest peak in Tahoe and usually gets the most snow every winter. But it’s also just a cool place to hang out! Most of the mountains in Tahoe have villages, bars, restaurants, ice skating rinks, and other things to help you relax and recover after a day on the snow. And Mt. Rose is no exception, but it has a more casual local vibe with fun activities on the mountain and just some great runs (“Northwest” is my favorite), including a few with a view of Lake Tahoe!

In fact, they have some unique events like the Santa Crawl, where you can get heavily discounted lift tickets by dressing up as Santa for the day while you’re on the mountain. They also do a Beerfest, New Year’s Eve spectacular, poker runs and many other events throughout the year. Recently, they also added a “Magic” lift, a dual conveyer belt for one of their hills (it’s the 1st one in North America and only the 2nd one in the world!).

skirose.com

I always have a great time when I go to Mt. Rose. Usually, I stay in Reno and then it is just a 20-minute drive up the hill, but it is also easily accessed from Incline or Kings Beach; even from Northstar. They have a newer lodge on the old Slide side of the hill and many locals on a nice day will tailgate in the parking area. The Mt. Rose lodge is more crowded, but the bar is my favorite, with no kids allowed and a taco/burrito bar.