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!

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!

 

CaliCraft Brewing in Walnut Creek

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When we say “taste local” we mean it! Calicraft a micro brewer is opening a taproom in the Shadelands area of Walnut Creek by 2016. Perfect timing as the entire corder of Ygnacio & Oak Grove is under construction for the new Safeway Development.   To get a head start on the tastings visit your local Whole Foods (Nugget, Andronicos, Berkeley Bowl or favorite independent market) and pick up their newly announced consumer packaged items. Best known for their Cali Coast, it’s now available in 12oz 6pack cans! Thus making it safe and easy for the beach and summer outings.

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Also now available in a 4 pack 12 oz bottles is Buzzerkeley – my favorite, a unique combination of sparkling ale fermented with champagne yeast and star thistle honey – can you say hmmmm.  This beer is unique and tasty, when champagne is not available (shout out to Dawn Stom), it is one of my absolute favorites, a definite stable in my fridge, except my son tends to drink all my beer!

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Look forward to seeing you there!  If you have any other microbrew recommendations, post them here.  I know Alameda, Oakland  & Emeryville have many tasting rooms popping up.