I am a Real Estate Mogul!

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My new home with Christmas Lights

I closed escrow on my new home in Rohnert Park yesterday. I have the keys and the Christmas tree is up! Eight years ago as I was seeing the loss of my beautiful home in Forestville (yes, that was documented on this very blog!), I thought that I would never own a home again. My marriage was at an end with resources split down the middle, I was going to rent somewhere (and I did not know where), the real estate market was in the depths of depression and I was in a pretty bad place. I put on a  good show of being positive and I did rent a darling farmhouse out on Joy Road. It was a great place for healing.

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My Farmhouse Living Room

In the summer of 2011 I purchased some property in downtown Forestville. Actually for total transparency, my IRA purchased the property. It was a real bargain and has been a great investment. It is just a couple of blocks from my old home and it has given me extra income when I needed it the most.

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Friends celebrating my Townhouse Purcahse

Two years later the real estate market was just beginning to take an uptick and I decided if I was ever going to own my own home again, the time was now. I purchased a two bedroom, two bath townhouse in Sebastopol.  I am still amazed that I was able to qualify for a 95% loan and that someone was willing to accept my offer. Was that ever a great decision! The prices of homes in Sebastopol (all of Sonoma County to be more accurate) have gone through the roof. I have loved it here but have missed having a garden to grow my roses and those stairs seem to be taking a toll on my knees. This last June Chris and Laura needed to move from their rental when it was put on the market. Six weeks did not seem to be much of an inconvenience so the family of 4 moved into my spare room. Alas, it has been six months and we are all still here!

Yesterday was the beginning of my having a home for myself. I have great tenants in Forestville, my grandchildren have a great place in Sebastopol with school and friends, and I have a garden in which to play.

We knew that my new home is a fixer. It needs a heater which will be installed next week in time for Christmas. While changing the locks last night, we discovered that we need new doors for all doors not just the two we anticipated. When the water was turned on at the kitchen sink, it flowed directly to the cabinet. Looks like some plumbing needs to be addressed. I am sure that this list will grow as the week goes on. So exciting to be a homeowner!

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Family helping make my new house a home!

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I am back! Welcome to my blog.

Collage_2017I cannot believe that it has been 18 months since I posted.  It has been a very busy 18 months full of selling homes, spending time with my granddaughters and taking in the bounty of the this beautiful land. I have been working all of this time and am pleased with the results BUT I have the need to start writing. There is an excitement in my own life but is contrasted with the devastation from the fires that destroyed so many homes and landscape. Here is just one of many images of homes that I have sold over the years.

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It will be years before our neighborhoods and landscapes will recover. There is much concern that the real estate market will be as negatively impacted as the landscape. Yes, it is impacted. Rentals have been scooped up immediately. Homes are flying off the market. But I am working on 4 places that will go on the market in the next few weeks. Life goes on no matter how bad it feels.

In 2 days I will be moving into my new home in Rohnert Park! I have to say that it is not a great house but I am going to turn it into a fantastic home. I will have a yard and I will dazzle the neighborhood with a magnificant yard. I am so excited.  I made my first offer on this home in July. I am paying more than I wanted and it has taken forever.  Why? Because it is a short sale. A few years ago these were very common and while we did not love dealing with them, the banks had figured out how to get the home sold in a month or so.  Today it was like they had never seen a short sale. It has been an extremely frustrating experience.  But it is finally happening.

I have gotten the question, “Why are you moving from Sebastopol to Rohnert Park?” Bottom line is that I am moving from a two story townhouse with a tiny yard and stairs to a large yard and single level single family residence. The yard is a clean slate and I am already planning the gardens, both front and back. And it is only a few minutes from my office – which has very little to do with any decision.

Did I mention that I will be doing a bit of remodeling? I have no idea how much I will be changing but the house needs some basic infrastructure improvements. I plan to share the process and decision making. So stay tuned to see all the changes!

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Over Napa Valley

imageThere are many busy weekends in my life but this last weekend was a banner weekend. What does that mean? It was full of the greatest adventures and milestones. Saturday began at 5:30AM at the Napa Marriott where we met up with about 100 people to do a hot air balloon ride over Napa Valley. This is something I have wanted to do for years.  Six years ago I tried to book a ride in Sonoma County and found that there are not as many days of great ballooning weather due to the coastal location. Thanks to Ken Raith, pictured above, our group of five had an incredible ride this year to commemorate three birthdays.

imageThe ride was not without some challenges as our balloon did not want to inflat. There were five balloons that each held around 20 people. Once the other four balloons were in the air, the ground crews from all of them came over and helped our crew. Once we were in the air, it was obvious that Balloons Above the Valley is not the only company that gets people out at the crack of dawn for an early morning ride.image

imageI have driven up and down Hwy 29 in Napa many times but this was a view that I had never seen. We lifted off a bit north of the City of Napa and floated past the Veteran’s home (did you know that they have a golf course?) and traveled past Yountville in the quiet, cool morning air.  It was quiet other than the short bursts of butane flames to keep up afloat. This little estate is one thing that I have missed all these years!

The time in the air was about an hour which seemed like less than fifteen minutes. Our pilot, Russ, who travels from Minnesota every summer to balloon over Napa, set us down with a smooth landing in Alston Park, west of the city of Napa.  We headed back to the Marriott for a champagne brunch. It was the perfect way to celebrate the three June birthdays in our group.

imageNow this is just the beginning of my weekend as the brunch was over about 10AM!  Once I knew that the champagne was not effecting my ability to drive, I headed to Santa Barbara. Check in here a few days from now and see how the week is progressing!

Memorial Day Weekend

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This weekend is not about how many fun events I can attend or how many houses I can show. This weekend is about remembering those who served to maintain our freedoms and being thankful for the lives we have due to the fact that we live in the best country on the planet. I made the decision that this weekend was about friends and family. My weekend to feel and act truly thankful.

I began my Sunday morning with a walk down Joe Rodota Bikepath to the Sebastopol Farmer’s Market.  One thing about this market is that there is a bit of everything.

Whether you are looking for produce, meat, clothing, flowers, baskets, breads, hats, etc., you will find a variety at the Sunday morning market each week. There were imageso many choices that I could not make up my mind.  I decided that it was best to browse the rest of downtown and see what sales were being offered for the weekend. I love Sole’s Desire for shoes and  Silk Moon for clothing and I was able to resist the temptations. But I was caught by a sale at Copperfields Book Store and seduced into purchasing two books so that I could get a third free. While standing in line I saw a new release (hardcover, of course) of Sweetbitter, a novel previewed in Bon Appetit this last month. So off, I go with four books instead of lettuce in my shopping bag.  After having succumbed to my fatal flaw – books, I decided to risk visiting Cultivate, the best kitchen and entertaining shop in Sebastopol – or better stated – west of Santa Rosa.  It was not two minutes before I saw “the sign.” It is the perfect gift for my latest buyer. I am planning on seeing her on Sunday and this is perfect.

imageI buy the sign, slip it into my bag and head for home the fastest route possible. Have I ever mentioned that getting home from downtown is mostly uphill? So off I traipse with four books and a wooden sign. Deciding to make the trip as pleasant as possible I walked to Florence Street to look at the beautiful gardens and Patrick Amiot sculptures on my way back. Feeling content, I arrived home and had a pleasant evening recovering from a walk with a heavy load.

Memorial Day is finally here! Today is sharing time and food with friends. I had a quick trip to the local market and finished making the salad right in time to leave for lunch. A group of us took a picnic to our friend, Phyllis, whom we can no longer take out.  So off we go to Primrose. It was a wonderful lunch.

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With a half hour to spare, I was off to deliver the sign. The ride to Monte Rio was traffic free and the river was beautiful. Nothing like a happy client (now great friend) at her river home.

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Memorial Day Weekend – Back on the Page

imageI have been absent from my blog and a bit from my life for the last year or so.  Maybe even before that but I can’t really remember.  In honor of Memorial Day, I am returning to both!  I started this weekend with a return to my much younger self by having a dinner party that was a flash from the past.  Julia Child & Company  was the inspiration and I had three couples over for a wonderful evening.  I got so involved in the cooking, serving and imagedrinking that I forgot to take pictures!  The meal was enhanced by consuming Walker Station 2012 “Leslie” Pinot Noir and Siduri Ewald Vineyards 2009.  Neither the Ewalds or the Walkers could join us so we included them by having their wines. Needless to say, they were both fabulous and greatly enjoyed. To add to the meal of pork tenderloin and all the other great foods that go along with it, we had rosemary focaccia from Nightingale Bakery in Forestville.  The bakery is not often open but when it is, there is a line out the door. Look for it in downtown Forestville.

imageSaturday morning I was off to SF to pick Jen up from an evening of visiting friends.  I have not been in San Francisco (other than to run down to the DeYoung a few times) in ages and it was a beautiful day for visiting some old haunts.

I am sad to say that Alex Bakery on Clement Street is no longer open. For those of you not local to SF, Clement Street is populated with a plethora of Chinese dim sum eateries – mainly for take out.  The Alex Bakery has been a favorite for years. Made the best steamed pork buns around. Not to be denied dim sum, we needed to browse the other places and settled on imageGood Luck Dim Sum just a couple of blocks down the road. Jen thinks that the name was not a good choice for a restaurant but the food was tasty.  I think it was meant to tell us we would have good luck if we ate there and she thought it was taking a chance.  Oh, the differences in perspective!  We took in the culinary sites on our way back to the car. Fresh durian and soft shelled crabs made me reminisce about my days in Singapore and Malaysia. The streets were bustling with shoppers and I am sure some tourists but this is a really local neighborhood without the tourist places of Chinatown.  We ate it on the way home – by the veterans’ cemetery in the Presidio which was decked out with flags are every gravestone and the Golden Gate Bridge was brimming with people presumably celebrating its anniversary. It was a great outing with little effort or money.

We drove home via Valley Ford where the Oysterpalooza was going full steam. If you have never been there and love live music put it on your calendar for next year.  It has been going since 2008 and will certainly return next year.  Even the small town of Bodega (and that is not Bodega Bay!) was hopping. Can’t wait for Day 2 of the weekend.  Check back to see what else is happening in my village.

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Artist Profile – Jessica Snowden

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Jessica Snowden is your “every mother” of Santa Rosa. Tucked in a quiet neighborhood with her husband, two teenagers and a couple of cats, there is only a hint of what lies inside her home from the exterior – that hint being a hand painted sign announcing that no normal family lives inside. Step through the front door and you are greeted by the studio where Jessica creates her current offerings.

Jessica has always loved to draw, paint and craft. Growing up with an artist as a mother, she is no stranger to trying something new. But like so many artists (or people in general), Jessica did not make a straight line to successful painter. In high school she aspired to be a fashion designer but enrolled at SRJC with a Business Marketing major. Married and beginning a family, she and her husband moved to Lakeport for a few years and life was all consuming. But a move back to Santa Rosa and a gift of water pencils from her mother made a major shift in direction. Jessica began experimenting and creating. She developed a line of gift products that highlighted butterflies, animals and flowers on pill cases, boxes, small canvases and jewelry. These treasures were sold at local boutiques for about 3 years until Jessica started focusing on her paintings.

SoCo Coffee on 4th Street was Jessica’s first solo show. Comfortable with the space and known to the owners since her book club met over coffee regularly, Jessica asked if she could display her paintings of sunsets, sunrises and stars.  Last June the show was a complete success. Two paintings were sold and a new enterprise was launched. Jessica downplays her marketing abilities but it is clear that those years at SRJC were not lost in her art career progression.  Jessica is now preparing Looking to the Skies, a series of 150 paintings to be presented at the Finley Community Center from March 31 to May 21, 2015.  The Reception is Friday, April 3 from 5 to 7 pm. The paintings are vibrantly colored and often in silhouette. The messages (to me at least!) are calmness, life and whimsy.

If you wonder where else you may have seen Jessica’s name, Jessica has been a longtime art instructor volunteer in Santa Rosa schools. She teaches at the Community Center. This spring her classes are Intro to Treasure Hunting – an experience in geocaching and Made to Wear – jewelry class for 7-13 year olds. Google “geocaching” and learn about this family oriented, outdoor activity. Jessica also works at the Sonoma County Library in the adult literacy program. Oh, and did I mention that Jessica is mom to two teenagers?

Jessica believes that her art keeps her grounded and focused. The word “progression” comes up in her conversation regularly. Life’s lessons are reflected in the creation of art. There are no mistakes. Your creations are not like anyone else’s. Accept that things start one way and something else comes out. Patience yields the best results.

Plan to visit Looking to the Skies.

 

Barrel Tasting on the Russian River

Barrels

Barrel tasting is a tradition in many wine areas and a great deal of fun in the Russian River area.  No – you do not taste the barrel but you taste the wine that  is still in  the barrel!  This is a great time to try new vintages before they are bottled and you can get them at reduced prices which are referred to as “futures”.

Check inThis year I passed on the daytime tasting to go to a private barrel tasting at Dutton Estates which is at the corner of Hwy 116 and Green Valley Road – between Sebastopol and Forestville. This was for wine club members only and is much less crowded.  Plus we were able to taste from the barrel and do a vertical tasting  of the last couple of years.  Yes, each vintage is different but to experience the maturation of a wine with time in the bottle is always fun.

This is not a food pairing or themed event.  IT IS ALL ABOUT THE WINE!  And it is happening all over again next weekend, March 14 and 15.  Check out the website and see if your favorite winery is participating and learn about some new ones. http://www.wineroad.com/events/barrel_tasting/11

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Tasting from the Barrel

 

Pouring from the Bottle

Pouring from the Bottle


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