Archive for the 'Travel' Category

Fall Is Upon Us

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P1030802This year has sailed by and I am somewhat aghast that it is November and only days until Thanksgiving.  I started the month with a party to thank all of my clients who have stuck by me through all of my travails.  It was a joy to open my new little home and share the life that I manage with friends.  The party went most of the day and at the end I was happy and very tired.

I spent a couple of days on the Central Coast this month.  It was nice to be away from my phone and not dealing with escrows and listings for two whole days.  It really seemed like a vacation.  The scenery was beautiful and the company excellent.  It was great to get away and just as terrific to come back home.

20131114_190330The weather has been very odd this year.  It is still warm during the day but very cool at night – down in the 30s.  What amazes me is all the plants that are in bloom.  I have roses in the back yard and azaleas in the front.  Last week there was a beautiful camellia blossom in front and the plant is about to burst with hundreds of bulging buds.  Usually in November I am looking to find a couple of poor examples of roses in the garden to bring a festive air to the table.  This year it has not been a problem at all.  Jan Tolmasoff of Russian River Roses fame had a rose evening in celebration of her recent published article in the American Rose, the official publication of the American Rose Society.  She discussed the pairing of roses and wine (these roses don’t look like November stragglers!) and the rose perfume and oil that she and her husband, Michael. produce.  Russian River Roses is located outside of Healdsburg and is the real thing for rosarians looking to purchase high quality bushes and visit a beautiful extensive garden.   There is a rose allee of eight 12’x12′ arches that can take my breath away.

P1030836How I know that it is about Thanksgiving is that the Joy Road Art Walk was this last weekend.  The weather was fabulous and the people came out in droves.  It was wonderful to see.  I managed to get in and out without buying anything but not because there wasn’t great things to acquire.  I am still remembering how I had too much “stuff” to fit into my new home.  That will seem even more so when I start decorating for Christmas.  I have not done more than hang the stockings for the last two years since I was off to Hawaii for Christmas – but this year I will be home and spending time with my family.

Only two more days until one of the happiest days of the year.  I have made my cranberry sauce and started buying for the Thanksgiving feast.  I plan to do my best at the yearly sock golf (yes, that has become a tradition) and not overeat.

I look back on everything I have done this month and wonder how I fit it all in.  But then I am gearing up for a busy December.

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Kauai – One More Time

Gingerbread Churches

Gingerbread Renditions of the Churches near Hanalei

Each winter I leave behind the rains of Northern California and head to the island of Kauai for warmth and sunshine.  It is not always sunny as rain is prevalent in Hawaii this time of year but no matter how wet it is, the temperature is in the perfect range of 68 to 80 degrees.  The days are filled with reading, lounging, visiting favorite spots and generally recooperating from the busy life that I love in Sonoma County.

Mai taisThe new experience this year has been to not have a rental car for the first week.  We stayed at the Marriott Beach Club which is adjacent to the airport so a shuttle is available to get back and forth.  The Marriott  is located near a number of fine places to eat and imbibe so we did not find ourselves lacking.  We actually did a lower cost week than if we had the wheels to visit restaurants outside of walking distance.  We went to Duke’s Barefoot Bar three times.  Not our favorite Mai Tais but the fish tacos and shrimp salad are really good.  Our two formal meals were at Duke’s upstairs – fabulous salad bar and great fresh fish. The only other venue we enjoyed for dinner was Kukui’s bar which allows guests to order from either Kukui’s restuarant or the sushi bar.  A great time was had by all.  We sunbathed – We read books – We played cards – We shopped – I played golf.  We discovered that a car was unnecessary in this location and that we probably relaxed more without the option of driving to various locations.

GaylordsA second week to enjoy the island with the benefit of transportation allows any pent up desires to visit specific places be satisfied.  Our first trip was to Kilohana Plantation – home of Gaylords and Koloa Rum Company.  Gaylords has been a long time favorite of mine and two years ago I was very disappointed to learn that the restaurant had been renamed Latitude 29 and the menu was completely different.  We made no plans to eat at Kilohana because of this change that I learned was suggested by a consulting company.  Clearly, other patrons in addition to myself had expressed their opinion and the name Gaylords in back.  We did not eat there this trip having just had wonderful saimin at Hamura’s in Lihue but I will put it on my list for my next excursion to Kauai.   One new addition is a beautiful bar in the living room of the Kilohana house.  The bar was not open when we were there at lunchtime but the woodwork is beautiful and the view out to the back lawn is pure Kauai.

Koloa Rum Company

Koloa Rum Company

The Koloa Rum Company has been in existence since 2009.  I visited it the month the tasting room was opened in 2010 and it is a favorite stop each trip to Kauai.  The tasting is informative and fun.  All of the ingredients are grown on Kauai and the spice rum has got to be the best in the world.  Each year there are more shops that are carrying the local product and it is showing up in local establishment Mai Tais.  The gift shop is excellent for remorabilia and the building is vintage plantation.

We are now up north at Hanalei Bay Resort in Princeville.  It would be difficult to be here without a car.  We can walk to the St. Regis to enjoy the view with a latte.  The gingerbread structures are a yearly display in the lobby, as well as beautiful Christmas trees throughout.  Everyday we drive to the local market and purchase the fresh catch of the day.  So far we have had opah, ahi and ono.  We have coated the fish with Organic Aloha Seafood Seasoning and Rub from Aloha Spice Company of Hanapepe, yet another place we are not visiting this year. Yum.  Fish, sauteed vegetables and salad greens with a local papaya dressing – nothing could be better.  Tonight will be our first night to eat in a restaurant since our move.  Today is a big day as we are going to a botanical garden for chocolate tasting.  I am looking forward to lots of pictures of flowers and having chocolate for the first time in 10 days.

Hula Girls in the Marriott Lobby

Hula Girls in the Marriott Lobby

Blogging and Living – are they compatible?

Image2012 has not been my best year for blogging.  After a couple of years of getting at least one blog a week done – I have been getting about one blog a month written and it has been something that must be said.  As I sit in my easy chair with a terrible cold (yes, I am thinking it may be bronchitis at this point), I ponder on what the differences are between 2012 and years prior.  Two things pop out immediately – the real estate market is very active which has translated into my business being active and I have found myself at home less for both personal and professional reasons.  But I must be honest here – I have plenty of time to write a quick blog.

When I started this journey of blogging, I was intent on writing about real estate and the wonderful reasons for living in Sonoma County.  I took it very literally and struggled with the content.  Then I saw the movie,  Julie and Julia, and decided that I was taking the writing far too seriously.  I started writing about what I did that was fun and whatever came to mind.  Blogging was no longer a chore but an outlet.  Last night I saw that movie, again. (Yes, when you are sick enough that moving is a painful experience, TV is a great pastime.)  While I saw the movie through different eyes, I got the same bottom line.  I need to get back into putting it down on the screen and stop keeping it all in my head.  I need something that puts me out there and that is about me.  So welcome back, Barbara, and may your readers enjoy the ride.

So what have I been doing?  As I said before, business is booming in Northern California.  Does that mean that prices are skyrocketing? No.  But it does mean that there are lots of buyers out there and at a bargain (compared to 2007) price homes are selling like hotcakes.  I hear about homes that are getting 13 to 15 offers in 3 days.  These are at the lower end of the market but I have had multiple offers at the $1M price point.  My goal is to have 3 listings at all times and I don’t mean the same three!  I have a short sale listing that is now going on it’s 9th month.  I keep holding out hope that this is the month that the stars align and all of the lien holders, sellers, buyers and new lenders are ready and in agreement at the same time.  It is a challenge but I know that it can happen.  The home on Chileno Valley Road should close on October 1 and I have a new listing in Rohnert Park that you should be able to view on this blog in the next week or so.  I know that it will sell quickly – great location – right price point.   I am looking for the replacement listings for these three so that I keep the well primed.  I could possibly handle more than three at a time but I don’t know how to give less service so there is a limit to how many I can take.  On the other side of the business, I am working with a number of buyers who are ready to buy but need to find that special property whether it is $120,000 or $2,500,000.  I love showing property so bring on the challenge.

ImageIn the midst of this real estate frenzy, I have been out of town for about half of August – some business – most pleasure.  Early in the month I drove to Los Angeles to a real estate event to catch up on the latest in marketing and business techniques.  It was inspirational and tactical – just want I needed.  Katy went with me and we stopped at my sister’s home in Cambria, visited Hearst Castle and spend some time at Disneyland.

Home for four days and then I was off to Seattle (the opening picture is from the Chihuly exhibit in Seattle by the space needle) and an Alaskan cruise.  The scenery was spectacular.  The cruise wonderful.  Business was conducted at the ports of call.

Looking forward to doing more posts when I am feeling better.  Cheers.

2011 Has Been A Wonderful Year

Happy American Canyon Buyers and Los Altos Sellers!

The last day of 2011 and what a year it has been.  When January 2011 came around, I had no idea where I was going or what the year was going to bring.  My first post was about the increased and difficult business of real estate.  Thankfully the volume continued and I am pleased to report that I closed more transactions than I have in any other year of my real estate career.  The year finished as it had begun with a flurry of activity.  Alas, the difficultly continues as sales are plagued with late appraisals, slow loan approvals and the hurry-up-and-wait process of short sales and bank-owned properties.  Home values have continued to decline except in those few areas where the prices fell so precipitously that there is nowhere to go but up – specifically Rohnert Park has seen some price increases in single family homes.  This December was a very busy month.  Not only was I working on Sonoma County real estate but I closed transactions in American Canyon (Napa County), Los Altos (Santa Clara County) and Lakehead (Shasta County).  These put a few miles on my car but I love working with great folks and these buyers and sellers were top-notch in my book.  I would go anywhere in the State of California for people like them.  And speaking of going – I only attended 8 parties in 14 days during this frenzy of work.  I needed a rest week after Christmas.

View from a Bedroom Window - No difference which one - they are all fantastic!

I am starting 2012 with a listing that I expect to be of great interest to anyone looking for a luxury weekend getaway.  Privacy, space and up-to-the-minute elegance is the best description.  This modern tree house is in a wonderfully sunny spot on Green Valley Road.  It will hit the market late January and you can be certain that you will see it on this blog.  There are many people looking for bargains in real estate and I am working to serve them.  But enough about 2012.  This post is about 2011!

The statistics for this blog were sent to me today.  Around 5,300 hits in 2011 with 35 posts.  I have made a New Year’s resolution that you will get a weekly update on Sonoma real estate.  This is something I follow and I should be sharing the information.  I was surprised to learn that my most read post in 2011 was the one I wrote in May of 2009 on our Redwood Empire Rose Show.  I guess that tells me that I should be more diligent about reporting on the Rose Society.   And, of course, I will continue sharing events around Sonoma County and my travels.  I don’t expect much traveling this year but then, one never knows.

Just a quick report on the Sonoma County real estate numbers.  Here are some numbers comparing November 2010 to November 2011.  The months of inventory (meaning – at the rate houses are selling, how many months would it take to sell all the houses on the market if no new ones were added for sale) has dropped significantly from 5.9 months to 3.3 months.  This is an indicator that buyers are taking advantage of these great prices and low interest rates.  Another interesting fact is that while the average list price has increased from $616,000 to $773,000 (about a 25% increase), the averages sales price has only increased from $374,000 to $386,000 (only a 3% increase).  This tells us that more expensive houses are coming onto the market as owners realize that holding out for better prices may not be a good idea.  The lower priced homes are not getting any lower and the higher priced homes are seeing a price compression.

Maike in Kauai

This last week I have spent on Kauai with my granddaughter – oh, and her parents and my friend, Katy.  What a great way to spend Christmas – no hassle, no clean up, no expectations.  We have had a wonderful time and I may get to reporting on our activities here.  But now it is New Year’s Eve and I wish the very best of 2012 to all my readers, colleagues and friends.

View of Bali Hai from the St. Regis Beach

Every San Francisco Christmas Trip is More Fun

Skyline from Our Room

Christmas season weekend in San Francisco is a yearly tradition.  This year it was just my friend, Barbara Benda and me – just like the old days.  We saw a few Santas (remember all of the Santas saw last year?).  We took in the decorations (Gumps is still my favorite.)  But the winners this year for our attention were our accommodations and dining.  Well, maybe the real winner was the weather – I wore a light weight sweater and felt warm as we waited for the lights.

Our Comfy Chaise

Our room was at the Stanford Court Hotel on Nob Hill and it was roomy, sunny and comfy.  The view was terrific.  We hung out on the chaise, did a little reading and enjoyed ourselves immensely.  After a bout of shopping, we came back to our wonderful hotel and changed for dinner.  I have always wanted to dine at Gary Denko down in the wharf area.  This meal was yummy, yummy, yummy.  I  have had spectacular meals in my life but this one was tasty, so much fun and worth every penny – very special.  We showed up at 5:30 and got the last two seats at the bar.  The concierge says that the times to get a seat are 5, 7 and 9.  We were very lucky to snag places.

Christmas Decorations at Gary Denko Bar

After dinner we went to Fela, a play that is music and dance.  I could go into the details but you can Google it if you want know more.  It was energetic and entertaining but with the first act being one hour and twenty-two minutes, we slipped out at intermission to get back to the Stanford Court Hotel.

Sunday was sleeping in, working out at the gym and getting a bit of Christmas shopping done.  Another year has passed and we are looking forward to next year.  I love Sonoma County and that fact that it was so close to San Francisco is part of that.

Christmas Display at Gumps

A Weekend at Home

The Beverage Bar at Howard's Station - Occidental

There has not been much time to post interesting things in the last few weeks.  I have been busy with work which is a very good thing.  In addition to having some active escrows, I am taking a class on all the latest techniques in real estate.  The class is Sales Power and the developer is Tom Ferry – coach to some of the most successful real estate agents in the world.  With all this intensity,  I decided that I was in need of a mini vacation this weekend.  Am I ever lucky to live in the best place to vacation in the world.  I read today that Sonoma County is one of the top ten places to vacation according to Traveler Magazine – no news to me!

So what does one do when they have two days blocked for just fun?  It started Friday evening in Pleasanton.  My class is in Danville (about an hour from my office in  Rohnert Park) so I just stayed over and watched the final game of the World Series.  My hostess is a St. Louis native so the game was a great omen for the weekend.

Watching the Penguins Eat

Saturday morning I hopped in the car and met my son and his family at the Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park.  I had not visited since my children were in grade school.  The new building opened about three years ago so it was a wonderful surprise.  We got to watch the penguins be fed as well as the large fish in the rainforest.  I don’t know which Maike liked best – the macaws or the ramp that wound around the rainforest.  I can vouch that the climate was like Borneo as the sign announced.  We had a wonderful lunch at the cafe in the museum and then played in the special area for the Under Age 5 crowd.

Maike Loved the Macaws

After a fond farewell, the kids headed home and I ran up to Harding Park where the Charles Schwab Cup Tournament will be held this coming week.   The evening ended with a tasty dinner at the bar of Underwood Bar and Bistro in Graton.

With such a great day, what could I do to follow it up?  My daughter was available to partake in breakfast at Howard’s Station in Occidental and a long walk at Shell Beach.  This is my favorite relaxation morning.  What a treat!

This afternoon I ran a few errands, visited friends outside of Forestville and hung around the house.   Is there any place else that I could vacation and feel ready to take on another very full week?  I love Sonoma County and the whole Bay Area of Northern California.

The Pacific Ocean Off Shell Beach

Take Me Out To The Ball Game

The Rain is Only a Delay

Last Saturday the sky was falling with one of those all to familiar rains. (I am hoping they are gone for the season now!  They should be.)  But there was a break predicted at noon and that was in time for the Giants to at least begin the game.  I started following the Giants last year – a resurgence of a childhood fascination with baseball.  I had not been to a baseball game since June 24, 2003.  Long story as to why I remember that – not fit for a blog.  RE/MAX was a sponsor of the day (check out the RE/MAX balloon by the screen.)  I got an email asking if I wanted to buy tickets for the June 4th game.   Why not?  Little did I know that it was going to be a very wet day.

So I am stilling looking for someone crazy enough to go to San Francisco in the rain on the hopes that we will see a Giants game at 8:00 AM on the day of the game.  I think of Gail, friend-in-crime from Kauai trip in January.  I showed up at her door in 45 minutes and there she was in full Giant’s regalia – Giant’s Shirt – black hat – she forgot the glove!  We drove through pouring rain but when we got to San Francisco there were only a few drops of rain.  By the time we reached the ballpark there was a light mist.  When we sat down in our COVERED seats, the sky started showing some blue..

Cody Ross Bobblehead

At the time to start the game, the crew began removing the tarp from the infield.  It was an interesting process that I have never seen before.  Kind of like a pre-show.  Thirty minutes after the scheduled start time, the first pitch was thrown.

Saturday was CODY ROSS BUBBLEHEAD day.   I have to admit that the Giants have never won when I was at the game.  And Saturday was no different.  They win more times than not these days but I am not taking it personal.  At least Cody Ross hit a home run.  It was the only run that the Giants got.  But on the positive notes – the game was exciting, there was not a drop of rain during the game (or on the drive home), AT&T Park is  great place.  We got to see great ball and have a wonderful day.

Since Saturday the Giants have won 3 out of the last 4 games.   I had a great time on Saturday and look forward to the next chance I get to attend a Giant’s game.

Removing the Tarp

National Tropical Botanical Garden on Kauai

Looking Down on Lawai Kai and the Allerton Home

It has been almost two weeks since I have returned from the warmth and relaxation of my Kauai vacation.  As I sit huddled by my propane furnace in a quilted jacket and sweater pants it seems like a faint memory.  But I have my pictures and I can relive the experience through sharing with my friends.  Here is one of the highlights of my trip.  I hope that you can catch a glimpse of my enjoyment.

Moreton Bay Figs planted in 1940

The National Tropical Botanical Garden is headquartered in Kalaheo, Kauai and is comprised of five locations.  Three of these gardens are located on the Island of Kauai.  Allerton Garden is my favorite one and a place I visit on most trips to Kauai.  Nestled along the southern coast, Allerton Garden has been a destination for visitors for as long as the island has had inhabitants.  Ancient fishpond and taro fields signal that the early Polynesian voyagers settled along the Lawai Stream.  Queen Emma used Lawai Kai as her retreat from the politics of Honolulu.  When she died in 1885, the property became the property of the McBryde family.  While Queen Emma preferred a home at higher ground that overlooked the bay, Alexander McBryde moved her cottage to the beach where he could enjoy the beach just steps from his door.  In 1938, Robert Allerton of the Chicago stockyard Allerton family purchased the property as a place to build the garden of his dreams.  Thanks to Allerton the world has many species of exotic plants from throughout the world which he carefully gathered on his many travels.  Also, the Allerton Garden has been the backdrop for many movies and TV shows – think of Jurassic Park or “the plane, the plane” of Fantasy Island.

Allerton Home at Lawai Kai

Many of my family members and friends have been taken to Allerton Garden while staying on the island with us.  One couple and family was just staying at the same resort and I got them on the tour.  There are garden rooms a la Hidcote Manor, follies  that could charm Queen Victoria and orchards of an Italian villa.  Each time I visit I ask “When we can go inside the Allerton home?”  Every answer has been that the groundskeeper for the Allertons was given a life tenancy for the home.  This year as we were looking over the beach our guide said “we no longer go to the beach on this tour.”  My senses heightened – what does this mean?  There is now a Sunset Tour which includes the beach and dinner at the Allerton home.  Yeah!!!!!!!!!  Do you think I was excited?

Kimono in Allerton Living Room

The home is a very modest two bedrooms and an extensive kitchen for entertaining.  Guests have ranged from Jackie Onassis to John Wayne and Henry Kissinger.  The floors are no longer beautiful wood and the library shelves are bare as the hurricanes have taken tolls over the years.  Whatever the case, I was thrilled to have seen the inside and dine on the lanai.  The legend is that dinner guests were required to choose from the extensive costume collection owned by the Allertons.  John Wayne preferred the garb of a Middle Eastern Sultan and Richard Nixon was reported to wear his wingtips while dressed in a toga.   Some of these beautiful garments now adorn the walls of the home.  Botanical prints are prominent among the artwork.  A lovely Japanese triptych of a tea garden scene hangs in the master bedroom which looks out to the bay.

The gardens are not fully in bloom during the winter months – yes, even Hawaii has seasons.  But there was ample structure in the gardens to make them spectacular and a few blooms grace this paradise even in January.

Ginger Plant

Watching Humpback Whales off of Maui

Spy Hopping with a Friend

Visiting Hawaii in late January through early April has the added benefit of observing the humpback whales in their winter playground.  The humpback whales migrate from the shores of Alaska where they feed each summer to Baja California or Hawaii for giving birth to their calves and mating for the next year.  The majority of the whales go to a channel between the islands of Maui, Lanai and Molokai.

This is where Gail Winmill-Lee and I went on the Pacific Whale Foundation boats (yes, that is plural.  We did an afternoon ride and then got up at 5 A.M. for a second before we caught our flight for Kauai) for whale watching.  To say that it was spectacular is a complete understatement.  We spent a great deal of time watching three whales play around the boat.  The picture above is one of the whales (which was determined to be a female by the naturalist on our boat) doing a “spy hop” while her friend swam around her.  You can see the dorsal fin in front of her.

Barnacles on the Chin of a Whale - taken by Gail Winmill-Lee

Gail is a whale watching aficianado.  She volunteers at Bodega Head and has traveled with National Geographic to see the whales in Baja. She purchased a new digital camera with a long lens so that she could get close up shots.  She was not prepared for what she saw.  The picture to the left is taken by her about the same time as I took the picture above which I have cropped.  The whale was so close that she could not get it all in the frame!

I don’t think I need to say anymore – I just need to put in the pictures.

Breaching Whale - taken by Gail Winmill-Lee

A very happy Gail with her Nikon Camera

Fluke - taken by Gail Winmill-Lee

Sleeping in Seattle

October has been a month of change and more change.  I thought that I had done as much changing as possible over the last year but here I am embarking on yet another move.  No not to Seattle as this post might indicate but I have moved my license to CPS – Property Advocates in Rohnert Park.  A future post will tell all about it.  For now I am just going to report on my visit to Seattle.

I decided that the best way to make a smooth transition from one brokerage to another was to get out of Dodge for a few days.  My nephew, Matt, is regularly asking me to visit Seattle and telling me that he and his partner, Bill, have plenty of room for me.  With the great airfares on Horizon from Santa Rosa to Seattle, it seemed the perfect respite for this transition.  I have definitely not found myself sleepless while here.  The guest bed is really comfortable and comes with an eager sleeping partner, Miss Meow.  I learned very quickly that Miss Meow believes that she owns the bed and that it is best to close the door tightly if one does not want her affections.  Miss Meow cries like a baby.  No kidding – she sounds just like a newborn infant.  I bit startling when you are not fully awake.

Peppers at Pike Marketplace

On my first full day, Matt took me to Pike Market to see the fish, vegetables and flowers.  What a vibrant display!  We visited the Picasso exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum.  It was a wonderful display from the Musee National Picasso, Paris.  Over 150 works were in the exhibit and they brought back great memories of visiting the Musee Picasso in 1997.  Lunch at the Four Seasons with a view of the Sound capped the outing.

 

Pioneer Square in the Evening

Pioneer Square is just one of the interesting sections of town.  Old buildings, incubators for tech start-ups and intriguing shops make for a wonderful walk around.

 

I have been very fortunate to not have all rain while visiting.  Wednesday was sunny and warm.   Today is blue sky and only a fleece vest.  Unusual and a relief from the rain at home.


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