Posts by Doug Buenz

All Treat, No Tricks!

They are coming and they want candy!

For some of us, Halloween is another holiday obligation. Don’t get us wrong, we love the act of seeing the neighborhood kids dressed in their favorite characters paying us a visit for candy, but the thought of needing to decorate the outside of your home can be daunting, especially when done improperly or not at all could result in some mild manner vandalism.

You don’t need to go full Disney in order to satisfy the requirements for a home open for candy business., and you don’t need to secure a small loan either.

Here are some practical and effective home decorations that will please even the 20 year old trick-or-treater (yes they exist).

Cobwebs

At around $5 a bag, pick up a couple packs of those stretchy cotton spider webs from any Walmart. These thing go a long way and cover a ton or space. They are also relatively easy to clean up.

Power of Pumpkins

Grab yourself a bushel of pumpkins for the front porch. You don’t need to carve them all. The simple sight of pumpkins give any porch that holiday feel so put them all over the place. Still one of the most inexpensive natural decorators there is.

Tombstones

Whether you make them yourself out of cardboard or buy a pack of the Styrofoam ones from the Halloween store, these spread out on your lawn will give waiting parents on the curb something to look at as well as cover a massive amount of space in short order. If you make them, put the names of your neighbors on them. Make them do a double take!

Hands Up

Secure yourself as many fake severed hands as possible. These are versatile decorations. Have them sticking up out of your lawn near the tombstones, attach them to trees to give the impression that there is something larger behind the tree or hand them from your gutter to give your porch that “butcher shop” look.

Lights

You do need some sort of light source for your porch if for no other reason than safety. Fake candles or luminaries are great for walkways and steps. Use orange string lights for railings and around doors or windows and replace your porch light with an orange one. If you want to invest around $100 you can get a really cool laser projector for the front lawn to cover your whole house (Target or Walmart). You don’t need spotlights, dry ice and laser shows. Unless your are into that sort of thing.

The last thing you need is some teenager teaching you a lesson for falling short in the holiday decoration department and the second to last thing you need is another expensive to-do list. Don’t fret; there are simple solutions to fitting in!

The Pumpkins Are Coming!

The Pumpkins are coming! We have fought mightily as anybody against the impending “pumpkin spice everything”. Summer is just too hard to let go of, but fall is a magical time for adults and kids, so let us embrace our falling leaf spirit and prepare!

Get your pumpkins in the Tri-Valley:

Joann’s Pumpkin Patch located at 4351 Mines Road: Pumpkin patch, animals and gold rush-era displays

Alden Nursery Pumpkin Patch, pies, hay maze, candy card, apple fishing. The nursery is located at 981 Alden Lane in Livermore.

Moore’s Pumpkin Patch Located at 6430 Dublin Ct. Rides, pumpkin patch

G & M Farms located at 487 East Airway Boulevard: Corn maze and pumpkin patch

Windmill Farms Produce located at 2255 San Ramon Valley Boulevard: Pumpkin Patch

Forest Home Farms Historic Park located at 19953 San Ramon Valley Boulevard: Pumpkin patch

Easy Pick-Up

If you are not in the mood for a full afternoon excursion of searching for the perfect pumpkin, there are grocery store options selling pumpkins in your town.

  • Trader Joe’s
  • Sprouts
  • Home Depot
  • Safeway
  • Lucky’s
  • Armstrong Nursery

Want to carve like a pro? We have all seen the super animated jack-o-lanterns then attempted to figure it out on our own, usually to end up with a pumpkin that looks more like it got into a horrible accident.

Pumpkin Masters online offers great tips and tricks and even has a youtube channel.

We just can’t fight it any longer. Fall is upon us and if we prepare now we can dazzle our neighbors.

Should I Join a Golf Club?

Are you planning to join one of the golf clubs in Ruby Hill or its neighboring areas? There are no shortages of amazing opportunities to join a country club in the area that we live in. The Ruby Hill community, Castlewood, Blackhawk and Diablo just to name a few. While one cannot underestimate the benefits of joining a golf club, there are uniform policies, prices and practices to consider before you choose whether to join.

Initiation Fees: This is the initial cost to gain access to the club.  Such fees will vary over time based on economic factors of the club (e.g. capacity rate, operating income, cash flow, etc.).  You may pay a $5,000 initiation fee while five years later a new member may get in at a bargain for just $1,500.

Monthly Dues: After you pay the initiation fee, then there will be a minimum monthly payment in order to ensure that the club has a consistent monthly cash flow to cover operating expenses (and hopefully turn a profit).  Monthly dues will vary from one club to another so it is important to inquire as to the exact charges so that the new monthly bill will fit within your budget.

Minimums: This is a minimum monthly spend on food or in the golf shop, for example, may also be required of each member.  Sometimes these minimums will supplement monthly dues but the “use it or lose it” approach with minimums ensures that the club is generating consistent revenue on a monthly basis.

Separation Policy: Eventually there may come a time for you to leave the private golf club, but doing so may present some challenges.  At some clubs, you just stop paying your dues and you are done.  For others, you may not be able to officially leave until a new member is found to replace you.  Make sure to check out the separation policy when you sign up so that there are no big surprises later.

In addition to these primary factors to learn more about there are other (deeper) factors to consider before joining a country club:

  • Is the club equity, non-equity or for profit
  • The process of joining-sponsored by current member, letters, etc.
  • Kid programs
  • Cash or non-cash club and tipping policies
  • Guest rules
  • Extra services-Social, lessons, food, tournaments, etc.

The best overall advice is to do a little homework and construct a comprehensive list of questions before going in to meet with a potential sales-person. It is very easy to get blinded once on property and faced with a salesperson leaving you with all your unanswered questions looming under your financial investment.

The History of Pleasanton

Our little big town is steeped in wonderful history!

Thank you to the Pleasanton City of Commerce for their recording and retelling of this history!

The Amador-Livermore Valley was first sighted by a Spanish soldier, Captain Pedro Fages, in 1772 while on an expedition searching for new mission sites. It was a half-century after this discovery that Jose Amador, in 1826, brought the first settlement to the valley, which still bears his name. Spanish families were awarded huge tracts of land as a result of the abandonment of the California Mission System.

Alisal, as Pleasanton was known at the time, was located on one of the main routes to the gold fields and quickly became a mercantile stopover for miners seeking their fortune in the Mother Lode. The first white settler in the immediate area of Pleasanton was Augustine Bernal in 1850. The adobe house he built on Foothill Road is still standing today. He lived there for most of his life and played a part in building aspects of the community familiar to residents today, including the racetrack that eventually brought the Alameda County Fairgrounds to Pleasanton.

John W. Kottinger, who arrived in 1851, was responsible for the naming of Pleasanton after a distinguished Civil War general, Alfred Pleasonton. However, a spelling error by a recording clerk in Washington D.C. resulted in a much more appropriate name. When the transcontinental railroads rolled into Pleasanton in 1869, the town was assured of a future. The population then was only 500, but it soon began to grow.

Ranchers and thoroughbred horse breeders were attracted to the favorable climate and abundance of water, and were soon followed by dairy farms, hop fields and vineyards. Blessed with rich soil, Pleasanton soon became the agricultural center for the Amador Valley and home to the oldest horseracing track in the nation. The hops grown here were sought by many of the largest beer producers in the United States and Europe, making Pleasanton internationally famous.

Pleasanton was incorporated in 1894 and by 1900 was a thriving community complete with the Bank of Pleasanton, the Pleasanton Hop Company, the Ruby Hill vineyard, and three fancy hotels. Main Street became a center for business and community activity and, although agriculture didn’t completely disappear, Pleasanton was on the road to becoming a modern community.

By 1930, enterprising men such as Henry J. Kaiser determined the great potential of sand and gravel below the Valley’s surface. The gravel industry has been one of the Valley’s most enduring and profitable industries throughout the last half-century. The 1960’s and 1970’s were decades of rapid population growth in the city, and by 1979, much of the land in Pleasanton was supporting homes, schools, and businesses, instead of tomatoes, cucumbers and grapes.

It was 1982 that brought one of the most dramatic turning points in the city’s history. That year, ground was broken on the first building in the 850-acre Hacienda Business Park. The park was built on swampland that had previously been considered as a site for a large mobile home park. Instead, Pleasanton became home to corporate giants and the face of the city was forever changed.

In 1994 Pleasanton celebrated its 100th anniversary as a city. Residents and visitors alike looked back on a century of extraordinary progress. A community that began as a simple home to Ohlone Indians, Pleasanton has passed through seasons as an adobe homestead for Spanish soldiers, an agricultural center, a small bedroom community, and finally, what it is today – a thriving city with excellent schools, a strong economic base and well-planned neighborhoods.

What is Labor Day?

Labor Day is Monday September 9th this year but what Exactly Is Labor Day?

Most got a three-day weekend, those that had to work dealt with a manageable level of traffic and we are once again unsure if we are allowed to wear anything white now for the rest of the year. But what really is Labor Day?

We will give a brief history of how the holiday came to be and what it means today. Sufficed to say, you can safely wear all the white you want.

How It Started

In September 1882, the unions of New York City decided to have a parade to celebrate their members being in unions, and to show support for all unions. At least 20,000 people were at the parade and anybody that came gave up a days work.

By 1887 Oregon, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Colorado made Labor Day a state holiday based on the success of their own parades held for the same reasons.

Who Exactly Started It?

Matthew Maguire, a machinist, and Peter McGuire, a carpenter, have been linked to the 1882 parade. The men were from rival unions and because of their similar sounding names the actual credit has been lost in time. In 2011, Linda Stinson, a former U.S. Department Labor Historian was tasked with deeming the creator and she arrived at the same conclusion. Hence, we give credit to both men.

President Cleveland and lawmakers in Washington wanted a federal holiday to celebrate labor and Cleveland signed an act in 1894 establishing the federal holiday “Labor Day”. Sen. James Henderson Kyle of South Dakota introduced S. 730 to make Labor Day a federal legal holiday on the first Monday of September. It was approved on June 28, 1894.

What’s Up With the Whole Wearing White Thing?

This old tradition goes back to the late Victorian era. Because the date of Labor Day was officially September 1st, it became the mark of the end of summer. Wearing white was considered a fashion faus pax after the summer holiday as it was considered the color most associated with vacation attire and to be worn at your summer cottage. We have long surpassed this fashion snafu and are more than free to wear whatever we like.

So there you have it. Not unlike other days and celebrations we celebrate as a nation, there is great meaning and historical significance to Labor Day. People have suffered long and hard for the right to take a day off, so do recognize the people that build our country and tip them the hat, even if it is white.

DING DONG-Doorbell Security Systems

Ding Dong-Doorbell Security Systems for Your Pleasanton CA Home

There are so many amazing doorbell security options out there right now but we want to cut through the chatter. Here are the top in their functions. Whether hard wired or battery, notifications or HD these are the tops in their categories.

Ring Video Doorbell 2

With RING doorbell, you’ll be able to see, hear, and speak to anyone on your doorstep, even if you’re not at home. Simply open up your smartphone, tablet, or PC, and you can interact in real-time (and in 1080 HD video) with the mailman, your spouse, or anyone else who’s ringing your doorbell via an app.

You’ll also get instant notifications on your devices when visitors press the doorbell or trigger its motion sensors. You can connect up to ten iOS, Android, Mac, or Windows devices, so everyone in your family can be plugged in if they want to be. This device also runs entirely on battery power, which means you don’t have to worry about hardwiring it to your home. When the battery is out, simply plug it into a MicroUSB cable. A single charge will last up to three months.

Nest Hello Video Doorbell

Nest may have started out as a smart thermostat company, but it has since branched off into other areas of smart home. With 24/7 streaming, this Nest doorbell ensures you won’t miss a thing when it comes to the security of your front door. It’s designed to show you a full view of your doorstep, so you’ll see people from head to toe, and you’ll be able to spot packages on the ground.

Check in whenever you feel like it, or you can scroll back through a three-hour snapshot history to make sure everything’s a-Ok. The doorbell delivers clear video and crisp audio during any time of the day or night, thanks to built-in night-vision capabilities. It offers the same security as the Nest Cam, the company’s home security camera, along with all the functionality of a doorbell.

Honeywell Skybell Trim

This Honeywell doorbell is always on, so you can begin a live video stream at any time to monitor your home, even if you’re at a remote location. Two-way audio also helps you hear and speak to visitors using your iPhone or iPad. Even if the doorbell isn’t pressed, the built-in motion sensor will let you know when someone is in front of your door.

The doorbell also features a silent mode, which lets you turn off the indoor chime and instead receive notifications on your devices — great for when you’re taking a nap and don’t want to be disturbed.

SkyBell HD

This video doorbell has a full HD 1080p camera with color night vision and a 5x zoom, so you can get a good look at who’s there day or night. When the SkyBell HD senses motion or someone rings the bell, it will start recording video. Two-way audio lets you carry on a conversation and while you’re chatting, you can take a photo of your visitor, without disrupting video recording. And, you can activate the camera at any time to check out the live feed from the front door of your Pleasanton CA home. If you don’t want to be disturbed, say the baby is taking a nap; you can put the doorbell chime in quiet mode from within the app.

 

The best thing about installing a security system in your home is that it has ROI. When/if you decide to sell, the system can help increase your resale value.

Mini Projects with Big Impact: Screens

Cleaning Your Screens

It’s such an easy thing to do and has such an impact from both sides of the window, yet an amazing amount of us balk at getting it done. Cleaning your screens reward you and your home so there is no time like the present waning summer.

Take It Off

Begin by removing screens from the windows. If you’re removing all of your home’s screens at once be sure to take the time to label each window and the proper placement for reinstallation. Trust us on this one!

Vacuum

Lay the screen flat on a white towel, and run a handheld vacuum or a vacuum with an extendable attachment over the screen gently to remove loose debris like spider webs, dust and pollen. A white towel will allow you to really see where you need to concentrate.

Flip the screen and clean the other side the same way.

Soap

In the bucket, mix 1/4 cup of liquid all-purpose cleaner with 1/2 gallon of water. Lift the screen to an upright position and gently wash over both sides of each screen from top to bottom with a sudsy sponge or microfiber cloth. This is not the time to flex muscle. Be gentle.

Rinse

Turn on the hose to run at a low pressure and rinse the screen clean. Do this before the soap has a chance to dry. Again. This is no time to rush or use brute strength. If you have a nozzle set to a powerful setting, you risk loosening the screen from the spline (especially with fiberglass screens) rendering the screen saggy or creating gaps between the screen and the frame.

Dry

Use a dry towel to absorb excess water on the screen, and allow the screens to air dry. Perhaps lay them out on the lawn in the afternoon sun for the day. Maintain the screens regularly between soapy cleanings by using an extendable vacuum to remove dust and pollen.

Finally you can open you window when there is a breeze and not feel like you live on the inside of a vacuum filter.

Four Important (But Seldom Addressed) Back-To-School Points

Once again the time is upon us, as the tans begin to fade, the last remaining grains of sand come dislodged from the places that only sand can find and new school shoes gear up for a couple of month of kicking rocks to and from the bus stop accompanied by an infinite supply of grumbling. Ah yes, a new school year full of promise as well as challenges.

Not unlike most monumental happenings, the ones less likely to survive the shift are those that choose to milk the remaining minutes out of the passing time rather than prepare for it. Some simply find themselves in a been-there, done-that mentality and invariably get bowled over by the unforeseen challenges that arise. Weather it is your first back-to-school year or you live in a shoe; we all seem to know the basics, but those aren’t enough.

Here then are 4 things that don’t make most back-to-school list that are sure to give you that veteran appearance and calm the seas for your smooth sailing.

  1. Relax on the Day One Questions

We all know that we have the most important kid in the class and we really need everybody to see that only the best will do for our prince/princess, but think about the cross examination you are about to deliver so you can have every question answered on day one, and then multiply that by the 20 other parents dropping off. Don’t add to the confusion. You have 3 things to do when you get to the school, drop off, honk and wave….that’s it !

  1. Early is so Now

This was true back in my days of being dropped off, and now imagine it with the shrinking to nonexistent attention span of the triple-shot mocha choca locha malarkey, 4 minutes late to their own funeral, no time to say hello-goodbye mom on a mission. We snicker at them until inevitably we are them. Make it a goal to not be them. Be early. “On time” is so 2000.

 

  1. Put Yourself In Their Shoes

Even if the beginning of the school year is not a cataclysmic jump, like 8th to 9th grade, the beginning of a new school year is the prime environment for anxiety to grow in. Talk to your kids in the last few weeks of summer and find out how they are feeling about the coming year. If they are too young to fully express themselves, be proactive and incorporate a nighttime book that deal with this topic in a fun and professional way. Ask what they think the other kids are expecting and help them reach that goal, but most of all, just listen. Let you child know that you’re on their team! This will take any loneliness out of the vastness of the moment.

  1. Talk To Your Kids EVERYDAY About Their Day

This is not only underrated but the first item to slip through the cracks after the first few weeks. Most families start with the intent of making the first conversation around the dinner table resemble exactly the Ozzie and Harriet shows they grew up on (did I just date myself?), but then the calendar gets heavy, siblings are coming and going and before you know it “tell us about your day” is replaced with “there are Hot Pockets in the freezer”. Find the time to ask and listen how EVERYDAY is going for your kid, all year long. You will most likely be able to hear what they aren’t telling you this way.

 

So there you have it, four things that seldom make the traditional lists but are sure to save you gray hairs or pulling it all out.

East Bay Waterparks-Beat the Heat!

There are ways to beat the impending heat right in our own backyards! Check out these local East Bay Area Waterparks.

EAST BAY AREA WATERPARKS

The Wave-Dublin

Address: 4201 Central Pkw, Dublin Ca, 94568

Check out their 6-Deck waterslide: The first level deck is home to three slides which serpentine around the slide tower supports. Whether you choose one fully enclosed or one with an open-air flume, they promise the rider lots of fun! The top level deck ratchets up the intensity with three slides; a near free-fall drop, launched from a trap door capsule, or sliding into a twisting-turning bowl; these slides are sure to thrill! See below for slide details.

Riptide Rider and The Golden Wave
Get ready to fly and swirl down several stories of fun. These slides’ unique designs are fast and thrilling with unexpected steep drops and sharp turns. The translucent flume gives spectators a great view of riders zipping through the slide. Choose from two high-speed, totally enclosed body slides, each with different dips and curves.

Riders must be 40 inches tall and weigh no more than 300 pounds.

Mt. Diablue
This spiraling open slide is a favorite for all ages and sends riders on side-winding s-curves, dips, and drops at thrilling speeds. The slide path will bring riders over the Aquadrop Bowl as they descend toward the splashdown lane.

Riders must be 40 inches tall and weigh no more than 300 pounds.

The Emerald Plunge
It’s a splash you’ll never forget. This speed slide is an open waterslide that gives you a great view of the Tri-Valley landscape as it sends guests plunging straight down into the splashdown lane below.

Riders must be between 48 and 76 inches tall, and weigh between 45 and 300 pounds.

The Dublin Screamer

Prepare for a heart-pounding, near vertical, straight down drop that you will want to ride again and again. Riders enter a launching capsule standing on a trap door and feel the adrenaline rush as the floor suddenly drops out beneath them, with a near free fall to the splashdown lane below.

Riders must be between 48 and 76 inches tall, and weigh between 45 and 300 pounds.


Shamrock Swirl

You will twist and spin your way through an enclosed tube as you enter the unique bowl-style landing. Riders will slide around the bowl until their ride comes to an end.

Riders must be 48 inches tall and weigh between 45 and 300 pounds.

OTHER EAST BAY WATERPARKS

Waterworld-Concord

Address: 1950 Waterworld Parkway, Concord, CA

At least nine water rides, a wave pool, a lazy river and family activity area pool. Attractions include the “Cliffhanger” a high-speed slide where one plummets 70 feet in under three seconds or the “Diablo Falls” where riders free fall six feet into a 10-foot deep catch pool. Must be 48 inches to ride.

Prewett Waterpark-Antioch

Address: 4701 Lone Tree Way, Antioch

Features at least six slides, three pools including a sports and lap pool, plus “Boulder Cove” an interactive area with three other slides, and a spray ground for young children.

Aqua Adventure-Fremont

Address: 40500 Paseo Padre Parkway, Fremont

The park features a Splash Pool, Lazy River, the Oasis Pool and Bucket Bay, plus several slides with a height requirement of 48 inches.

Raging Waters-San Jose

Address: 2333 South White Road, San Jose

A large waterpark featuring a plethora of slides and pools including the “Bombs Away” body slide in an enclosed capsule, the “Barracuda Blaster” two-person tube slide, plus an activity pool, lazy river and even a “Pirate’s Cove” with a play structure.

ROAD TRIP: Head North!

Maybe you just want to cool off or break the kids out the summer doldrums. Whatever the reason, the solution is NORTH!

Point Reyes Seashore

Located less than an hour and a half north of San Francisco, Point Reyes National Seashore is an absolute must for your Northern California road trip itinerary! You can make it a day stop, but we highly recommend spending 1-2 full days exploring what Point Reyes has to offer. The park is actually WAY bigger than you would think from reading on the map and the roads are in poor condition which means you must drive slower than usual. Most people who road trip Northern California spend the day at Point Reyes before moving on, but we spent two full nights right outside of the park and we think it is well worth it.

There is so much to see and do in Point Reyes National Seashore that we could write a whole post on what to do there but we will keep it short and sweet for this California road trip itinerary. Your first stop in Point Reyes is to visit the S.S. Point Reyes Shipwreck. The shipwreck is easily visible from the road and is behind a shop in the small town of Inverness. There is a parking lot, which allows you to easily walk to see the shipwreck up close and personal. It is such a cool little spot and great for photography and long exposures if you are into that sort of thing!

Santa Rosa Wineries

Santa Rosa and the entirety of Sonoma County are famous for wineries and the production of wine. If you have never been to a vineyard, now is your time to make the stop! The area surrounding Santa Rosa is stunning and wineries are picturesque. The wine drinking is a bonus too!

If you are a Charlie Brown or Snoopy fan, visit the Charles M. Schulz Museum. This museum is the largest collection of original Peanuts comics in the world and pays homage to the work of Charles M. Schulz.

The city is the urban center of Sonoma County and offers many delicious places to eat featuring locally sourced ingredients and, of course, wine!

Avenue of the Giants

The Avenue Of The Giants is a 31-mile stretch of road that runs adjacent to Highway 101 in Northern California. During your California road trip, you won’t be able to miss the Avenue Of The Giants as there are signs pointing you in the direction of where to start the drive.

The Avenue Of The Giants is located in and around Humboldt Redwoods State Park and winds through the State Park and on both sides of Highway 101.

Mt. Shasta

For this stop on your Northern California road trip, it is time to head inland to Mount Shasta. You will need to head up through Grant’s Pass, Oregon first, and then down I5 to land in

While you are at Mount Shasta, take the hike up to Heart Lake for stunning alpine views! Drive your car to Castle Lake and then take the Heart Lake trail, which loops clockwise, around Castle Lake from the parking lot. The hike is roughly 1 mile and is uphill the whole time so make sure to take lots of rests. We barely ever hike, so we took it slow and it was doable and certainly not impossible.

Lassen Volcanic National Park

If you haven’t had enough of volcanoes at Mount Shasta, you are in luck! The last stop along your Northern California road trip itinerary is to visit Lassen Volcanic National Park. Luckily, it is located in the same part of California as Burney Falls, so if you visit the waterfall you are well on your way to visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Lassen Volcanic National Park is one of the much lesser-known national parks in the United States but quite impressive to visit. If you are looking to get up close and personal with volcanoes, crystal clear pools, mud pots, and boiling hot water, them this national park is for you!

There are over 150 miles of trails in Lassen Volcanic National Park and you have the option to stay in a lodge, tent, or cabin in case you want to stay on site. You can also do Lassen Volcanic National Park as a day trip or choose to stay overnight if you wish.

Explore steam vents and meadows and the official National Park drive is quite a good way to experience Lassen Volcanic National Park if you don’t want to hike for miles. Exploring by car is one of our favorite ways to experience National Parks. Luckily, Lassen Volcanoes offers plenty of pullouts and easy hikes and walks to experience the beauty of this remote wilderness.