Posts by Doug Buenz

Halloween Movies

Top 5 Best Halloween Movies for the Whole Family

Best Halloween Movies for the Family

It’s the week before Halloween and you are most likely spending it getting into the spirit. After all, this is the gateway holiday to decorations, imaginations and celebrations so best to start ramping up now.

We have compiled our short list of family favorite Halloween movies that is sure to get everybody ready for Wednesday!

Hocus Pocus (1993)

What makes a better Halloween movie than three evil witches? Head to the 1600s, where Sanderson sisters (Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy) cast a spell that killed a little girl and turned her brother into an immortal black cat. Then, fast forward to the‘90s and meet Max Dennison, who just moved from Los Angeles to Salem, Massachusetts with his parents and his little sister. He’ll do anything to impress his cute neighbor, Allison, who just so happens to have access to the old Sanderson House. He even lights the Black Flame Candle, which as legend has it, will bring back the Sanderson sisters—and does! But hey, who believes in all that hocus pocus, anyway?

Beetlejuice (1988)

Young Adam and Barbara (Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis) are certainly dead, and a new family is certainly moving into their home! What to do? Cue Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton), in all his putrescence, known for expelling unwanted houseguests (and solving other problems, too). Together, the crew (with the help of living goth child Lydia) work to expel her unbearable parents and reclaim the home for good.

Monster House (2006)

One house on the street is not like the others, and teenager DJ knows it. Unfortunately, it’s harder than expected for him to convince the police and his babysitter that their neighbor’s home is actually a living, breathing monster. DJ and his friends must embark on a crazy adventure in hopes of saving the people the house has eaten (and ideally destroying it afterward). Anxiety-prone kids should pass on this one, but young horror fans will dig this film for its relatable characters and heartwarming ending.

Gremlins (1984)

A father seeks a very special gift for his son, ultimately purchasing a very cute “mogwai” (uhh…”monster”??) with strict care instructions in Chinatown. As expected, Billy does not care for the critter Gizmo exactly as instructed, and total mayhem ensues, complete with rapidly multiplying hideous monsters. The film takes place at Christmastime, but the horror here is flexible enough to creep your kids out at any time of year

It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)

We just really want to see this tradition continue forever! This sweet flick is one of several holiday-themed family favorites involving your favorite characters. Though A Charlie Brown Christmas is one of our go-to’s, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown frequently makes its way into our movie marathons in early fall. Prepare for cute costumes, trick-or-treating, and pumpkins.

Trick-or-Treat Etiquette

Trick-or-Treat Etiquette

When we reflect on our own time as active trick-or-treaters we base our actions as parents on those times, but have times changed when it comes to trick-or-treat and Halloween etiquette? In my most humble opinion they have not, but merely we look at the night through a set of different glasses.

The importance still lies in not getting tricked or at least not being “that house” that we all remember so well.

How old are you?

My mom believed in a forced retirement for the trick-or-treater. As far as she was concerned when a kid became a teen, their days of dressing up and begging for candy were over. So, much to my chagrin, I hung up my glo-stick and treat sack at 13. I’m not as tough as my mom, but I do believe that when kids get older they can’t get lazy about the tradition. That means, don’t just throw on a hockey mask and call yourself “Jason” from Friday the 13th. Don’t just don all black and call yourself a ninja. Wear an actual costume. Get creative, get kooky or get creepy, and if you show up on my doorstep on Oct. 31, I’ll give you some candy – whether you’re 3, 13 or 103.

Dark House

I’m talking to you. That woman or man who decides not to hand out candy and hides in your house until all the trick-or-treating is over. Don’t you remember what it was like to be a kid? Did you really want to grow up and be the owner of “that” house, the one that’s dark and uninviting and can’t give some kids even a lousy Dum-Dum lollipop once a year? (My apologies to the Dum-Dum lovers, but I’m all about the chocolate.) OK, fine, be that way, but at the very least remember to turn off your porch light and most of the lights in your house. Don’t waste a kid’s time thinking you’re “open for business” when you’re not.

Easy Spielberg

OK, so now I’m talking to you. That woman or man (usually a man) who gets so geeked by Halloween that you decide to take it to the extreme. Some spooky lights and noises are fine. Some can even get away with pretending to be a mummy or monster dummy sitting on the porch and then popping up suddenly and scaring the kids. (Though there’s a fine line between eliciting a delighted shriek or blood-curdling scream with this routine, so be mindful of your audience.)

But those of you who deck your houses out to make it look like the set for the next Rob Zombie horror film are taking Halloween too far. Bloody bodies hanging from trees and dismembered heads dripping lifelike-looking blood aren’t scary, they’re unsettling – especially if you’re a 6-year-old fairy and even if you’re an 8-year-old super hero. Dial it down a notch. This holiday isn’t just for you. It’s for the kids, too. And your Mike Myers (the psychopath in Halloween, not the comedic actor) act is not cool.

“Treats”

I know healthy nutrition is important, and kids should eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and all that good stuff. But not on Halloween. Don’t hand out raisins or, for goodness sake, pencils. Neither are treats. One is simply food, something kids get to eat every day, so big whoop. The other is a writing instrument, something they get to use every day, so another big whoop. Leave the everyday items in the cupboards and drawers, buy some candy and remember what this holiday is all about – a once a year opportunity for kids to dress up, roam around and eat candy and treats with abandon.

 

 

“Buyer’s” vs. “Seller’s” Market…HUH?

The housing market fluctuates between two classifications, buyer’s or seller’s market. Often the season dictates which area the market falls in but a deeper look might allow for a greater understanding and foresight on shifts. Either way strategy is crucial.

Let’s explore simple definitions and terms:

Buyers Market

Just like the name suggests, a “buyer’s market” is traditionally used to refer to market conditions where the buyer has an inherent advantage over the seller. Typically, these are times when there’s plenty of housing inventory, and buyers seem to have their pick of available properties to choose from.

Since the market is flooded with homes to choose from, properties have a tendency to stick around longer. When that happens, sellers get nervous. The added pressure of potentially not being able to sell their home means that in buyer’s markets, sellers are often flexible on sale price.

Sellers Market

On the other hand, in a “seller’s market” the seller inherently has an advantage over the buyer. This is where housing inventory has a tendency to be few and far between, leading sellers to have a greater pool of interested buyers to choose from — and, driving housing prices up.

In this case, since housing inventory is so low, houses that do go on the market tend to get a lot of attention. There’s a strong chance that sellers will have multiple offers to choose from, and, because of that, available properties tend to go under contract very quickly at or above asking price.

What Are We Currently

California in general has tipped back to a buyers market recently.

After several years of rich home price gains, the market appears to have found a limit to what people can afford. Sellers are finally responding by lowering prices more often.

Approximately 14 percent of all listings in June had undergone a price cut, that’s up from a recent low of 11.7 percent at the end of 2016, according to a new report from Zillow.

We Strategize

The good news is that we have battle-tested strategies in both housing markets and can see trends happening before they have been documented. Give us a call at 925-621-0680 to learn more or begin the strategy for your current situation.

 

 

Fall Home Checklist

Fall Home Checklist

The seasons are changing which mean that recently dormant home functions are coming alive. Heat will try to escape, water will try to get in and cold could wreak havoc. It’s time to do your fall home checklist!

Gutters

Clogged rain gutters can cause ice dams, which can lead to expensive repairs. After the leaves have fallen, clean your gutters to remove leaves, twigs, and gunk. Make sure gutters aren’t sagging and trapping water; tighten gutter hangers and downspout brackets. Replace any worn or damaged gutters and downspouts.

If you find colored grit from asphalt roof shingles in your gutters, beware. That sand-like grit helps protect shingles from the damaging ultraviolet rays of the sun. Look closely for other signs of roof damage (#5, below); it may be time for a roofing replacement.

Your downspouts should extend at least 5 feet away from your house to prevent foundation problems. If they don’t, add downspout extensions; $10 to $20 each.

Seal

Grab a couple of tubes of color-matched exterior caulk ($5 for a 12-ounce tube) and make a journey around  your home’s exterior, sealing up cracks between trim and siding, around window and door frames, and where pipes and wires enter your house. Preventing moisture from getting inside your walls is one of the least expensive — and most important — of your fall maintenance jobs. You’ll also seal air leaks that waste energy.

Pick a nice day when temps are above 50 degrees so caulk flows easily.

Roof Inspection

If you have a steep roof or a multistory house, stay safe and use binoculars to inspect your roof from the ground.

Look for warning signs: Shingles that are buckled, cracked, or missing; rust spots on flashing. Any loose, damaged, or missing shingles should be replaced immediately.

Black algae stains are just cosmetic, but masses of moss and lichen could signal roofing that’s decayed underneath. Call in a pro roofer for a $50 to $100 eval.

A plumbing vent stack usually is flashed with a rubber collar — called a boot — that may crack or loosen over time. They’ll wear out before your roof does, so make sure they’re in good shape. A pro roofer will charge $75 to $150 to replace a boot, depending on how steep your roof is.

Drainage

Take a close look at the soil around your foundation and make sure it slopes away from your house at least 6 vertical inches over 10 feet. That way, you’ll keep water from soaking the soils around your foundation, which could lead to cracks and leaks.

Be sure soil doesn’t touch your siding.

Furnace

Schedule an appointment with a heating and cooling pro to get your heating system checked and tuned up for the coming heating season. You’ll pay $50 to $100 for a checkup.

An annual maintenance contract ensures you’re at the top of the list for checks and shaves 20% off the cost of a single visit.

Change your furnace filters, too. This is a job you should do every two months anyway, but if you haven’t, now’s the time. If your HVAC includes a built-in humidifier, make sure the contractor replaces that filter.

Fireplace

To make sure your fireplace is safe, grab a flashlight and look up inside your fireplace flue to make sure the damper opens and closes properly. Open the damper and look up into the flue to make sure it’s free of birds’ nests, branches and leaves, or other obstructions. You should see daylight at the top of the chimney.

Check the firebox for cracked or missing bricks and mortar. If you spot any damage, order a professional fireplace and chimney inspection. An inspection costs $79 to $500.

You fireplace flue should be cleaned of creosote buildup every other year. A professional chimney sweep will charge $150 to $250 for the service.

Trees and Bushes

Late fall is the best time to prune plants and trees — when the summer growth cycle is over. Your goal is to keep limbs and branches at least 3 feet from your house so moisture won’t drip onto roofing and siding, and to prevent damage to your house exterior during high winds.

For advice on pruning specific plants in your region or preparing your home for fall, check with your state extension service.

Winter Rules in Golf

What Are “Winter Rules” in Golf?

We are headed (hopefully) into the wetter season, but let’s be honest, we live in California and so we are keeping our tee time!

There are seldom things more uncomfortable in golf than setting the rules with your playing companion on the first tee box and not fully understanding the rules that are being set.

We are here to help!

What are Winter Rules?

When anybody suggests, “let’s play winter rules”, you may ask, “What are winter rules in golf?” Here is what they mean:

Players have the option of lifting, cleaning and placing the ball when Winter Rules are in play.  If they choose to place the ball (versus playing it as it lies) then they must adhere to the following:

  • Before lifting the ball, the player must mark its position immediately behind the ball.
  • Having lifted the ball, the player must place it on a spot within six inches, not nearer the hole from where it originally lay.  6 inches is roughly equivalent to the length of a MGC scorecard.
  • A player may place his ball only once. If the ball subsequently moves, there is no penalty and the ball must be played as it lies. (In practice, mark, lift and clean, place within 6 inches, remove marker. After that, the ball is live.)
  • If the player fails to mark the position of the ball before lifting it or moves the ball in any other manner, such as rolling it with a club, he incurs a penalty of one stroke.

Note: Somewhat surprisingly, when placing the ball, the ball may be moved from fairway to rough and vice versa if within the allowed measuring distance from the original spot once it is not nearer the hole.

When bunkers are deemed out of play the relief is: The player must drop out of the bunker within one club length at the nearest point of relief not nearer the hole.  It is generally advisable to agree with your playing partners what is the nearest point of relief before taking the drop. And if Winter Rules are in play then you can lift, clean, and place as described above.

When bunkers are deemed to be Ground Under Repair (GUR) the player has the option of treating the bunker as out of play OR the player also has the option of playing the ball.

NOTE: When dropping in the rough if the ball rolls more than 6 inches from your marker after two drops it can be placed. 

So there you have it! Winter rules explained. Now you can adhere to suggested rules, as well as educate your partners on them.

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

The History of Pleasanton

Pleasanton CA

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?

What is Labor Day?

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 Labor Day?

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.