Marin 4th of July Activities

June 22nd, 2015 By George Crowe

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Photo courtesy of Liz West via Flickr Creative Commons

Hard to believe the 4th is already coming up next weekend, and there’s plenty to do all over Marin. Marin Mommies has a great list of fun Independence Day activities, from Nicasio to Sausalito. And if one night of fireworks isn’t enough, the Marin County Fair will have a display every night it’s running, July 1st through July 5th.

Top outdoor patio trends for summer 2015

May 19th, 2015 By George Crowe

Source: Kerrie Kelly Design Lab

Source: Kerrie Kelly Design Lab

Via Zillow Digs, some trends in patio decor. Not sure about some of them but the vertical garden idea is pretty cool.

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A Great Way to Find the Right Summer Camp

March 20th, 2015 By George Crowe

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Photo courtesy of Bay Area Discovery Museum

 

With summer coming up fast it’s time to start thinking about fun stuff to keep the kids busy. Our friends over at Marin Mommies have a handy Summer Camp Guide that lets you browse by camp activities, grade level, and location. There’s a lot to choose from–everything from arts & crafts to mountain biking–making it a fantastic resource.

Hiking Homestead Valley

March 18th, 2015 By Paula Stetler

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I have lived in Homestead Valley since 1993 and there are many things I love about this part of Mill Valley. Definitely in the top five is our abundance of hiking trails. Over the years, we’ve had friends whose house it was faster to hike to than to drive. I used to leave the house every weekday morning at 6:00 am, meet my buddy on the trail and hike the “Homestead Loop” which took an hour. I don’t get up that early anymore for my walk, and have included a few others in my regimen, but my dog and I can be spotted on the trail about once a week after dropping the kids at school.

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Our community is blessed to have the Homestead Valley Land Trust, and they put together a trail map that I think is an amazing resource for residents and visitors. It shows the Homestead trail where we now hike all the way to Amaranth, which then loops to four corners, and eventually drops us down on the Homestead-Lattie Lane trail (I didn’t know that was the name of it, we just call it Waterview). Then we turn back onto the Homestead trail to get home. This has evolved into an hour and a half work out that takes us through different terrains and microclimates, and is beautiful!

My family occasionally walks out the back door and hikes all the way to Muir Beach where we have snacks on the grass at the Pelican Inn or explore the tide pools (my husband drives there and runs back so we don’t have to walk both ways). While the map doesn’t take you that far, it could be the first step to many new adventures.

Batter Up!

February 26th, 2015 By Julie Segura

Linedrive San Rafael

With softball and baseball season right around the corner, it’s a good time to find places that can help your kids get in practice shape for their teams. I’ve been taking mine to Line Drive Baseball, which opened recently in a really convenient location in San Rafael, and it’s great!

Reasons I suggest going here:

  •      It’s an indoor facility. I know we’ve had beautiful weather but we might get some rain someday.
  •      Hours of operation are extensive.
  •      The softball pitching machines are not loopy like some other places, they are fast pitch.
  •      The management and staff are friendly and experienced.
  •      Group or private lessons are available.

They have an indoor field for rent, four batting cages, and eight hitting tunnel cages. They also have rooms for party rentals and have a variety of camps available. Check out their website for more information and prices.

3160 Kerner Blvd, San Rafael         415.233.8862    

We Could Actually See a SMART Train Soon

February 22nd, 2015 By George Crowe

Smart-train

Seems like it’s been in the works forever, but you could actually see a SMART train being tested on the tracks in Marin as soon as April, with passenger service expected to start in late 2016. At launch it’ll run from Santa Rosa to downtown San Rafael, with the extension to the Larkspur Ferry coming later.

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New Ross Valley Sewer Lateral Ordinance Means Substantial Cost for Many Home Sellers

January 12th, 2015 By George Crowe

Pipe_Responsibility

Selling a home in areas served by the Ross Valley Sanitary District got a little more complicated as of January 1st. Thanks to the new Ordinance 66, when you list a property in Fairfax, Greenbrae, Kentfield, Larkspur, Ross, or San Anselmo you now will have to have a pressure test performed on the sewer lateral if the home is more than 20 years old or the lateral hasn’t been replaced in the last 20 years. Then if the line doesn’t pass the test it will have to be replaced, and as they are saying that pretty much any older sewer lateral will fail that test, basically it’s going to mean that everyone selling a home with an older line in the RVSD will need to replace it or negotiate with the buyer to take on that responsibility. This testing requirement is also triggered by any remodeling project that costs $75,000 or more or involves adding a bathroom.

This is a big deal. Replacing a sewer lateral is often a $6,000 to $10,000 job, but can be more than that if it’s a long run or a complicated situation. And to make matters worse for some sellers, the ordinance also says that shared laterals are no longer acceptable, so if your property shares a line with a neighbor you will need to create a whole new lateral, which could get really messy if that means you need permission to dig up your neighbor’s yard and there is no easement in place.

Sellers should keep in mind that RVSD has a lateral replacement grant program under which they will pay for half the cost of replacement up to $4,000, as long as money is available in the fund for the fiscal year. Since this new ordinance will mean a lot more people will be taking advantage of that program, it might be wise to get a jump on applying if you’re going to be selling a home with an older lateral and you’re considering just doing the work up front.

While we applaud efforts to fix faulty sewer lines and think it’s an important health and environmental issue, we’re not fans of placing the burden on homeowners at the time they go to sell their property. There should be a better way to handle this than making it a point of sale requirement.

As of this writing there is no info on Ordinance 66 on the RVSD website, which is a little surprising, but here is a link to the FAQ they have made available. We have a feeling you’ll be hearing a lot more about this issue in the coming months. Feel free to get in touch with us if you need advice about the best way to approach dealing with the issue when selling your home.

What Might Have Been In Marin

January 5th, 2015 By George Crowe

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When you think about it, Marin County is remarkably undeveloped, especially when you consider how much sprawl there is all around the bay in other directions. As a recent article in the IJ highlighted, there’s a cool website where you can see illustrations of some of the crazy projects that were proposed for Marin back in the 50s and 60s. While development, or lack thereof, continues to be a controversial subject around here we think it’s safe to say it’s a good thing there isn’t a bridge to Angel Island or a freeway system stretching out to Tamales Bay.

Yes, the Mill Valley Market Is Hot

September 29th, 2014 By George Crowe

26-Shell-Rd

26 Shell Rd, Listed by Bill Stewart at Alain Pinel.

In case you needed any more proof that the market in Mill Valley is super-heated due to tons of demand and limited inventory, here’s a great example. We knew 26 Shell Rd was going to get multiple offers and go well over asking, as it has an amazing lot and tons of potential. It’s on a big, sunny parcel, in the Alto Sutton Manor neighborhood that has become very hot the last few years, with good weather by MV standards, an awesome commute location, and the revamped Edna McGuire elementary school.

The original homes in the area are modest, but many have been expanded or even completely rebuilt, and prices have been shooting up. This one has a dated but pleasant 1454 square foot home, a second bonus building, a pool, and lots of flat usable space. Asking was $1,100,00, which was an aggressive price, but it got 10 offers and closed recently for $1,603,000.

A Quick Trip to Sonoma: Ram’s Gate Winery

September 2nd, 2014 By jacquelynw

ram's-gate-bar ram's-gate-table

As you probably gathered from your extensive internet stalking and avid research on my background (or maybe just the bio at the bottom of my posts), I’m not from around here.

Luckily, my husband is. I met him on vacation in San Francisco, and the first thing he did after meeting me (literally the very next day) was throw me on the back of his motorcycle, and take me straight to Napa. There he locked me in a 5 star hotel with a champagne drip until I promised to marry him. Well….maybe it wasn’t exactly like that.  But that’s how I remember it.

Since then, I’ve learned a few things about this beautiful area I like to call home. In particular, of course, Marin. I know not to honk in traffic (it’s probably my child’s teacher or my yoga instructor.) I know that I always need to have a vegetarian option at all my dinner parties, made with organic local produce, of course. And I know not to plan anything important when Mercury is in retrograde. But the most important thing I’ve learned is just how amazing it is to live 20 minutes from the wine country.

Case in point – Saturday morning my husband’s parents surprise us with the amazing gift of taking our kids for the day to go play in the beautiful redwoods and creek beds that are Samuel P. Taylor Park. The first thing I’m preoccupied with are my neurotic fears about ticks and poison oak that I will have to deal with when they get home. Although, in all fairness, I also worry about aliens or zombies invading the earth and I am convinced I have brought home bedbugs every time I stay in a hotel. Just to put those fears in perspective, of course.

But the very next thing I think of is throwing on some sunscreen and summery outfits and heading north. Where you might ask?  Wine country, of course. We only have to drive 20 minutes from our place, and there we are – rolling hills of….well dead grass right now….but situated at the top of the first rolling hill of the official front gate of the wine country is the newly renovated property, and borderline tragically chic, Ram’s Gate.

ram's-gate-couple ram's-gate-food2

The first time we came here after the purchase and renovation of what was once the biggest lost opportunity in all of Sonoma, we were so blown away. It is, in my humble and also worthless opinion, at least in the top five, if not the number one spot of tasting rooms in both Napa and Sonoma. At the time we were just stopping in on our way to another destination in Yountville. We had the kids, and the staff was charming and inviting, encouraging our “non-member” party to sit in the plush lounge area. The kiddos were even able to get their fill of the virgin Chardonnay, aka grape juice. We bought some wine, and my husband and I decided to become members of the wine club there. We based our decision on two things: one, it was 20 minutes from our house and two they had a lovely Sauvignon Blanc. Recipe for success in my book.

After deciding to head north, but before our arrival, we grabbed a phone and called our precious Ram’s Gate. Since we hadn’t visited in a while, we wanted to know if there would be room for our last minute party of two. Luckily we erred on the side of overly cautious, otherwise the adorable girl that looked like Julianna Hough with stylishly fuchsia lipstick wouldn’t have been able to seat us. My first impression was that I was a bit turned off. The first time we arrived, and every time since, we were able to just cruise in. But, according to their website, this is a thing of the past.

Once seated inside, at our previously arranged table, I got it. This whole “make a reservation” thing was actually quite nice. Our view of the valley was amazing, and I wasn’t having to tap anyone on the shoulder to get their attention or a pour. We were seated at a table, and given the “Member’s Only Menu” which had a list of all the bottles they were currently pouring, but delectable food pairings. I mean real food pairings, for real foodies. And, I’m not just talking some things thrown together on a charcuterie board.

My first issue, however, was that it was summer, and the only whites they were pouring were Chardonnay. Not that their Chardonnay is/was bad. This is an issue for me personally, but for those of you who enjoy Chardonnay, it will be awesome. There were like 4.  However, I was lucky enough to make it there the weekend they started selling (to members only) the 2013 Sauvignon Blanc. A little bit of coercion and a giant “phew” when they agreed to let us buy a bottle and drink it there.

We decided to, in addition to our light, dry and beautiful summer white, to order two glasses of their 2012 Carneros Pinot Noir. OK – now we were ready to order, from both sections of the menu.

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The first thing that came out was what looked like giant hushpuppies. The Wagon Wheel Arancini was not, in fact, hushpuppies. But it is the closest thing I could visually relate it to. Once you cut into said hush puppies you would quickly realize that instead of something dry and crumbly you would find creamy risotto like deliciousness that tasted like mushrooms and hinted at black truffle oil.

We followed that up with the Veal Albondigas. If you’re like me and need to “dumb down” what an “Albondigas” is, they were these giant meatballs covered in a tangy tomatillo and cilantro goo that made them both savory and tingly. And, as it turns out, I’m a fan of both savory and tingly.

From there we moved on to the peaches and burrata. The Sonoma County Peaches managed to be both light and hearty with bright peachy flavors, that yes, cut the cheese nicely. (I think I spend too much time with my 7 year old.)

The Braised Rabbit and gnocchi we inhaled in a matter of minutes. I was utterly speechless.

We decided to order one last plate, and I’m glad we did. It turned out to be my favorite, and it was a little bit surprising. I’m from Texas, so meat and I go way back. But hanger steak is never one of my “go-tos.” The Hanger Steak (yes, that was the name of the item on the menu) was tender, flavor filled and served with a hearty risotto and oregano marinated feta. It was a total zinger and, paired with our choice of Pinot for the afternoon, was by far, the most enjoyable bite that we had.

After that, and since we still had a little sip of the Pinot Noir left, we ordered the Chocolate Budino to finish things off. It was the perfect blend of crunchy, chocolate and warm.

Over the course of the several hours we were there, visiting with the staff and other patrons, we really enjoyed what we saw. The view didn’t feel like we were just off the highway. We felt tucked. We didn’t feel rushed, likely thanks to the reservations set up. We were encouraged to take pictures. The Saturday afternoon vibe there was a beautiful mix of an exciting bustle and taking time to smell the bouquet. Literally.

While it would have been nice to be able to make the drive all the way into Napa, relax by the pool at one of the beautiful five star hotels and have a four course meal in Yountville, this was an incredibly wonderful runner up.

As they say, membership does indeed have its privileges.

Jacquelyn Warner is a Marin based photographer. She was born in LA, raised in Texas, and has been sipping, dipping, hiking, bbqing, shopping and drinking here in the Bay Area for the last 14 years.  She remains constant in her endless search for the perfect spot for just about anything in Marin.

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