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Super Bowl Dilemma: Stadium or Sofa?

Super_Bowl_50_tickets

 

So maybe you are not going to the Super Bowl, and if you are like me, your ticket got lost in the mail. Before you cry yourself a river or come up with other brilliant excuses, like you are volunteering at a food shelter on Super Bowl night, be real, you live in the Bay Area.

 

Not everyone who lives in the Bay Area is a billionaire. Billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Larry Page, some VCs, and quite a few others, can afford to buy both Super Bowl teams in the final. The rest of us live here because we really love the area, and it is an excellent place to raise our kids, even with the very high cost of living.

 

So whatever $4,000 tickets are left over from Silicon Valley ballers, or those who cashed in their 6 Google shares, or Facebook stocks to bankroll their tickets, let’s face it, there are many more exciting things you can do with your money instead of buying that ridiculously expensive Super Bowl ticket.

 

For example:

Mortgage.

 

1. Pay 100% of your mortgage or your rent. If you live in Palo Alto it would be 75% of your rent and 50% of your mortgage.

 

Vacation and travel, a huge pile of things for the holiday

 

 

2. Got kids? Well that’s 50% out of your summer family vacation funds for keeping up with the Joneses, the Patels the Lees or whoever.

 

Montessori cylinder classroom

 

 

3. Pay for 50% of your kid’s preschool. However, if your child is enrolled in a program that promises, your child will know more about quantum physics than you by the time they get to kindergarten, then that would be 25% of the tuition.

 

mary poppins nanny

 

4. Two months payment to a childcare facility or if you have a full time babysitter, that is one month’s payment.

 

5. Six car payments on that carpooling luxury seven-seater you own.

 

smiling little girl in white blank t-shirt

 

 

6. Six months of tutoring, music, language, or Kumon, classes for your kids.

 

tesla

 

 

 

7. This could be a cool 4% down payment on that Tesla you are still dreaming of owning.

 

 

pasa swimming

 

 

8. Those elite sports teams that your kids are playing on. That Super Bowl ticket is annual fees to help get your child to Stanford or some other school you think the investment will pay off.

 

pie donations palo alto

 

9.  School district PiE donations keeping you up at nights? Consider the $4000, PiE and PTA contributions all wrapped in one. Of course that is if you have more than one child enrolled in public school.  If your kids are in private schools, then maybe you should not be going to the Super Bowl.

 

 

 Young businessman talking on the phone at the office

 

 

10. Your accountant called, and he wants his $4,000 fee for doing your taxes. He said that the rate has something to do with all the stock options stuff.

 

 couple at gym

 

11.  Single and dating? Well consider this your dating allowance for 4 months, especially if you are a male and live in San Francisco. This does not include weekend getaways.

 

 trek bike

 

 

12. This $4,000 is the cost of 2 new Trek bikes, and does not include the child carriages.

 

organic food

 

13. A cool $4000 can afford you Six months of your organic food bill. Please note that Farmer’s Market costs are extra.

 

Rake on the hay

 

 

14. Two years payment to your landscaper to rake the dry grass off your front yard.

 

 

Young man with a rocket on his back 

 

15. Your personal investment in your friend’s start-up that he told you will be the next Facebook or Google.

 

Model ready for make-up

 

 

16. Ten hair coloring and cuts including tips.

 

peets coffee and tea

 

17. That would be 1,000 medium Peet’s Coffee cappuccinos.

 

dji drone

 

 

18. To buy that DJI drone you always wanted, since you joined this new drone flying club to network your way to your next gig.

 

 

USA visa in a passport background 

 

19. If your immigration status does not grant you permanent residency in the US, then that would be your two trips back home to keep your status visa current.

 

kqed donate

 

20. If you are able to claim your Super Bowl ticket as a tax deduction, then more power to you.  If you are not, then there are lots of amazing charities and non profits around town that would welcome your $4,000. Since you would not go to the Super Bowl alone, that would be an $8,000 contribution. You will not only do good, but feel great, and consequently say that you are very philanthropic and keeping up with Bay Area values.

 

 

Those of you who are lucky enough to go, enjoy the experience, savor the moment, please share images with the rest of us via social media. We do hope that you can see it all from where you are sitting. Don’t forget to watch all the funny commercials first thing Monday morning.

For those of us that will be watching from our sofas at home, catching every sweat, grin and grunt from the Levis Stadium, enjoying the half-time show, while drinking unlimited beer of our choice

 

What better place to celebrate the Super Bowl’s golden year?  Enjoy Super Bowl 50 weekend everyone! Let’s show the world what a great place the Bay Area truly is.

Valentine’s Day options for those in the Palo Alto area

couple happy smile looking to each other in bed

 

If you are like me and many others, who enjoy celebrating Valentine’s Day, then you will certainly get excited about these wonderful Valentine’s Day options for those in The Palo Alto Area.

 

1. Getaway

 

 While some of the most romantic destinations in the world are located in Northern California, some of us may not have taken advantage of these amazing properties, and perhaps just need a romantic excuse to do so.

 

Here is a list of four you might want to check out.

 

Auberge du Soleil

Auberge du Soleil located in the Napa Valley, in the town of Rutherford, this adult only hotel boasts of a Michelin-starred restaurant, and state of the art spa. Take advantage of their Lover’s Retreat Package with a  – one or two night stay.  Book today!

 

post-ranch-inn

 

 

Post Ranch Inn

Although there is no true Valentine’s package per-se, however, a stay at Post Ranch Inn spells romance in every single way, and their Romance at the Ranch Package does not disappoint. Voted the most romantic in the world by various travel publications, Post Ranch Inn truly lives up to its reputation. With its rustic luxury atmosphere, rejuvenating spa treatments, views to die for and accommodations that rivals that of nature, Post Ranch Inn is sure on the top of everyone’s list. Three nights minimum stay is required to book this package. Reserve romance!

 

 

MacArthur Place

MacArthur Place is a quaint romantic hotel in Sonoma County. The historic charm offers a variety of rooms, suites and cottages with fireplaces, ample space as well as a wonderful garden spa. This top hotel, uses herbs and plants found on the property for its famous spa treatments.  Don’t forget to check out the nationally rated Saddles Restaurant.  Check out MacArthur Place.

 

Hotel Yountville

One of my favorite hotels in Napa Valley. Everything about this place spells Romance: the rooms are spacious with very high ceilings; the bath features clawfoot tubs and rain showers; gas burning fireplaces; the amazing Spa Acqua offers great couple’s massages to help couples relax and rejuvenate; the linens are luxurious and the beds are plush. Relaxing poolside, while sipping signature drinks are also a favorite couple’s activity.The luxury hotel is located in the heart of Yountville, which is scattered with high end restaurants and boutiques. Escape to Yountville.

 


 

2. Staycation

 

Couple Drinking Glasses of Cognac

 

Four Seasons

Considered the most luxurious hotel in Silicon Valley, the Four Seasons in East Palo Alto never disappoints. With sumptuous rooms and suites and one of the best spas in the area, this Valentine’s Day,

The Four Seasons and their Quattro restaurant are pulling all the stops. The best part is, you don’t have to be a guest at the hotel to enjoy this exceptional treat. Executive Chef, Marco Fossati has curated a fantastic Valentine’s Day six course dinner that includes imported delicacies like black Perigord truffles, Mishima wagyu, Russian caviar, and local delights like uni, oysters and more. This celebration for only 50 guests will be topped with Krug Grande Cuvee Champagne, house-made artisan chocolates, (take home) made by Executive Pastry Chef, Eric Keppler, and guests will be serenaded by renowned pianist Natalya Lundtvedt.  The rate is $388 plus taxes and gratuity per person. In combination with dinner for two, the hotel is offering a $388 nightly suite stay. Space is limited Reserve today!

 

 

Rosewood Sand Hill

Another great local hotel offering a Valentine’s Day special is Rosewood at Sandhill, located in Menlo Park. Considered a top hotel in the area, Rosewood, with its modern and stylish looks, also boasts of the world renowned Sense Spa. With captivating views of the Santa Cruz mountains, the ambiance is sure to relax you and your spouse. There are no Valentine’s package for the hotel stay, however, this luxury hotel is offering a fantastic $110 four course dinner at their restaurant, Madera, which includes dry aged Sonoma Liberty duck, mussels, burnt almond ice cream, among many more amazing delicacies.  Visit their site, or call to book your reservation.

 

 

Garden Court

Regarded as the only luxury boutique hotel in downtown Palo Alto, the Garden Court Hotel is offering a Share the Love this Valentine’s Day package. Some features of the package includes, a bottle of sparkling, white or red wine; elegantly added rose petals and candles; chocolate-covered strawberries for two and much more. The package is offered at $399 per room. Visit their website for more information.

 


 

3. Night Out

 

Saint Michael’s Alley

This  amazing, highly rated restaurant, considered the most romantic in Palo Alto, has been around for over 50 years, and recent owners Jenny Youll and Mike Sabina,  seem to have the service, ambiance and food down to a science. The restaurant is not usually open on Sundays, however, on Valentine’s Day, they are going all out and offering a wonderful  $95 four course menu.  Check out their website for more details.

 

tamarine

 

Tamarine

Tamarine is considered on of the top 3 three restaurants in Palo Alto. This Vietnamese inspired restaurant, is located in the heart of downtown.  So if you are looking for a menu that will get you in the mood, then check out Tamarine’s prix fixe 4 course Valentine’s Day menu. At $90, guests will be treated to aphrodisiac foods like avocado, oyster, chocolate, crab chili and strawberry with gluten free and vegetarian options available.   Reserve your table and get ready for a very long Valentine’s night ;-)
Of course you are also welcome to try both Madera and Quattro. See description above.

 


 

4. Home

 

If you don’t feel like going out, and just want to spend a relaxing romantic evening in your adobe, then here are a few resources to make it happen.

 

kitchit

 

Kitchit

Book your personal chef at Kitchit.com. You plan your menu with your chef, personl chef will bring the fresh ingredients, serve you, clean up and get out of your way to the next chapter of your romantic evening.  Try Kitchit!

 

DoorDash

If you want to order from your favorite restaurant, be sure to check out Doordash. DoorDash delivers prepared meals from a long list of area restaurants.  Don’t forget to preorder as this may be a busy night for DoorDash.  See if your favorite is on their list.

 

Sous Kitchen

Cooking together can be very romantic.  Get a professional chef to curate your menu, send you the fresh ingredients and all you have to do is prepare the meal with detailed instructions.  Sous Kitchen delivers to your door, and if you are not home, no worries, the food is packed in dry ice to last through the middle of the night or you can always pick up at Namesake Cheesecake in Menlo Park. Check out Sous Kitchen.

 

zeel

 

Zeel massage on demand

 

Take your romantic evening to a whole new level, by booking an inhome couple’s massage with Zeel.  You can choose from Swedish,  deep tissue, prenatal or sports.  Your qualified masseusse will arrive at your desired location with massage tables and oils if needed  ready to relax and rejuvenate you and your partner.  Book your masseusse today.

 

Hopefully, one of these Valentine’s Day options will work for you and your spouse, and help you both have a wonderful Valentine’s Day celebration. Remember the sooner you book, the better.

Real Housewives of Silicon Valley: 13 reasons why this may not work out for Bravo

Portrait Of Female Friends Enjoying Night Out At Rooftop Bar

 

The Real Housewives franchise hoping to settle down in the Silicon Valley?

Word has been swirling around for a while that the Real Housewives franchise maybe  hoping to expand into Silicon Valley.  I recently heard from a friend that they are piloting the show in the Bay Area, and was pretty shocked.  Of course, we think that the franchise is repulsive, degrading, and full of inflated drama.  But who can really blame those of us who find our guilty pleasure in the comfort of watching the shows, consequently increasing their ratings and encouraging this negative behavior?

 

With quite a few franchises under Bravo’s belt (Beverly Hills, Ocean County, New Jersey, New York, Miami, Atlanta, and now Potomac), why not reach out to the most connected area in the country? Before Bravo comes rushing over to the Bay Area in the hopes of finding gold in our housewives, perhaps they should reconsider their move for these 13 15 reasons:

 

Real Housewives of Silicon Valley: 13 15 reasons why this may not work out for Bravo.

 

US-ENVIRONMENT-CALIFORNIA-DROUGHT

 

1. Aerial shots of drought stricken front yards and cramped properties may not live up to the sprawling luxurious properties and expansive mansions that the real housewives franchises are known for.

 

2. Founder, CEO, and programmer husbands do not have the same authenticity as – let’s say -someone who serves time in jail or rehab.

 

real housewives cars

 

3. Although Teslas photograph very well, Bentleys, Rolls Royces and Lamborghinis actually make a flashier statement.

 

4. Talking over someone while discussing the effects of global warming is a high ratings killer.

 

5. Gossiping about “friends” claiming bankruptcy over a failed start-up is not as controversial as saying that someone claimed bankruptcy because that person was actually entitled to.

 

 

RealHousewives-drinking

 

6. Drinking cocktails and champagne midday, while picking up kids from school and afterschool activities, may be considered irresponsible.

 

7. The national viewership may not fully grasp the storyline behind trying to get your baby into Bing Nursery School, at Stanford.

 

housewives teresa

 

8. There are not many restaurants in Silicon Valley that will allow table flipping while their patrons look on in shock.

 

9. Lululemon and Patagonia clothing are not ideal confessional gear.

 

 

stanford vs cal

 

10. Drama over whose alma mater is better is not really a producer’s dream. They would prefer ‘throwing shade”,  “tea spilling” and “pulling wigs and weaves.”

 

11. As if we don’t hear the word start-up enough…

 

12. We are convinced that back massages feel way better than backstabbing.

 

real-housewives-of-beverly-hills-reunion-shoes-300x190

 

13. There are not enough 6 inch stilettos in town to go around.

 

14.  With so many Silicon Valley households having double incomes, and quite a few housewives in the workforce, it is going to be hard to convince HR to have a camera crew hang out at the office to catch the drama – unless it’s a startup, and the drama is part of the go-to-market strategy.

 

 

real-housewives-of-beverly-hills

 

15. Each of the Housewives’ franchise ladies hold an item in one hand as part of the promo: New York holds an apple, Beverly Hills holds a diamond, Atlanta holds a peach.  Will the Real Housewives of Silicon Valley be holding Google’s Nexus or Apple’s iPhone?  We do not want a divided community. 

 

So maybe it would be wiser for Bravo to rethink their strategy and redirect their attention towards areas that can meet their rating-booster needs in a more efficient manner. I may just be wrong. Do you think that Bravo should sneak into the Bay Area?

martin luther king Jr new

10 Things to do with your family on Martin Luther King Day in Palo Alto and surrounding areas

 

As we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Day 2016, we reflect on his message of unity, peace, tolerance and equality for mankind. To commemorate his birthday, which is in fact a national holiday, government offices, Local, State and Federal Courts, banks, post offices, and even libraries will be closed. However, we have found 10 things you can do with your family in Palo Alto and the surrounding areas.

 

  1. Tree planting with Super Bowl 50 Host Committee, NFL and Verizon in East Palo Alto at MLK Jr. Park, at 9:30 am.

In an attempt to promote stronger and healthier communities by means of urban forests that, undoubtedly, benefit us all, Canopy, in collaboration with NFL and Verizon, invites us all to plant over 60 shrubs and trees at Martin Luther King Park. The event includes a Ceremonial Mayor’s Tree Planting. A fun family activity that young and old will definitely enjoy alike.

 

  1. City of Palo Alto

In collaboration with local nonprofits, including Canopy, Youth Community Service, or Break Through the Static, the City of Palo Alto invites you all to Martin Luther King’s Day of Service, an event at Michell Park Community Center from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Young and old alike will be able to enjoy live music, activity tables,  food truckssas well as an open mic with various community artists.

 

  1. JCC of Palo Alto Mitzvah Day, a National Day of Service to honor Dr. King.

The Jewish Community Center, located in south Palo Alto, invites you to participate this Monday to the 5th annual Mitzvah Day of community service.

This year’s event includes over 25 hands-on service projects, including cooking and serving meals at local shelters, tree planting, making joke books for ill children, making cards and sweet treats for the veterans who reside in the Palo Alto Fisher House, visits with seniors, habitat restoration, and many other activities that will make the lives of the less fortunate a little bit brighter for one day.

Advance online registration is required. All the necessary information can be found at www.paloaltojcc.org/mitzvah. If you prefer, you can contact Palant at lpalant@paloaltojcc.org.

 

  1. Happy Hollow

This Monday, from 8:30am – 12:30pm, you can volunteer for removing litter and graffiti from parks, neighborhoods, and along Coyote Creek. The meeting point is at Happy Hollow Park & Zoo, in San Jose. Keep in mind that participants aged 12 to 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

 

  1. Buena Yerba Gardens

The Yerba Buena Gardens invites you to enjoy a day of exciting and free programs and festivals to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy. You can enjoy the march from Caltrain to Yerba Buena Gardens, or attend the Black Comix Arts Festival, a festival which invites you to rediscover the African American creativity. The event includes an expo, panel discussions, kids’ activities, films, and cosplay events. The entrance is free.

 

  1. El Cerrito Martin Luther King Jr. Annual Celebration

The City of El Cerrito, in collaboration with the West Contra Costa County Unified School District, the St. Peter Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, and El Cerrito Branch NAACP, invite you to the 27th annual El Cerrito Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Day. This year’s theme is “Keeping the Dream Alive: Black Lives Matter”. The event includes a parade, a rally, and many other events. For the full schedule, please visit http://www.el-cerrito.org/index.aspx?nid=693

 

  1. Museum of the African Diaspora

MoAD invites us all to celebrate the achievements and life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., one of the greatest heroes of our nation. Films, art projects, musical performances, special exhibitions, speeches, or collaborative activities are only some of the activities we are invited to enjoy. For the full schedule, please visit http://www.moadsf.org/event/free-admission-dr-martin-luther-king-jr-national-day-of-service/?instance_id=12927  The museum offers free admission to all the events.

 

  1. 10th Annual MLK Jr. Film Festival

This Monday, January 18, from 11 am to 6 pm, the African American Museum and Library invites you to enjoy the Martin Luther King, Jr. Film Festival, a festival which presents a series of acclaimed films dedicated to the Civil Rights movement and heroes. The entrance is free.

 

  1. Celebration Train

Honor the legacy of Dr. King with the Caltrain NorcalMLK Celebration Train!

Theme: “The Reality of the Dream”

What: Free Caltrain to San Francisco for annual MLK Holiday observance

Where: Departs Rod Diridon train Station, 65 Cahill Street, San Jose

Required: Advanced online registration at http://bit.ly/1OS1OWb

Train schedule: Departs San Jose: 9:45 a.m

 Stops: Palo Alto, 10:05 a.m.; San Mateo at 10:22 a.m.

Arrives: San Francisco: 10:55 a.m. Ground march – 1.2 miles – SF station to Yerba Buena Center ““ shuttles available. All train returns, after 1 p.m., free.

 

  1. Children’s Creativity Museum.

Located in the heart of Yerba Buena Gardens, the Children’s Creativity Museum invites children of all ages and their families to celebrate the legacy of Dr. King and share their dreams with the world in tribute to Dr. King’s ‘I Have  Dream’ speech. For the full schedule, please visit http://sfmlkday.org/MLK2016-EventSchedule-web-update.pdf  Ignite your imagination and enjoy numerous interactive experiences at the Children’s Creativity Museum.

 

If none of these amazing events work for you, then you can always take the family to the King Institute at Stanford University to review Dr. King’s writing, speeches, photos and other documents as well as research and programs about the Nobel Peace laureate’s life and movement that he inspired.  https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/

Happy MLK Day!

Renting in Palo Alto: Our personal story

Rent (1)

 

Renting in Palo Alto: Our personal story

There are quite a few reasons why Palo Alto is considered one of the best places to live. The abundance of parks, protected open space areas, smart people, great restaurants, fantastic public and private schools, a myriad of city resources, and a culturally diverse environment are only some of the fantastic reasons that tempt people from all over the world to make Palo Alto their home. Not to mention that Palo Alto is situated in the heart of Silicon Valley’s tech industry, with Stanford University as a backdrop. Unfortunately, for many people this lifestyle comes at a price that escalates with each new resident that is born or moves here and with each existing resident that lives longer and decides not to move away for their retirement.

 

The realities of the housing market are sobering: according to Trulia, the average price of homes in Palo Alto as of December 2015 is $2.5 million dollars up from $1.2 in 2011. Those who want to participate should not only have at least $2,500,000 at their disposal, but also be ready to be in bidding wars and gamble on outdated homes with cramped square footage. That is one of the reasons why many people decide to rent instead of buying and yet renting has become just as expensive and competitive as buying.   According to Rent Jungle, average rent in Palo Alto for apartments, condos and houses have also increased over 75% from 2011. Welcome to Palo Alto!

 

My family moved here because of an incredible job offer that my husband could not refuse. Out of the blue, this company tapped him to be their VP Sales – the hitch? We would have to leave New York for Santa Clara where the company was headquartered. We thoroughly considered the opportunity and since our last child had just been born, and the older kids had just started school, we decided to have the family stay in New York and have the kids complete their school year, to ensure an easy transition while my husband could go see if he liked his job, get a feel of the Bay Area, and then fully commit to the move.

 

Once the transition to moving to the Bay Area seemed inevitable in the summer of 2013, we seriously started looking at homes. We quickly realized that, a permanent move to California would mean we would need to sell our beloved home in New York, one which we had built at the start of our relationship 16 years ago, but I found myself emotionally attached to the memories and wanting to hold onto the option of returning to New York if our adventures in California didn’t work out. We rented it out instead and took buying in Palo Alto off the table completely.

 

With an extensive search for affordable rent, we secured a rental that needed lots of work. The landlord, a wonderful, eccentric human being, had taken a serious liking to our family. He owned his home since the 1980s and to our good fortune, wanted only rental income to cover his  ownership costs as he already owned a home in the Napa area and was building his dream home in Ecuador, brick by brick. He was the kindest, most compassionate hippie that we had ever met. We truly had a wonderful relationship from the very beginning.

 

What came next was a bit of an untraditional landlord/tenant relationship where because we were in active conversation with him about renting his property indefinitely or until we were in a position to buy property ourselves, he was perfectly fine with us making changes to the home to suit our needs. I needed to lay my creative hands on the property and asked for his blessing to get started on turning this eyesore into a gem and, since we were going to be at the property for a while, we said to ourselves: why not?

 

We made and paid for a whole series of tenant improvements from pulling out the very outdated forest green rug, refinished and repaired the floors, dealt with the fence and created landscaping, and built a white surround fireplace mantel and painted the entire interior of the house to lighten up the modest home… Abracadabra! A new place was created. We loved our new home and our neighbors. We often visited each other’s homes and shared goodies. What’s more, the kids hung out very often and had developed a very close bond.

 

Our landlord was amazing and continued to rave about the Palo Alto schools. As a physicist, whenever he was visiting us, he took it upon himself to teach my older son cool formulas and scientific facts. He also introduced us to many of his Palo Alto friends. In return, we helped him out by receiving, opening and forwarding his mail, depositing his checks, and doing other personal errands on his behalf. All this made us feel part of his true inner circle. When we traveled out of town, and he was around, we would let him know that our casa was his casa (ironic!) and he reciprocated with inviting us to vacation and celebrate Easter at his Lake County cottage.

 

We had a fantastic relationship that developed out of mutual respect, compassion, and admiration. With no immediate family of his own, it was hard for him not to fall in love with ours.

 

A few days after our epic Easter celebration with our landlord, we got an email from one of his closest friends saying that he had passed away right when he got back to Ecuador. We were in total shock and disbelief. He had died of a blood clot that was triggered by the long flight back to Ecuador and the ankle pain which he had mentioned over Easter that refused to go away for weeks was a sign that something was terribly wrong. It was an extremely sad moment for us as we all met at his dear friend’s home, in downtown Palo Alto, to memorialize him. He was one cool, intelligent person and eccentric person who had been generous with us.

 

Throughout this loss, we could not help but wonder what was going to become of us. We immediately started thinking about owning our new home, which we had transformed from an extremely ugly duckling to a Palo Alto beauty. Prior to his death, we discussed extending our two year our lease with our landlord. If we liked the place, then we would extend it for 5 more years and another 5, and so on. Standing at just about 1000 square feet, this home was now our connection to our life in Palo Alto: having hosted family, friends, many playdates, school meetings, meals, Santa’s identity revealed. Its floors were stained with our tears when my mom passed away from pancreatic cancer. The smell of baked goods and stews, Caribbean cooking, great wines, and Christmas eggnog had all filled its air. It had become the talk of the block, as people often stopped by to thank us for its incredible transformation. Furniture was custom built just for it, and everything already had its place. This was our home.

 

Our landlord had already mentioned to us that, upon his death, all his properties would go into his education foundation, however, as it would so happen, the foundation was never formalized and the property entered probate with no named beneficiaries in his will. After a period of trying to position ourselves as prospective buyers, the reality was clear, we would have to move as the next of kin wanted the market to determine the best and highest buyer. Even with the improvements we had made. Our landlord bought the home for a “whopping” $140,000 back in 1986. The family wanted full market value. Who could blame them, with a hot Palo Alto market, why leave money on the table?

 

Once back in the rental market, it was disheartening to see what these properties were going for and how much little space they offered. Our family of five could not possibly fit into a two bedroom, and we were extremely lucky to find another 3 bedroom house that suits our needs. We were able to convince our new landlord, to let me personalize it a bit and make it feel like home. We have been here for over a year, and we have already started making lots of memories of our own.

 

We are simply a few of the lucky ones. We love Palo Alto and we would hate to have to move somewhere else. We are aware of the challenges renters face here. Some of our friends have moved out of the area because of high rent increases with some lamenting about rent increases even doubling in some instances especially on newly renovated homes, while others feel squeezed out of the area because they just can’t find anything available to rent. Countless have mentioned that landlords should also bear a brunt of the blame for wanting to increase rent way beyond what is needed to maintain their property. Many have indicated that the City needs to do something to make Palo Alto more affordable.

 

Sadly, this is not a unique Palo Alto issue, but a Bay Area issue as well. According to the Legislative Analysts Office, (LAO),  analysis on California’s high housing cost causes and consiquences, when supply is lacking to keep up with demand for decades, the problem becomes chronic and the housing pool becomes smaller, making it harder for both renters and home buyers to find housing. Communities up and down the Peninsula are struggling with the same demand and lack of housing supply so it isn’t so easy to just look somewhere else.

 

In Palo Alto, our Housing Element of our Comprehensive Plan (the land use bible for the city) zones for about 2000 units for the next 8 years. However, based on the track record, the yield should only be about 60% of that. Obviously, it is an epidemic, and we need to bring attention to the issue. Thank goodness for the efforts of organizations such as Palo Alto Forward which I’ve recently come across. They put on regular educational forums, bringing in guest speakers to raise awareness about housing and transportation topics and talk about these challenging issues in a way that acknowledges that although we may not always agree on everything, growth is happening so we need to create the housing supply and transportation options that can meet those needs, while maintaining a high quality of life and secure the great character of our city.

 

Housing is a basic need we all have. We do not need to be planning experts or policy gurus to participate and help shape options for our great community.  I’m someone who has wrestled with how to make living in Palo Alto a reality when life has offered our family an opportunity for growth. Part of our being able to stay here has been because of a unique situation with a wonderful eccentric landlord but how many unique solutions are there for everyone who is looking for housing?

 

Some people say that the bubble will soon burst. However, with the multiple booming industries in the area bringing in more people, baby boomers continue to stay here, with the influx of overseas buyers driving up the real estate market, there does not seem to be an end to housing challenges in sight. Hopefully the City will step in and build more housing units to address the epidemic. Otherwise the close to half of the city residents who are renters will just have to depend on the luck of the draw.

 

As for our family, Palo Alto now feels like home. We love the schools, the parks, our friends, the lifestyle, the foods, the trees, the openness, the inclusivity, the diversity, biking everywhere, the laid back atmosphere. We love it all. We are lucky to be in a lovely home, great neighborhood, and paying a rent we can afford. Fingers crossed that our situation remains consistent for the coming years and let’s think about what we can do to help others.

 

10 Useful tips when entertaining in a small space

entertaining in a small home 2a

 

If you are like me and you live in a small home in Palo Alto, entertaining could be a bit of a challenge. But there’s no need for it to be so! Especially during the holidays, don’t let space become a setback to embrace your festive self and ring in the holiday with friends, loved ones, and a healthy dose of holiday cheer.

At my home in NY, entertaining during the holidays was something that I always looked forward to. With various rooms at my full disposal, entertaining was a breeze.

This year, I decided not to let space stand in my way! It took me 2 years to figure out how to entertain in a small space. Here are 10 useful tips (based on my own experience) that might help you organize a special holiday event that your guests will surely remember with pleasure.

 

1. Don’t overload your guest list

 

We all want to have as many friends as possible by our side, especially during the holidays. But you have to be realistic! Overloading your guest list will only make you and your guests feel uncomfortable and crowded. I have decided to host a few small gatherings to be able to extend an invitation to accommodate more people.

 

2. Add that personal touch

 

First Communion celebration place card menu

 

To help create a unique experience for your guests, you can opt for personalized napkins, place setting, or you can even pick a theme for your party. It’s a great opportunity for you to use your event as a creative outlet, and simultaneously adding personal, special touches along the way.

 

3. Set up different stations

 

entertaining in small spaces 10

 

Separating food stations helps spread your guests, making it easier to navigate around and not have everyone congregate over that one food station. You can have appetizers on the coffee table, drinks on a side cabinet, and dinner on your dining room table.  It all comes down to using all your available space to offer your guests a pleasant experience without them feeling crowded.

 

4. Create great atmosphere by playing on all 5 senses

 

first Communion Flowers1

 

 

To help create great atmosphere, use candles for smell and ambiance lighting, fresh flowers and a beautiful table setting or attractive display platters to please the eye, great tasting foods to tantalize the palate, and great background music from your smartphone’s playlist with wireless speakers for the ear to enjoy. Touch you guests’ hearts with your kindness :- )  This is such a great recipe for entertaining.

 

5. Choose a food theme to help simplify your menu

 

 

entertaining in a small home 3 entertaining in a small home 6

 

Most times, it is easier for us to stick to our favorite dishes that we know how to prepare. But having a theme makes for a more focused menu. I recently hosted a dinner party for 6 and opted for a Mediterranean inspired theme and chose various dishes to help crystalize the theme: Couscous, Moroccan lamb, Falafel stew, rice rilaf, etc. This past Wednesday, I also hosted a special birthday dinner for my husband, and the kids wanted a seafood inspired menu.  This made the cooking much easier, as many other options were easily eliminated in the name of maximizing space for this plated meal.

 

6. Rent it

Gone are the days when finding the right linen, glassware, table or chair for your event meant that you had to order an extra piece of furniture or accessory from the store, and then figure out a place to store it.  You can rent dishes, tables, linen, glasses, and anything else you might consider necessary. I do not have a large table and I still have only 4 dining room chairs. So, to create a uniform look for an event, I rented 6 narrow ballroom chairs. They cost around $6 per chair and worked great in the space.  There are many other options and prices. Check out Danny Thomas Party Rental.

 

 7. Get help

 

entertaining in a small home 7

 

There are many vendors out there who are just waiting for a sign to make your event memorable and wash away the stress of hosting a party! You can hire caterers, chefs, bartenders, or servers.  I found this company on Craigslist who has servers to help out at events. They help keep things organized while you enjoy your party and the presence of your family and beloved friends.

 

8. Don’t forget the kids

 

If you have picky eaters, create a special menu for kids and then set them up in a bedroom or play room where they can have their own fun, and not be in the way of great adult conversation. If the children are older, there maybe no need for a babysitter. If they are younger, you may want to get some help. High school students are perfect for this role.

 

9. Bring out the China

 

 

entertaining in a small space 9

 

Not every gathering may be fine china necessary.  Nonetheless, I believe that china is always more special than papergoods.  When you are catering to a very large group of people, it is easier to just use disposable. However, I find that any type of china, be it casual or elaborate, always makes a great impression, and at the same time helps protect the environment.   I have collected quite a few china sets over the years, so I enjoy mixing it up a bit, although I enjoy using simple white.

 

10.  Be a gracious host

 

No matter how big or small your party is, you will definitely want your guests to have a great time. It is extremely important to keep calm throughout the party and talk to each one of your guests. Make sure that they have everything they need: drinks, food, and, above all, pleasant company to enjoy.

I hope you will find these 10 tips useful. I’d love to hear about your experiences if you decide to use any of them while entertaining in your small or even large space!  Happy Holidays! We will reconnect in the New Year.

12 Cool Holiday gifts for cool kids

Father And Son Opening Christmas Presents At Home Together

 

With hundreds and hundreds of amazing Holiday gifts ideas to choose from, there is no wonder that many parents find it difficult to find their way through the maze of eye-catching  window displays, catalogs and online shops. My husband and I have been in this boat for quite a few years, with three children and their varying interests. Somehow we manage to cheer our kids up duing the Holiday Season.  Because we want to help you put a smile on the faces of your tiny ones and catch off-guard your teens, we worked on a list of 12 Holiday gift ideas that we hope will take the hassle out of this year’s Holiday shopping.

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A blog about a family of five in Palo Alto

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