Santa Cruz – Away From the Boardwalk

This post was written by Angie Picardo who writes for NerdWallet. Thank you Angie for providing us with an outline for an amazing weekend getaway to Santa Cruz. I will follow-up with my own post very soon.


When thinking of the perfect Bay Area ‘stay-cation’ many opt to visit Santa Cruz, not only is it nearby but it has many attractions that will please anyone. With summer upon us, the Boardwalk is the obvious choice for many visitors. Yet there are many more attractions to be seen in this idyllic beach town, if you want the beauty of the beach without the screams of roller coaster passengers or the scent of corn dogs lingering in your nostrils.

Natural Bridges State Beach – The beach is named for its naturally formed stone bridge and is the perfect place to see the California coastline as its best.

Surfer’s Museum – Located along West Cliff Drive, the Surfer’s Museum is located in an old lighthouse.  The Museum grounds have a nice walkway along the cliff edge where you can watch surfers practicing their art at Steamer Lane. This world famous surf spot also offers an amazing view of the Monterey Bay.

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park – If you want to head inland a bit, you can head up Highway 9 and into the Santa Cruz mountains to lovely Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. The park has 20 miles of hiking and riding trails that wind through centuries old redwood trees.  Some breeds of dogs are allowed but please check the park’s website for a complete list. There is also a campground in the park if you want to make a weekend of it.

Roaring Camp Railroad – A few miles from Henry Cowell Park is the popular Roaring Camp Railroad, which is highly recommended if you are traveling with kids. You can take the train up through the redwoods or all the way down to the Boardwalk.

Downtown Santa Cruz – While Santa Cruz isn’t lacking in natural beauty, taking a stroll down Pacific Avenue gives you a glimpse into what makes Santa Cruz so unique. Downtown boasts entertainment venues and many museums including the Museum of Art and History, theaters, shops, and wine tasting.

And after a long day, stopping in at Vino Cruz to enjoy their selection of wines is the perfect end to a summer day.  You can also unwind on the patio of 515 Kitchen and Cocktails and enjoy one of the many delicious specialty cocktails and appetizers.

Eats! – With all of this exploring around Santa Cruz you’re going to get hungry, there are plenty of excellent restaurants to choose from.

  • Stagnaro Bros – For some amazing fresh fish and beautiful ocean views head you won’t be disappointed with Stagnaro Bros which is located on the Santa Cruz municipal wharf.
  • Hula’s – This fun, Polynesian inspired cuisine in a fun Tiki atmosphere and it located in Downtown Santa Cruz.
  • The Greek – Eat where the local’s eat!  The Greek has the best Greek  food outside the Mediterranean.

Where to stay – After a long day of fun in the sun a long drive back to the Bay may be the last thing you want to do. So why not make an extended trip and stay in a hotel?

  • The Holiday Inn Express – on Ocean Street has clean, comfortable, and affordable rooms.
  • Sea and Sand Inn – Great views, clean rooms and its located walking distance to the beach.

Next time you want a fun and convenient get away Santa Cruz is your best bet for a great time.

Angie Picardo is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance and travel site dedicated to helping people save money, whether it’s planning an effective budget or finding the best online stock brokers.

Pick Us! Example of a Home Buyer Letter

Need an example of a home buyer letter?

Home Buyer Letter

Here is the one we submitted in addition to our $1.1 million offer for 614-618 Eugenia Street in San Francisco. Fingers crossed!

Home Buyer Letter:

July 18, 2013

Dear [Sellers],

Thank you for taking the time to review our offer.

We are a success story! Catherine is a book-loving academic while Dean is a TV-obsessed sports fanatic. While it seems opposites attract in our case, we share a love for exploring the San Francisco Bay Area (favorite hike is the Tomales Point trail in Point Reyes) and keeping a clean, clutter-free home. The well-designed esthetic of your property clearly aligns with our own. We especially love how much natural light fills each of the rooms.

While we have struggled with fertility, we are absolutely confident that 618 Eugenia will provide us with a happy, zen-like atmosphere to conceive our multi-ethnic kid: Filipino, British, and Italian, or FBI as our parents like to say. We love that the downstairs area can accommodate visiting family and we look forward to showing them around Bernal Heights—the perfect neighborhood to live in and raise our family. In fact, Hillside Supper Club is one of our favorite restaurants.

We will be attentive and thoughtful landlords to the tenant who rents the studio. Our current landlord at 757 Sutter Street entrusts Dean with renting, processing, and handling issues at our apartment complex of 34 units. With an undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley and an MBA from the University of Chicago, Catherine has worked for [large bank] for close to 10 years. Dean has had a successful career in software sales for more than 20 years.

We have our hearts set on calling your property home, and hope you’ll agree that we are the right fit to become the next owners.

We appreciate your consideration,

Catherine Gacad & Dean Barbella

Deciding on IVF: Act on Data, Not Public Opinion

PrintWhen my husband Dean and I realized we had fertility issues, the topic that came up the most was IVF. The discussion didn’t center around whether or not to consider it, but became a matter of when we would start the process. After trying other methods, doctors made it clear that IVF was our last resort. It’s hard, though, to give credence to the doctors’ recommendation when their wages are buoyed by desperate women opting to spend tens of thousands of dollars on continued and expensive fertility treatments.

Friends and family were even more insistent:

– “Have you looked into IVF?”

– “When are you going to do IVF?”

– “We did IVF, you should try too.”

– “Everyone I know has done IVF, are you checking that out?”

Everyone, of course, had our best interest at heart. They are empathizing with us:

– “We have children; we want you to have children too.”

– “IVF made it possible for us to have children, therefore it is worth it.”

I think a lot of people get caught up in their emotions and the longing to have a child that they don’t take a step back to evaluate.

Deciding on IVF

Is having a child worth it? Yes, of course! Having a child is worth every last dime, every single pill and injection. But instead of asking whether IVF is worth it, legions of hopeful mothers should be asking, what can it do for you?

Dean and I have been told we are the perfect candidates for IVF. I have PCOS, an endocrine disorder which causes irregular periods, if I even menstruate at all. Dean has low sperm count and low sperm quality. Nothing to be ashamed of, simply the cards we were dealt. But what does that mean to be the perfect candidates for IVF? The only data women access currently are IVF success rates based on age—averages that are highly variable and shouldn’t be used as a proxy for each unique situation.

Univfy solves the unknown by giving customers a personalized report, detailing chances of success with a probability of live birth. The probability is calculated by comparing each couple’s clinical profile to large datasets of known IVF outcomes. The calculation also has a very low 1.5% prediction error. I urge you to be informed. If you are considering IVF or thinking about doing IVF again, take the Univfy IVF Prediction Tests which have been proven to be accurate.

Federal Trade Commission disclosure: Although I was compensated for this post, I contacted the company, asking to share my experience through this post, after having a positive experience with the service and because I am a firm believer in the science and research behind it.

Obama Dead at 17

As you may know, Obama alluded to Trayvon Martin as his hypothetical son. “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon. When I think about this boy, I think about my own kids.”

The 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was fatally gunned down by the neighborhood watch George Zimmerman as he walked from a convenience store back into a gated community. The trial culminated in an acquittal for Zimmerman.

I was shocked and upset because an unarmed teenager with all the potential in the world, the potential to become the president of the United States, was killed because of Zimmerman’s extremely poor judgment and decision-making. When people like Zimmerman lack the brains to behave appropriately in society, they should deal with the consequences of their actions and be locked away—for good.

To me, this is not about race. It is about a child dying unjustly. If Trayvon had been white or any other race, this case would not have received the media attention it had. If Zimmerman had been black, the trial would not have turned into a circus. This is not about race, people!

If you are mad, get mad at the lack of gun control. This isn’t the Newtown tragedy where a social outcast had access to weapons, where we’re shaking our heads about the psychopaths who get access to guns. This is about a neighborhood watch buying a handgun for self-defense. See how guns are evil? Even in the hands of the seemingly stable, can you see the destruction? The loss of life, the loss of a child?

My high school classmate was killed in a drive-by shooting.

A few days ago, a Black man walked into the gift center where my engagement ring and wedding band are from and shot three Asians.

Race is not the issue. Guns are.

I had a different take-away from this trial than others which is why I dismissed writing about it—as I didn’t want to offend.

I want to thank Andrea with BeQuoted for encouraging me to write this post. I would like you to read her post on this matter as well as this post by Yvonne Chase.

There are a multitude of bloggers who write about what they have for breakfast, where they vacation, all these details of their lives, but rarely do I see bloggers open up about their stance on issues, their politics. What is the point of blogging if your readers do not know the real you—especially if you write a personal blog? I want to thank both Andrea and Yvonne for always being so courageously opinionated. I am truly inspired by you and your blogs.

AltSF Conference: Travel and Explore Like a Local

altFor those of you attending from out of town, here are some tips from a local. I live a few blocks away from the conference location (Fairmont Hotel) so I’m an expert on the area.

Getting to the conference

If money is no concern, feel free to grab a cab. A ride from SFO to the Fairmont will cost less than $50.

If you want to save $40, take BART which is our commuter train. The closest stop is Powell Street station, but I would skip that and go to Embarcadero since Powell can be like Grand Central Station and maneuvering around will be more of a pain. Exit the Embarcadero station and when you are above ground, you can either take the cable car (on California Street) or grab a cab in front of the Hyatt (California/Drumm) or get out your smartphone and get yourself an Uber car.

Getting around San Francisco

I would not recommend renting a car. Finding parking is tough even for locals, let alone visitors who are unfamiliar with the deplorable parking situation in the city.

In lieu of cabs, locals use Uber or Lyft. Download their apps on your smartphone. They are super convenient and cheaper than cabs.

Quick sightseeing for those who don’t have time

You must ride a cable car! You will notice cable cars going up and down California Street right by the hotel. Stand on the corner of California and Mason (south side of the street) and take the cable car all the way down to the Financial District. You will pass by Chinatown and get a quick glimpse of the city and our rolling hills.

Even better, stand at the corner of California and Powell and take the cable car going down to Union Square. You’ll be in for a thrilling descent! Take the cable car the other way and you will pass by Lombard (the crookedest steet) and North Beach.

A one-way ride is $6 or you can buy an all-day pass from the gripman for $14. Make sure you have cash.

Eats and Drinks

Mason Pacific is my new favorite neighborhood gem, serving excellent American cuisine. Their house wine, custom-made for the restaurant, is to-die-for.

Venticello is perfect Italian, blocks away from the Fairmont.

Walk across the street to the Mark Hopkins hotel, take the elevator to the top floor, and experience stunning views of the city while having a cocktail at the Top of the Mark.


There is a Club One gym at the Fairmont. They charge $20/day for those who are not hotel guests.

Looking forward to meeting all of you at the conference. I am barely 5 feet tall and a total introvert so I’m easy to miss!

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