Monday, September 29, 2008

Huge Debt

I had given up looking for a Condo in Berkeley, but while out on my bike I rode by a place that looks perfect. (Isn't that always the way it is?)

I took a tour on Sunday, and I'm almost ready to buy.

But it is scary. Do I really want to go that far into debt?

Would the eventual earthquake in Berkeley wipe out everything I own?

Shouldn't I be putting my money in the stock market instead? (It is down, you know. That is when you are supposed to buy.)

Up till now, I've always chosen freedom over commitment. Without a mortgage hanging over my head, I am free to quit my job and join the circus any time I want.
Rent on my cheap apartment costs far less than I make each month. The extra money goes into savings and earns interest and I can grab some any time I want to go on vacation or buy a car or take time off from work.

The condo would give me a garage to store big stuff in, like the kayak I've long wanted. It is much closer to BART. It is across the street from a park, on a bicycle-friendly street. It has a much nicer kitchen. It is much nicer looking in general. I wouldn't be as ashamed to show people my place.

If I get a mortgage, I'll need to keep a job for a long time. I would be responsible for repairs. (Full disclosure: I'd probably just let the place fall apart.) Would it become a money pit?

The biggest question is, will I procrastinate so long that I won't even have the chance to make a choice?

Will I be relieved that I no longer have to make a choice?

What should I do?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Minty fresh


I think I'm getting the hang of this macaroon thing.

Don't these look pretty!

Flavor? Fresh mint. And they are so minty fresh there is absolutely no reason to brush your teeth afterward. Nope, no reason whatsoever.

(Honestly, the basil ones tasted 10 times better than this, but I'm doing one for the traditionalists.)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Gone, all gone.

It seems I have been remiss in not keeping you up to date on all my macaroon adventures. Well, I'll just fix that right now!

I had limited success with black sesame. Delicious, but wrong texture. Pictures will not be forthcoming.

Saffron and allspice macaroons came out very nice. The allspice tasted almost like pumpkin pie. Sometime in November I'll have to re-do those with a full complement of pumpkin-pie spices.

Since those came out so well I decided to raise the difficulty level and go for basil macaroons again. It is difficult because basil is moist, and moisture makes steam in the oven and that is not a good thing for a macaroon. I solved that problem by using dried egg whites and re-constituting them with less water than was called for.

They were yummy, yummy, yummy, but now they are gone!

I've just found out that Pierre Hermé has a new recipe book all about macarons. I suppose I'll just have to buy it, if only so I can laugh at his recipe for ketchup macaro(o)ns. (Silly french chef!) And also according to Paris Breakfasts there is still time for me to get over to Paris for the opening of his newest store. I'll be checking airline prices tonight.

Though, really, he does seem to put too much gunk in his trunk. I think a little dab will do ya, and more is not better. Before Laudrée in 1930, no one would have dreamed of sticking goop between the cookies. Now, less than 100 years later, the goop is in danger of taking over.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The crush

Friday I took the afternoon off from work to go visit a local winery. (Don't worry, I'd worked lots of extra hours the night before.) Periscope Cellars is located just a few blocks from my office, so I've always wanted to go give them a try. Friday, I finally did.

I talked my friend C-- into going, since she also works in Emeryville, and she brought along one of her friends and we met there at noon.

I fully expected that we'd go in, taste a few wines and be out again in 15 minutes. I really wasn't all that excited about going. But it turned out to be very cool.

Just by chance we were there for crushing day. They had just unloaded a bunch of grapes and were putting them through a juicing machine. Stems were flying all over the place.

We got to taste some of the fresh-crushed cabernet grape juice and it was amazing, despite the bits of stem. The best grape juice I've ever had! Seriously, it tasted very, very fresh, which it was. (Much better than what they served for the Lord's supper in baptist church!) Still it is way, way, way too sweet for normal drinking. And who knew that cabernet grapes were so small?

There were also vats filled with a different type grapes that had already been through the crusher and fermented a little. They were giving off the most heady aroma.

The guide was quite amiable. She told us lots of interesting things about the spot and the events they have there. Not only was this place once used as a submarine-repair facility, but it was also the place were season one of Top Chef was filmed. (Although the show claimed they were staying in a fancy San Francisco hotel, the chefs were often just sleeping on the floor there in Emeryville.) And now they use it as an art gallery and host a variety of interesting tasting events, such as a combination wine-tasting and yoga night. Don't worry, not hard balance poses! Instead of downward-facing dog, you can do downward-sitting couch potato.

One of the owners is also into packaging and she showed us some cool ideas they have for alternative packaging.

We ended-up staying almost 2 whole hours, and it was a hoot!


Since I'm from Louisiana, everyone is always asking me -- sometimes as often as once a year -- if I know people in New Orleans and how were they affected by Katrina. The answer is basically, no, I am only still in contact with one friend from there, though I recently re-connected with my high-school roommate through linked-in.

Anyway, C's husband has been writing a blog about all the effort that they've put into repairing their house after Katrina. If you need a reminder that "it could be worse", look no further than This Old Moneypit.

I can't smell!

I can't smell anything. At all.

Very, very bizzare.

I've had a cold for a few days, and when I got up this morning, I noticed I can't smell a thing. Although I'm breathing fine through one nostril, I can't smell my coffee. The cookies that were so strongly flavored last night now just taste like sugar.

I got out some of the most strong-smelling things in my cupboard and took a whiff. Nothing registers at all except one thing. I have this orange-oil based ant poison that normally smells like an explosion in an orange grove. I can very, very barely detect an orange scent in it this morning.

This has never happened to me before. It had better right itself soon!