Bringing the price per serving down

What do asparagus stems and lobster shells have in common?

They typically go in the trash, while the tender asparagus heads and the claw and tail meat go on the plate, maybe accompanied by melted butter.

I our household, though, we freeze the stems and turn them into cream of asparagus soup later.

And the shells, often roasted, though it’s not necessary, are simmered down into a lobster stock, which can hold its flavor for up to three months if frozen.

The stock makes for a great lobster bisque or lobster butter or fish chowder.

In essence, we wind up with more meals than one out of each ingredient – and thus getting more for our money.

What strategies like this can you share?

 

Their turn is coming up

In my novel What’s Left, her generation of the family will face some crucial decisions that resemble those their parents were charting when her father-to-be showed up in the household.

In a passage I cut from an earlier draft, she wonders:

What would you do?

While Dimitri and Barney have niches in the business, Nita has her chosen career. Tito, meanwhile, will likely have his hands in both the Zap enterprises and an independent law firm.

That leaves Manoula, who hopes to head off in a literary direction, not necessarily as a writer.

~*~

As I’m revisiting this, I’m getting a bit steamed. I realize how little guidance I had regarding my future. We didn’t talk much about it at home, and even college was somehow mostly off the table. The so-called guidance counselor at my large high school was mostly a disciplinary officer and military-draft registrar. College? No help from him!

I got more from the editor of the first newspaper that hired me as an intern. He had a knack for nurturing talent. I just wish he hadn’t retired when he did.

Dimitri seems to possess much of that skill, perhaps even more than Nita. They’d likely ask:

What would you really like to be doing with your life? What do you need from us to help? So what do you really want to do with your life? And what do you need to get there?

~*~

It doesn’t get more Greek than this.

Bewildered by the big real estate bubble

Admittedly, it’s a national problem, but one that’s especially acute here in New England. Home prices are soaring. Wannabe buyers far outnumber sellers.

For once, my wife and I hit this one right.

The place we just bought, as I’ve been saying, is in a remote location, and it needs some work. There are reasons potential buyers passed on it. As one I’ve met reacted, “It was more than my husband and I wanted to take on.” But thanks to our elder daughter, we have a vision, and, as we are finding, the place feels right. Besides, the bones are good. To our surprise, our bargain bid was accepted, so here I am.

And then, the city farm we just sold is in a very hot market. Readers of the Red Barn have been following some of the reasons – small-town pedestrian-friendly scale and New England character combined with proximity to Boston in one direction plus beaches and mountains in the other directions.

We watched as real-estate prices kept rising, buffeted by only one big downturn, and wondered how young couples and families could pay the mortgages. Well, rents were going out of sight, too, as are mobile homes. Around the neighborhood, the running joke was that none of us could afford to buy our own residences at the current prices. Only it wasn’t funny.

Covid, however, ramped all that up. Many people with professional jobs found that in working from home, they can live anywhere – and in working from home, they need a home office.

The real-estate collapse I had expected didn’t happen, thanks to the federal stimulus checks, extended unemployment compensation, and anti-eviction laws. Not to say there won’t be a delayed reaction.

Still, with Covid limiting a lot of ways to spend money – dining out, movies, travel, athletic events, concerts and theaters, for starters – there may be a lot of cash in reserve. Who knows if that’s a factor.

We had nine bids in five days, all above our asking price. Some were accompanied by love letters, even an excellent loaf of homemade bread, and selecting just one from that array was difficult. As was the disappointment of those who wondered what they’d done wrong.

Some of the push is coming from people from other parts of the country, who are buying sight-unseen, like the Texans with two Mercedes whose bid for a smaller property down the street was $65,000 more than the original asking price. That had a positive influence on our own property when it officially went on sale three days later.

So where are most of the hopeful buyers in Dover coming from now?

New York and California, we’re told.

Did anyone see that one coming? Or have a clue just where it might lead?

Some house maintenance that remains to be done

Good luck to the new owners. They’ll have their plate full. As I’ve said, we bought the place as a fixer-upper, and two decades later, after a lot of big work, it’s still a fixer-upper.

  1. The roof, again. If they’re really ambitious, they’ll go for standing seam rather than asphalt shingles.
  2. Replace the upstairs windows. Winter gets cold.
  3. Paint the exterior. We had a tradesman lined up, but he backed out after his wife died.
  4. Scrape and paint the hallway. Caulk the floor, too.
  5. Repaint the floors. The interior rooms could also use refreshing.
  6. Retackle the mother-in-law apartment. When we added it when we first moved in, it was the nicest room we had. But a two-pack-a-day habit took a toll.
  7. Downstairs toilet. Minor, but annoying.
  8. Regrade and repave the driveway.
  9. Minor landscaping issues, but they add up. I’d start by felling the trees next to the house.
  10. Improve the insulation. Seriously.

According to some owners, a boat is a hole in the water where you pour endless amounts of money.

In the same vein, an old house is a hole in the ground where you pour endless amounts of money.

 

An insider’s tricks of the trade

Her aunt Nita in my novel What’s Left, has an interesting insight on showing up for work before all the others. It doesn’t fit every job, but it did hers. And then I cut this from the final version of the book:

If you’re the first one in and the last one out, you can disappear in the middle of the day and your coworkers and bosses are none the wiser. They just assume you’re out on assignment.

~*~

Not all jobs require you to punch-in or punch-out on some kind of clock. I’ve never had to work one of those, fortunately, although I’ve often had to fill out weekly time cards before being paid.

What I did find, though, was that even when I was putting in a lot of unpaid overtime (the joys of being low-tier management!), I could still feel the judgmental eyes behind my back.

Are you ever considered a slacker on your job? How does it feel? How do you respond?

~*~

In the family, Cassia would have had food like this. Greek olives! Best of all, packed in olive oil!

Cash in a time of Covid

Well, this used to be the start of the Christmas shopping season, and with Coronavirus I’m assuming that our Thanksgiving gatherings are smaller than usual. (Anyone sitting down to a turkey TV dinner rather than a family gathering?)

Traditionally, today is a day when we’re supposed to think about what we’re grateful for during the past year, but we’re more likely reflecting on what we really miss.

Those face-to-face times when we’re altogether, especially. (Including those casual opportunities to pass along treasures to others, too … as I’ve pondered while culling my bookshelves.)

It’s even having me admit how little cash I’ve used since March, instead putting most of my small purchases “on plastic,” the way, say, most kids have long been doing. For just a cup of coffee?

I’m wondering what else, besides cash, has been a victim of this pandemic.

High on my list would be communal worship, singing together, dancing, concerts and plays, swimming and similar exercise as well as sporting events with live crowds, study groups, parties.

For the record, I’m grateful nobody among my family or friends has come down with Covid and that none of us has been evicted. Also, for one in particular, being furloughed opened the door to an even better position. So the list of positives begins to emerge.

How about you?

One more thing on the plate

Covid caused us to put off last spring’s anticipated yard sale, which was to help us reduce some of our excess possessions. Now we realize if we sell this house before May, when the yard sale seasons begins, we need to choose whether to move our excess items to our daughter’s and have a yard sale there or to take them to Goodwill or the dump instead.

Quite simply, do we feel we’re up for investing the time and effort in preparing and conducting a sale? (As well as the tedious job of cleaning up afterward?) How much do we want to reasonably rake in if we do?

In either case, I don’t want to pack up a bunch of stuff “to get to later,” meaning sometime after hauling it five hours northeast. Or wherever.

Note to self: Energy applied now saves double or triple that amount later.

Did you know nonprofits are a big part of the economy?

In my novel Nearly Canaan, Jaya resumes her career in nonprofit enterprises – a field she left in moving to the Yoga Bootcamp from Manhattan.

Running nonprofits turns out to be a management specialty – and they are a major player in the economy, even if you don’t read a lot about them in the business section of the newspaper.

Here are some considerations.

~*~

  1. The nonprofit sector accounts for $65 billion of the U.S. economy – 5.4 percent of the gross national product.
  2. Nonprofits hire a tenth of the workforce – more than national defense, construction, real estate, and space exploration combined.
  3. There are more than 1.2 million public charities and foundations in the country.
  4. Only one-third of the organizations file with the IRS, leaving the rest off of the economic radar.
  5. The 950,000 public charity organizations – ranging across arts, culture, education, health care, and human services – comprise two-thirds of the nonprofits sector.
  6. Most of them are small. Nearly 30 percent of the public service organizations operate at under $100,000 a year. The largest group, 37 percent, runs between $100,000 and $499,999. The largest group, of $10 million or more, is just 5.3 percent of the organizations but doles out 87 percent of the money.
  7. Nearly half of their revenue comes from fees for services and goods – ticket sales, tuition, hospital fees, membership fees, and product sales. Another third comes from government programs and grants. The remainder comes from donations (15 percent) and investment income (5 percent).
  8. Religion is the largest charity category, with a third of the pot, followed by education, 13 percent. Other standouts: Health, at 7.4 percent; arts, culture, and humanities at 4.1 percent; environment or animals, 2 percent.
  9. One in four Americans volunteers time and service to these causes. Their volunteer service, averaging 52 hours a year per person, is valued at $1.5 trillion. They also donate $358 billion in fundraising.
  10. The total assets of public charities in the U.S. comes to $3.7 trillion.

~*~

Do you donate to any nonprofit groups? Do you volunteer? Do you rely on their services?

 

All the renovation going on in town

Followers of this blog have seen the ongoing transformation of my small city’s downtown into a residential mecca.

We’re fortunate to be in a part of the country that has appeal based in part on its proximity to the ocean and mountains as well as the big-city attractions of Boston an hour away, without the crowding and cost of living.

The elimination of the bottlenecks between us and Interstate 95 ten miles away has also made Dover a more affordable real estate alternative compared to Portsmouth’s bloated high prices – even though I’m still in sticker-shock-land when I see what the purchases and rentals are going for. (Who can afford this?)

I had wondered, too, what the impact of all the new luxury apartments downtown would have on the older apartments. Would rental prices fall as a result? Some of the places were what you might call sketchy. And some, even only a few blocks from our place, are distinctly slummy.

What’s surprising me is the number of older rentals that are undergoing upgrades. Plumbing, windows, drywall, kitchens, flooring, even the wiring. It seems to be happening everywhere, though largely out of sight unless you start knocking on doors.

I’m still nervous about the economy in general, but it seems Dover’s in a good place to bounce back after Covid.