Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

I love the idea of reflecting on what an honor it is to live in this country, the sacrifices made by those who first came here from Europe; especially with all the flaws and shortcomings being brought up in the news every day. Those of us in the 99% have a great deal to be thankful for compared to those who live in other places.

In addition, we can never gather family and friends around our table often enough and enjoy their company. We seem to get busier and busier every year on less and less important things. This is a great Holiday to reset what is important.

The food served on Thanksgiving is not my favorite. A slice of turkey is more than enough and don't get me started on what a bad idea I think marshmallows and yams are. Then there is just the sheer quantity of food eaten in such a short period of time. So I have my own traditions that do not include turkey and candied yams. To me it is about spending time with friends and family not the food.

This can be a tough time for many people because they cannot go home to be with family for various reasons. So if you know someone that may be facing the day alone invite them to your house. Do not worry that you are not the best cook nor about the dust bunnies that are breeding in the corners of the living room. Enjoy their company, your family, and friends and let the day unfold.

I am not going to kill myself to provide a meal that Martha Stewart would envy but I am preparing a few dishes I think my family and guests will enjoy and I am looking forward to sharing bread and laughter and being thankful and grateful for what I have.

I hope you enjoy the company and laughter of your family and friends on Thanksgiving as well.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Penn State Scandal, how it has impacted me

Like too many adults I was the victim of sexual abuse as a child. Reading and listeining to the Penn State Scandal has made me remember and feel things I do not want to. Being sexually molested has damaged my life in ways that I am still trying to deal with and move beyond well into my middle age.

Also like many victims, I have lived with someone else's shame. I did nothing wrong, I was just a child but like so many others like me, I felt like I caused the abuse and was responsible for hiding the secret. There is so much pressure to hide the secret when the abuser is a relative, there are so many ways for them to seek and get retribution on you.

Young children do not have the language to tell you what is happening to them. I told my mother that this person hurt me and that I did not want to be with them but she did not know that they were sexually molesting me. She listened with her head not her heart about what I was telling her. She did not understand the level of terror and fear I had of being left with this relative. I think that this is issue is compounded in an extremely religious environment where sex and anatomy are usually never discussed. All things sexual have a hushed secretive nature. The message is often we don’t touch or talk about anything “down there” so if you are not allowed to talk about that part of your body, how can you describe that someone was touching you inappropriately? You really do not have the language to explain what happened to you.

I beg any adult that has a child or knows a child that is unduly fearful of an adult or older child, listen with your heart to what they are telling you, not their words. A small child does not know what words to use other than "Help me, they are hurting me" I know it is so hard to face, but the neighbor who likes to babysit or the aunt or uncle who comes over all the time could actually be child molesters. Child molesters are people who work hard to blend into the community and appear to be helpful so they have access to victims. The damage this does to child is unimaginable unless it has happened to you. They lurk in churches and in schools. They do their best to be respected members of society so that their word is always believed over the word of the child.

I also beg anyone else like me that has stayed silent that now is the time to talk about this and get changes in how our society is dealing with this issue. The statistics are staggering; something like 1 in 4 of girls and 1 in 6 boys are being sexually molested by the time they are adults. This has got to stop.

If the child molester did it to you they will do it to someone else you love as well. It breaks my heart to know that the same thing happened to another one of my relative’s years later because I was not able to get my message to my parents about the pain that was inflicted upon me. It is a club I wish they did not belong to. And what terrifies me even more is to think how many other members of this special little club there are because nothing was done when I was a small child. Just like the special little club created at Penn State. No one wants to be a member of this type of club.

My heart aches for all the children and the inner children that were hurt by this man at Penn State and not helped by others that were in a position to do so. I wish I did not know the pain they feel of thinking that the person that did this to me is somehow more important than me. We have got to break this cycle and one of the best ways to do that is for people like me to stand up and tell our stories.

If you have a story to tell like mine tell it!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Recipe: Italian Sausage, Pine Nuts and Exotic Mushroom Dressing

A friend of mine just posted a lament on Facebook about what kind of dressing to make for Thanksgiving. So I decided I would share my favorite recipe. I like my dressing to be browned and a little crunchy. I really don't like stuffing; it is too moist and gummy for my taste.

Actually it is kind of a family tradition not to make a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, no one in my family likes turkey so we never make it. I am partial to dressing and I plan on making it this Thanksgiving but I have not decided yet on a roasted chicken or a pork roast to serve along with it.

However you celebrate Thanksgiving; I wish you and your family a wonderful day.

4 C day old baguette cubes

1 Italian Sausage browned and crumbled

1/2 C Celery diced

1/2 C yellow onion diced
1 Leek chopped

6 cloves of garlic minced

1 C exotic mushrooms, chopped. I am using Chanterelle, King Oyster and Shitake this year

1/4 C pine nuts, browned

1/4 C fresh herbs-sage, thyme, rosemary

1 C chicken broth

1/2 stick of butter
1 -2 egg beaten

Salt & Pepper to taste

Cook the sausage and set aside to add to the dressing. Lightly toast the pine nuts, watch carefully not to burn.
Melt the butter & add the onion, leek, garlic, celery and fresh herbs. Sauté until lightly browned add the mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms are cooked through.
In a large mixing bowl add the bread cubes, sausage, pine nuts and mushroom mixture. Add the chicken stock and beaten egg to the bread cubes until you get the right “wetness” for your taste.
In the pan you cooked the mushroom mixture lightly brown the dressing. Adding more butter as needed salt and pepper to your taste.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My secret to eating what you want and losing weight

A big part of my life is cooking and eating great food but, believe it or not I have been eating what I want and losing weight.

I share a great many recipes on my blog because I love food and I love to eat. However, in the past year I have managed to lose over 20 lbs or about 2 1/2 dress sizes. I recently bought a pair of jeans in a size I have not worn since Nixon was still President!

I know it sounds contradictory that I share very calorie rich recipes and yet I still have managed to lose weight. I do not believe in diets, the minute I put myself on a diet I get hungry and obsess over food I think I should not be eating. What I have done instead is to make choices about what I eat.

I evaluate what I eat and I try to make a rational choice about what I put in my mouth. I have lost weight by doing the simplest things: I eat less and I exercise more. We need so many calories a day to live and if we consume more calories than we need our bodies store it somewhere for another day.

I know that sounds too simple to be true but it is. I do not eat until I am full at any meal, I stop at the point I am no longer hungry. I also try and add another 10 or 15 minutes at least of cardio every day than I want to do. Plus I really push myself on my cardio workouts. If I am not sweating I am not moving hard enough. I have also found that for me running is my ideal cardio workout. It helps me feel good emotionally, it challenges me and I can set real goals around challenges to continually get faster or increase my endurance running.

My knees and back seem to agree that less of me to carry around is a good thing. However, I want to strike a balance. If I cannot enjoy the foods I love I will lose some of my passion for life. I know that it sounds crazy to some but I think you can have the pleasure of eating ANYTHING you want and still maintain your weight. It is really about portion control and eating because you need to refuel not to entertain yourself.

I think so many people are told you can enjoy food or you can be thin but I am sure that you can do both if you are careful about the quantity of what you eat.

As an example, I ate out recently and I really wanted to have some fried Calamari. Which is not a low calorie food, plus I ate the tartar sauce on top of it. I ordered the dish and ate only until I was not hungry. My waiter wanted to know if I did not like the dish because I ate so little of it. I loved it but I only needed a few bites not a 1000 to enjoy it!

So with "Food Season" upon us find ways to eat what you want but make sure you are eating to refuel not to entertain yourself.

See you at the gym!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Mountain View, CA: Comparing SFH sales October 2007 through 2011

Almost every news article is full of news about how home sales are down and prices have fallen but I wanted to see if that holds true for the local real estate market in Mountain View, CA. Has the market fallen dramatically and has the number of transactions fallen significantly? I decided to do some research on MLSListings, Inc. and see what the actual sales numbers look like for single family homes (SFH) in Mountain View.

I have had a gut instinct that prices today were fairly close to what they were in 2007 but I wanted to take a look at the real numbers. This is what I found:

Oct 2011 Snapshot

# of SFH listed-31

Cancellations or withdrawls-2

Short Sales/REOs-1

Highest priced SFH-$1,849,318

Lowest priced SFH-$594,500

Average SFH characteristics-

Listed for $1,037,082

3 bedroom & 3 bath home builit in 1959 with 1709 sq ft on a 6938 sq ft lot

Oct 2010 Snapshot

# of SFH listed-31

Cancellations or withdrawls-8

Short Sales/REOs-0

Highest priced SFH-Listed 1.699M sold 1.79M

Lowest priced SFH-Listed 435K sold 380K

Average SFH characteristics-

On the market for 46 days

Listed for $941,332 and sold for $939,748

3 bedroom 2 bath built in 1962 with 1531 sq ft on a 6322 sq lot

October 2009 Snapshot

# of SFH listed-30

Cancellations or withdrawls-0

Short Sales/REOs-3

Highest priced SFH-Listed $1,718,153 sold $1,653,823 took 421 days to sell!

Lowest priced SFH-Listed 399K sold 399K

Average SFH characteristics-

On the market for 55 days

Listed for $905,986 and sold for $905,787

3 bedroom and 2 bath built in 1963 with 1628 sq ft on a 5674 sq lot

October 2008 Snapshot

# of SFH listed-24

Cancellations or withdrawls-17!!!! Or 0ver 70% of homes did not sell

Short Sales/REOs-0

Highest priced SFH-listed for $16,950,000 sold $1,613,000

Lowest priced SFH-listed $828,000 sold $765,000

Average SFH characteristics-

On the market for 61 days

Listed for $1,107,929 and sold for $1,065,809

4 bedroom and 3 baths built in 1957 with 1837 sq ft on a 7702 sq lot

October 2007 Snapshot

# of SFH listed-42

Cancellations or withdrawls-16 almost 40% of homes were taken off the market

Short Sales/REOs-0

Highest priced SFH-listed $1,600,000 sold for $1,595,000

Lowest priced SFH-listed $640,000 sold for $650,000

Average SFH characteristics-

On the market for 22 days

Listed for $1,038,627 and sold for $1,047,014

3 bedroom and 2 baths built in 1958 with 1576 sq ft on a 6818 sq ft lot

The average list price in 2007 and 2011 are very close but the number of listings are down about 25%. So is the news half right? Let me know your thoughts on the state of the market.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Call me crazy but I love first time buyers

I know many agents do not like all the questions and sometimes all the drama that comes with dealing with first time buyers. However, I love participating in one of life's biggest moments and for most of us buying our first house is a really big moment. I feel really good when I help someone find that first place.

I know that many first time buyers start out looking for the Taj Mahal with a trailer park budget. Again half the fun of working with them is helping them realize what they can actually afford in their price range. Sometimes this results in tears and a decision to hold off for a little longer. Other times they find exactly what they want and they start building a new life. I had one client call me recently to let me know they were expecting another baby, I was so excited because one of the main reasons they bought their first house was so they could expand their family.

I have another first time buyer that has a couple of offers under his belt and so he understands the process better than most first time buyers. On one of our last shopping sprees to find him a home he brought along a friend that is thinking of starting to look for his first place. His friend asked a great deal of questions and I was amazed at the answers my client gave him about the process. He has really listened to what I have shared with him about the process in the last couple of weeks. He is under contract and patiently waiting to see if we make it through the short sale process.

I have another first time buyer that I am working with ask me about a property they wanted more information on that they found out on Zillow. It just happened that the data was out of date and I got back to them with a flippant remark about why would they need if the data was always accurate on Zillow?

They got back to me with the cutest reply. They said, “We need you to negotiate for us and we need your moral support.” I loved answer about providing moral support because sometimes I think some agents forget what a big deal buying a house is. We get jaded, we do this all the time but our clients do not. We really do need to provide moral support to our clients. I am getting this first time buyer the keys later this week and I can hardly wait. And yes, I have provided a great deal of moral support along the way.