Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Mega-mansion woes

Even though the population is thinner in this new area we're living in, there are still a fair number of McMansion-style dwellings we see perched on top of hills with splendid views in all directions. Don and I passed one on the way to town some time back, and we were remarking on how exposed it made the house look. He said something that stuck with me ever since: "They build there so they can see and be seen."

The "see" part I get. Many of these homes command spectacular views. But the "be seen" part baffled me. Who wants to be seen? Maybe we're just odd, but "being seen" is not one of our goals in life. I dunno, maybe that's the difference between introverts and extroverts.

Which leads, in a convoluted way, to an article I saw a few weeks ago entitled "$500 million LA mega-mansion faces default." The article discusses precisely what the headline covers: How a developer built a 100,000 square foot spec house in Bel-Air called "The One" in hopes of making a huge profit. He took out a $82.5 million loan to fund construction.

From the article: "Niami [the developer] has had some bad luck over the last year. He sold an LA mansion called 'Opus' that was once listed for $100 million for a 50% haircut during the virus pandemic. Perhaps the developer has fallen on hard times, or the super-luxury real estate market has stalled. Whatever the issues are, and why Niami can't service his debt on The One comes at a precarious time for the real estate market as interest rates have violently risen over the past few months. ... [T]he lender, who is well aware of market conditions, wants their money back and recently slapped Niami with a default notice. The developer has just 90 days to repay the loan or restructure the agreement in some way so that [the lender] doesn't force the sale of the home. ... Now the developer faces notice of default where the lender could force a sale in market conditions that may not be conducive for top dollar."

There you go, folks. Problems of the rich and famous.

My first thought was, "Who the heck needs a 100,000 square foot home?" The answer is, "Those who want to be seen."

Now segue to this little fluff piece I saw recently entitled "7 Ways to Sabotage Your Financial Future." It contained some decent advice, most of it not applicable to Don and me because we were never "investors."

But one paragraph struck me as something Mr. Mega-Mansion should have taken to heart. One error people can make that sabotages their financial future is "Making big purchases with irrevocable consequences":

"What are decisions that can lead to financial ruin? Big decisions that are hard to undo, such as the purchase of a house, car or boat. There’s a house for sale in my suburban neighborhood that has been on the market for years. It’s beautiful and has truly amazing architecture. The only problem is it is about 10 times more expensive than every other home around it, and nobody else seems to share the owner’s specific taste. Millions of dollars of equity are tied up in a decision to build an asset that can’t be liquidated. I don’t know the owner’s story, but I’ve seen many stories like it, and it isn’t pretty.

Resale value should always be considered when making big purchases. The more unique an asset is, the fewer buyers it brings. This decision could leave you stuck with a unique, but illiquid asset. Tying up a significant percentage of your net worth in illiquid assets can be a great way to sabotage yourself. If and when you need liquidity, there’s no guarantee that a buyer would be willing and able to pay what you need for that asset."

I'd say that applies to the mega-mansion, don't you?

I won't go so far as to say I feel sorry for this developer – there are a lot of people struggling out there far more deserving of pity – but it does make our own modest lifestyle seem wealthy by comparison. We may not own a 100,000 square foot mega-mansion ... but then, it seems the developer doesn't either.

Besides, what does this mega-mansion have that we don't have?

Their living room:

Our living room:

Their library:

Our (partial) library:

Their master bedroom:

Our master bedroom:

Their weight room:

Our weight room:

Their dining table:

Our dining table:

Their patio:

Our patio:

All this, and we don't have to service a $82.5 million loan, either. Now tell me, who leads a more peaceful life?

Perhaps a wish not to "be seen" isn't so odd after all.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

A walk in the woods

Older Daughter came up for the day so we could all go for a walk in the woods.

There is so much woods around us, but because we're off the beaten path, there aren't any official hiking trails. Instead we loaded up Mr. Darcy and went to where we knew a well-established logging road snaked into the forest. We found a spot to park and went walking.

We didn't go terribly far maybe 2.5 miles altogether and it was nice and easy. But we enjoyed it so much that Don and I intend to walk parts of this road a lot more often.

One funny thing happened. We saw a rustle of a black-furred animal hidden among some brush, and I yanked out my camera. "I think it's a young moose!"

Well, um, it wasn't a moose.

It was the funniest thing in the world to be walking along what seemed to be a remote logging road, only to have a llama follow us long a fence line.

It was obviously a defense animal and it glared at us, spittin' mad (literally), so we stayed well away from him. He was not an animal I'd care to meet in a dark ally. But it sparked a lot of "What? A llama? He's supposed to be dead!" jokes as we passed him by.


We passed a nice outcrop of mica schist, otherwise known as flagstone. Don made a mental note of this, as he's always wanted a flagstone walkway.

We also spotted this furry little woollybear caterpillar.

As we headed back to the car, we spotted a rare Freezerus deepchestius. These, thankfully, are hard to spot in the wild.

All in all, it was a very nice early-spring amble. It felt good to stretch our legs, though Mr. Darcy came home pooped.

It's a good thing we took our walk when we did. The weather hit a balmy 70F today, but the wind is kicking up and the temperatures are plunging overnight.

Winter is slowly loosening its grip, but it's not gone yet.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Egos on parade

I looked out our kitchen window this foggy morning and saw ... egos on parade.

What cracks me up about gobblers puffing themselves up like Spanish grandees is how monumentally indifferent the females act in the face of such blatant machismo.

While the males strut their stuff, can't you just hear the hens saying something like, "Where did you get your hair done, Mabel? I just love your new style!"

Yet I guess the macho display works. Every year there are lots of baby turkeys running around.

To each their own.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Canning supplies: Still a problem

Once in a while I dip into the issue of canning supply shortages, wondering what the status is. I've noticed there seems to be some canning jars in local grocery stores again, though lids still seem to be missing. But what's going on in the wider world?

So this morning I got onto the Lehman's website (which is kind of my "indicator" source) to see what's up. Looks like supplies are still sold out. Here's the announcement for regular-mouth canning jars:

Underneath the entry is the note: "Due to high demand, the vendor has been sending supply of styles that vary. We are sorry for the inconvenience, but we cannot guarantee a particular style."

Same thing for all jar sizes, such as wide-mouth quart.

Canning lids, of course, are completely gone. I've always kicked myself for not getting a few shipments of bulk lids when they were available. Despite mostly using Tattlers, I like having disposable lids as well.

Lehmans has been hammering at the doors of their suppliers, to no avail:

Reusable lids still seem to be in stock, which was nice to see (although the reviews indicate some people aren't familiar with how to use them).

Next, I checked pressure canners. As you might have guessed, none are available. Here's a mid-range All-American canner:

(A quick check on the All American Canner website confirms the lack of availability.)

I checked in with Glenda Lehman Ervin, VP of Marketing, to get her take on the situation. She wrote back and said:

"Yes, canning supplies are very difficult to get, as are certain Lodge cast iron products, wood cook stoves and Berkey water filters.

We do have stock of canned meat now, as well as Aladdin lamp oil and several key gardening products, which were back ordered.

Each week we get lots of product in, but it turns right around as we fill back orders and supply pent-up demand.

We ask customers to please be patient – we are working on increasing our communication on the status of back orders.  We do recommend placing an order to reserve your place in line!"

This is an immensely frustrating situation for retailers. Remember, they can't sell what they can't get.

What has been your experiences, dear readers? Do you have any suggestions for those looking for canning supplies?

Monday, March 22, 2021

Tackiest hotel room on the planet

Last July, I tucked aside an interesting link entitled "Take This Tour Of The World’s Most Expensive Hotel Room" featuring the "Empathy Suite" at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas. It is considered the most extravagant, luxurious, and certainly the most expensive hotel suite on the planet.

At 9,000 square feet, it is effectively a two-story mansion in the sky, encompassing the 34th and 35th floors of the casino resort. It costs $100,000 per night, with a two-night minimum.

You can't just book this hotel suite. You must apply, after which the hotel staff will do its due diligence to make sure you can afford it. Perks include a 24-hour on-call butler, chauffeured car service, and a bartender.

The rooms feature original art pieces by artist Damien Hirst, whose focus in this suite is centered on two themes: butterflies and medicine. Yes really.

The first Hirst art piece you see walking into the suite is ... a medicine cabinet.

See how artfully the items are arranged with dazzling color coordination? Isn't it lovely?

But my favorite part was the hotel room's bar.

Looks classy, right? Until you see what the bar top features:

Medical waste. Yes, you read that right: The bar top features medical waste. Not, we are hastily assured, used medical waste, but medical waste just the same. When we saw this, both Don and I cracked up laughing.

This feature, folks, is what made me realize having money does NOT necessarily translate to having class.

Putting aside the preponderance of pill-themed wallpaper...

...the most pervasive artistic feature of the various rooms are butterflies.

Personally I think all these butterflies are better suited to a teenage girl's bedroom, and the medical waste is just plain creepy, so now you can guess what kind of art cretin I am.

The most notable feature of the suite is the balcony swimming pool, cantilevered out from the building 34 stories up. Kinda spiffy if you're not afraid of heights. It is unfortunately strewn with more teenage-girl butterflies, but the view is pretty cool.

Go watch the video. It's very interesting, and it leaves you with a profound sense of gratitude that you're not so wealthy that you can spend a minimum of $200,000 to be surrounded by butterflies and medical waste.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

What to do with lots of canned fruit

Now that I have a pantry that's properly organized and inventoried, I realize I have a lot of fruit canned up. A lot.

Over the years, as I canned up this abundance, in the back of my mind I did so with one objective: how much we enjoy fruit salad. For this I can thank my mother, who tells me as children we kids wouldn't eat our fruit unless she mixed it in a fruit salad. She used one secret ingredient I've always adored.

Last summer when cleaning out and inventorying our freezers, I found I had gallons of frozen raspberries from our bushes. Younger Daughter is the raspberry fiend in our family, and with her off in the Navy, most of the berries went uneaten. But they were beautiful berries and I needed to do something with them. Rather than make them into jam (which I dislike), I opted simply to can them whole in water, with an eye toward one day being part of a fruit salad. That day had come.

So last weekend Older Daughter came up for a visit. As you can imagine, Mr. Darcy was THRILLED to see her.

When I mentioned I was planning on making a fruit salad, Older Daughter eagerly asked if she could bring some home with her. You bet!

So I pulled out all the necessary ingredients from the pantry:

The only thing missing was strawberries. I had a bag of frozen sliced strawberries, the last loot from our old  garden, which I defrosted and added to the mix.

Everyone's notion of the ideal fruit salad is different, but here's what ours consists of: peaches, pears, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, apples. (I canned chopped apple "bits" a few years ago specifically to add to fruit salad.)

I drained the small fruits.

The peaches are drained separately, so I could chop them up.

Of the two quarts of pears I used, one quart is drained and chopped.

The mix so far:

Then -- and this is my mother's secret ingredient -- the other quart of pears is put in the blender with its juice, and puréed.

This creates a "sauce" ...

 ... which is then poured over the rest of the fruit.

Mix it all together, and voilà: A sure-fire way to get the kids to eat their fruit.

And it has a secondary benefit of clearing out some pantry space.