Thirty Year Mortgages and Fish Oil

  Confusion reigns, needlessly so. Interest-only, balloon, 5/1 and 5/5, two-step or fixed home loan rates. Thirty year mortgages, fifteen, or ten. LIBOR and teaser rates, reverse mortgages and investment-backed. There's about as many choices as there as types of cheesecake on a casino dessert buffet:   not a huge number, but enough to confuse and befuddle, and have you end up with what you didn't want, because the red silk cheesecake with whipped topping looks so frickin' delicious, but what would your date think, you'd totally look like a hog, so you settle for the teeny-tiny slice of low carb, and then go home to pig out on Sara Lee Chocolate Fudge Delight, eaten straight from the box standing up at the bar counter... but … [Read more...]

Rosemary, rosemary, not quite so contrary

flowering rosemary

  What do to with a double armful of fresh rosemary?  Why, make erbe toscane, that's what.  Just add some sage, salt and minced garlic, and we're good to go. My mother and grandmother refereed to these herb mixes simply as odori, or odors (could also be literally interpreted as "nice aromas".  Chop you up a pile and see what I mean, the smell alone will you make you hungry for roast pork tenderloin).  Erbe toscane, or Tuscan herbs, is merely a trend-sucking name for a simple mix used to season roasts and chicken, potatoes and other oven-roasted vegetables.  These days, just about anything gets the Tuscan (air quotes!) appellation, even cat food. If you've got sage (or thyme, or oregano), throw in a handful, or a … [Read more...]

Sunday Morning Fish Wrap: It’s springtime and it’s bloody well snowing…

Cypriot Uruk-hais face a tough job market

 The Fish Wrap: an occasional grouping of interesting links, mostly centered around finance topics, largely from personal finance blogs. A carnival of sorts, this time nicely arranged by topics, and curated with inconsistent editorial standards.   Gardening Spring is in the air... In last week's post on fruit trees, this passage: For example, for any zone 6 people, I'd advise staying away from apricot trees. I went ahead and planted a good-sized apricot two seasons ago, only to now find out that apricots are particularly prone to pest and disease problems. Not only that, they blossom early. Although it sure is nice to see pretty blooms as a sign of the coming spring, that also means that these blossoms can be killed off … [Read more...]

How To Add Thousands To Your Home’s Value For Only $100

"Cornelian Cherry" Edible Dogwood (Cornus Mas)

What exactly does a hundred bucks buy you in terms of increasing your home's value? Maybe a mid-range new faucet, or a new vanity light. A new coat of paint on the entry way (paint only, no labor), a slightly used door knocker, a brass street number sign, several fruit trees... Stop right there. Yes, that's right, not one, but several fruit trees, planted strategically on the property, growing and yielding fruit after a couple years. By the time you're ready to downsize and move out of the suburban ghetto back up to a midtown condo, the apple or peach or pecan trees are mature and a nice little tack-on feature to the property, something to stand out from the other characterless two-Bradfords in the front, Bermuda-in-the-back … [Read more...]

Gardening Interlude: Growing and Cooking Winter Greens

This might be spinach, not swiss chard or kale.  But the look of bacon is undeniable.

  Conventional wisdom says that winter greens like kale, spinach, collard greens, Swiss chard and mustard greens are best planted for a fall crop.  And conventional wisdom can bite me.  Never mind about fall, they're good year round, especially certain varieties of kale. The thing to watch out for is that during the hot summer months, the leaves of these greens become a bit bitter.  A touch of frost, on the other hand, makes them pump up the sugars and while not sweet, they're certainly more edible. Take a mixed kale and collards salad with hot bacon dressing, it's sensational (as anything would be, really, with hot bacon). Cooking winter greens couldn't be simpler.  A couple fistfuls of greens, several strips of … [Read more...]

Going with Your Gut

Bacon-wrapped sweet corn, brisket and chicken... all good stuff to throw on the smoker

So my colleague and I were one a field audit one fine day. That used to be part of my job more than it is today. Procurement folks will know immediately what this is about: go inspect a supplier's facilities, and see that they indeed are what they purport to be -- not just a fancy brochure or website fluffed up with semi-facts and pretty pictures. The supplier under the magnifying glass that day was actually a fine manufacturing outfit. On paper, let's-call-them ACME Manufacturing looked great. In the flesh, even better: all the plant and equipment needed to do our work, with welding machines well-maintained and calibrated; good visual weld quality, work flow and meticulously detailed QA/QC records; solid partnership relations with … [Read more...]

A post for International Woman’s Day 2013 (only a couple days late)

"Russian knyaz Igor exacts tribute from the Drevlyans in 945", by Klavdy Lebedev  (we could just imagine that the Drevlians had had about enough of this collecting tribute stuff, and eventually gave Igor the what-for, what?)

Since Friday was International Women's Day, now's as good a time as any to showcase some stand-up dames throughout past and present history that have left a notable palmprint or two on the sidewalk of life. How About A Classy, Brainy, Stand-up Dame? Dr. Rita Levi-Montalcini passed away this December at the age of 103.  The 1986 Nobel Laureate in Physiology and Medicine was an Italian Senator-for-Life, and an advocate for education of women in the sciences. Born in Turin in 1909, as a Sephardic Jew Dr. Rita Levi-Montalcini was barred from practicing medicine in 1940's Fascist Italy. A mere government edict did little to dissuade the good doctor from practicing in her own home laboratory, using scalpels hand-crafted from sewing … [Read more...]

BDCs… They’re Not Underwear. But They Do Pay Dividends.

For The Ladies... Remember this ad?

No, it's not underwear we're talking about. That would be BVDs - which, thanks to the wonders of information-age Wikipedia, stands for "Bradley, Voorhees & Day, the New York City firm that initially manufactured underwear of this name for both men and women." Not talking 'bout neoprene BCDs, either.  You scuba divers, PTF down*.  No one's interested in hearing you drone on and on about the merits of one Buoyancy Control Device brand over another, and your YOLO scuba-diving trip to Belize. No, BDCs are Business Development Companies, a class of dividend investment as unknown as REITs were in the 90's. Raise your hand if you're a personal finance blogger and you've heard of them before. Anyone?  Bueller? OK, here we … [Read more...]

Investing in Farmland

Corn Production in Colorado

The world is fast running out of food, water and natural resources. We're all gonna die. Eventually, sure.  But not just yet. In the meantime, there's no reason we can't make a buck or two, or at least not lose a buck or two. I've long had on my radar screen an Argentinean agricultural company, Cresud S.A.C.I.F. y A. (CRESY: Nasdaq).  I wrote about them on this blog last year, saying that I was still on the fence about investing in farmland, albeit indirectly. Even though the stock pays a not-too-shabby 2% yearly dividend, I thought I could wait and see if there were better places to invest.  And as it turned out, there was. Just a little more digging (pun!) brought up Adecoagro SA, a farmland operator in Argentina and … [Read more...]

Monday Morning Fish Wrap: The Mafia’s Got Wind In Its Pants (pocket)

This is not Sicily

The Fish Wrap: an occasional grouping of interesting links, mostly centered around finance topics, largely from personal finance blogs. A carnival of sorts, arranged in no consistent fashion, and governed by lazy editorial standards. Years ago, Mafia references used to bug me to no end. On learning of my Italian ethnicity, the inevitable quip about criminal parentage would come out. But it helps to turn a perceived weakness into a strength. I learned long ago to reply with with a wink and a nod, and sometimes even a mock affected NY accent "That's right. I know people who know people."* Smiles or laughter or follow-up jokes all around (or even a semi-startled double take), and we get on with business. It's even become a jokey byline … [Read more...]