Friday, October 17, 2008

Looking on the Bright Side

House hunting is not very much like baking.

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For example: In baking, there are many tiny happy parts that all blend together to create the final product. And although the final product takes time and hard work to achieve, the little happy parts keep you going through the process.

Like the part where the brown sugar stays in the shape of the measuring cup. For some inane reason, that just makes me ridiculously happy. (So cylindrical!)

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The difference with house hunting is that there's no little happy parts through the process. Its just slogging through house after house -- and getting your hopes up every single time that this next house will have everything we want. And then when it doesn't? Well, its kinda like the brown sugar falling apart. Not quite as happy-making.

No, shopping for a house is not very much like baking at all. There's no jovial white-haired man smiling at me from the oatmeal box. (There was, however, a random teenager asleep in one of the houses we visited that we thought was vacant at the time of the showing. Not nearly as fun as Mr. Quaker Oats.)

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There are not rows and rows of shiny clean apples, all lined up in rows. Instead, there are broken light fixtures and windows, there are impossibly small backyards, and there are bizarre oriental-themed decors with ugly countertops and No. Gas. Stove.

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Spend your time and effort cutting and peeling apples, and you've got a bowl full of fruit ready to bake. Spend your time and effort house hunting, and you've got a renewed sense of just how far a dollar is unable to go and just how expensive this area really is.

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Needless to say, I'm irritable about the whole thing. I just want to put on the brakes, sit on our savings and watch it grow. I don't want to throw it all into a downpayment, and I don't want to buy a house unless I feel like its "the One." And we haven't exactly seen a whole lot of anointed-looking houses lately. (Foreclosures and short sales have this way of sucking the life out of your soul.)

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So we wait. And I bake things in our apartment kitchen and I look out over our 600-some-odd-square-foot apartment, and I think -- how long can we stay here?

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And the answer I'm coming to, unfortunately, is indefinitely.

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A warm apple crisp made the realization a bit easier to handle. But not much.

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This is the part where Steven will tell you that I am being melodramatic (as always) and that the house hunt is going great and we've considered offers on several different places, but none of them was exactly right for us. Being that we're first-time home buyers, we have the distinct advantage of time on our side, which means that we can wait and wait for the market to drop to its lowest possible point. And it also means that we can wait for interest rates to improve. (I called today. They were horrifically high. I nearly had a heart attack writing down the number they told me.) (I know. More melodrama. I can't help it. Exaggerating makes me feel better about the real-life scenario -- the one that's not quite as bad as I'm making it out to be.)

So we wait. And I bake stuff. It has to get easier than this, doesn't it?

Sunny Apple Crisp
Ingredients:
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
4 apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Vanilla ice cream or heavy cream, for serving (optional)

Preparation:
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter an 8-inch square baking dish.

2. For topping, combine the butter, sugar, flour, oats and cinnamon in a bowl. Work together with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Toss in nuts; set aside.

3. Toss the apples with lemon juice and spoon into the baking dish. Sprinkle topping evenly over the apples. Bake in center of the oven for 1 hour or until bubbly and the apples are tender. Let cool slightly. Serve warm, topped with ice cream or cream, if desired.

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