July 28, 2009

House Hunting

Jenn and I are thinking of buying a house these days. In fact, it constantly occupies my mind. Jenn had been looking at houses ever since she moved to the Capital Region, and we have been looking together since summer of 2008. Jenn was looking to buy a house because of the notion that renting is like throwing money into the toilet. I don't completely agree with that concept, but in the long run, paying a mortgage and end up owning a house is better than paying rent and still don't own anything in the end. Jenn didn't buy because of many reasons, such as having to take care of maintenance by herself, under-utilization, snow removal, yard work, etc. Last year we were looking because Jenn was deciding whether to renew the apartment lease or buy a house. She ended up moving to a different apartment.

Now that we are married, there's even more reason to buy a house. Our population has doubled, our stuff is doubled, we want to do things that living in an apartment cannot offer, and our combined income can let us support the extra expense of a house.

The short term financial outlook is worse in buying a house, because there are expenses that are not applicable when we are renting, such as maintenance, snow removal, landscaping, property tax, insurance, etc. The long term prospects can be the same, good, or very good in buying a house. It all depends on how long we stay and how much the property appreciates in that time. The case that it will be worse than renting is relatively low chance.

What does a house enable? It will have a yard, so we can have outdoor party like barbeque and a private space to be outside with nature. We can plant a garden. Maybe we can have a pool. House will have more space for storage and make things organized. There will be room to put a piano that Jenn wants. Maybe a sewing machine, a woodworking bench, a garage, a place to do car wash, our own laundry machines, nice entertainment center, big screen TV, king size bed. That's why it is worth the trouble and cost to move to a house of our own.

June 14th 2009 Honeymoon Day 7 (last day)

Sunday was the last day of our honeymoon. We booked a flight back to New Bedford in the afternoon, but we still have many things that we wanted to do. In the morning we went on a Van Tour by Gail. She said her mother started the tour business on a buggy in the 1920's, and she took over the business many years ago. She drives the van around the island and tells stories about the buildings, landmark, the people who lives around there, and where are the things worth seeing later. One interesting thing we learned was that Nantucket has a cranberry industry. The way they harvest them is to flood the growing area with water so the berrys float on the surface and that makes picking them much easier. Gail also explained that the island is constantly being eroded away and many houses on the edge of the shore either get washed away or had to be relocated. Those houses are very expensive, and sometimes they will pay another owner to move their house so they can move the house from shore to the lot across the street.

After we came back from the tour, we went to get lunch. We went to a restaurant called the Brotherhood of Thieves. They have a pub feel and the restaurant looks like completely under another building, so it has a tight-quarter feel but not in a bad way. Food was good and service was fast. I find that every restaurant on Nantucket had very good food, but they are also pricy. I think everything on the island is extra pricy due to the type of people who live there and vacation there. In comparison, things are Martha's Vineyard were not so "upper-class".

It was time to fly back to the mainland. We got a taxi and very quickly we were on our way to New Bedford. The flight was about 30 minutes and it was a clear day, so we could see from the airplane the ocean and the different islands beneath us. It was a nice flight. Once on land we had to call and wait for a taxi because the New Bedford airport is such a small airport that even parking is free. Funny that our destination is the parking lot for the ferry.

I was happy to see my car in the parking lot. We loaded the trunk with luggage and head back home. When we got back to Albany, we decided to take our sea bass to Shining Rainbow for them to cook us a dish. We actuall had them cook it in two different dishes, although they turn out to be kind of similar. We also ordered some other food to go and had an easy dinner at home.

To finish the week with a relaxing evening, we rented a movie from Redbox and I was glad to be home.

Overall, the trip was a lot of fun, and right on budget. There were many cloudy days and the water was too cold to swim, but I think we got the most out of what was available to us. It really doesn't matter where we go, as long as we have each other, we will have fun.

June 13th 2009 Honeymoon Day 6

In the morning we went downstairs to get breakfast served by the inn. They actually have a menu for breakfast, so we get to pick from among a few different choices such as sausage or pancake or fruit platters. I forgot what we ordered but it was delicious. I asked if we could stay one more night there, but the inn was all full. The innkeeper helped us find three other bed and breakfast places and we picked Centerboard Guest House as our next lodging.

Because we cannot check-in at the Centerboard until 3 pm, we put our stuff in the Union Inn lobby and went out to tour the town.

We got a map from the Union Inn and the innkeeper had told us about a walking route that will take us to see different parts of the Nantucket town. We followed that route and went towards a historic light house on the beach. People were waiting in line to go up the tower. We also waited in line and got up there to see the view from the higher vantage point.

For lunch, we walked to a sandwich place that the innkeeper recommended. It's called Something Natural. We later found out that it is a local favorite, and it is actually not easy to see unless you are specifically looking for it. It was in the midst of a residential area and we had to walk into a large driveway to see the shop which is like any other house. The inside reminded me of College Town Begal. The food was so-so, I thought. Maybe I didn't order the right thing, but the portion is definitely on the large side.

We walked along a residential area by the beach and there are several public access paths that goes to the beach. We went to the end and there was a hidden path that leads to a flight of stairs that goes down to the beach. To get back to town, we walked along the beach and decided to stay for a while, trying to enjoy some time on the beach, since it was a relatively nice day. The water is still too cold to swim, so we just stayed on the sand. There are a lot of shells and dead crab shells and seaweeds. That's very different from the beach I am used to in Hawaii, which is just sand and rocks. But we managed to find a spot without too much people traffic and stayed until we had to go becuase we reserved a spot for a sailing trip.

We went back to the pier and got onto a sail boat tour called Endeavor Sailing. The sail boat takes about 20 people, and we sailed out to sea for about 90 minutes. It was our first time on a sail boat. We both wanted to try it, but we thought the fishing trip was more fun, because we were actively engaged in the activity rather than just sitting and looking out on the water. Jenn did volunteer to help raise the sail on the boat, so everyone watched her pull hard on the ropes and see the huge sail went up.

After we came back, we went back to Union Inn to take our luggage to Centerboard, and then went out looking for a restaurant for dinner. We somewhat randomly chose to stop at a restaurant called Dune. It is a new restauarnt, has a modern and hip style inside, even though you can't tell that from the outside. The food was excellent, but the server was terrible. We were disappointed by the slow response and almost non-existent attention we were treated with.

After dinner, I had the idea of seeing sun set by the beach, so we try to run to the stairs that goes down to the beach. We were tired from all the walking around during the day, but we still made it. By the time we got there, which was around 8 pm, the sun had already gone down. It was also cloudy, so it wouldn't have been a clear sun set.

Our room at the Centerboard was a below grade room, so it feels somewhat damp. I wouldn't say I like it a lot, but for the price it was a good place to stay.

July 7, 2009

June 12th 2009 Honeymoon Day 5

The flight to Nantucket was in the early morning, so we got up at around 8 AM, grabbed a quick breakfast, and rolled our luggage towards the bus station, which was a short 5 minutes walk. We got on the bus, paid $2 each person, and took a nice ride to the airport, which is located in the middle of the island. The airport is as simple as can be. There was no security check, no bag check, because everything is carry-on. The Cape Air counter agent told us that the fog is forcing the airport to be closed and no plane can fly until the visibility picks up. There are people who waited since 6 in the morning to fly to Nantucket. We waited for about an hour before they told us to board. The plane is a 7 passenger 1-engine turboprop. The luggage gets put in the wings and in front of the cockpit. I was sitting in the front row, right behind the pilot, and looking at the pilot working with the flight controls was interesting. The small plane and the fog made me nervous, even though I knew it was probably as safe as any other flight. The flying was a short 30 minutes. Upon landing, the plane was in the fog the whole time except the last 10 seconds before touchdown. Both Jenn and I were amazed by the pilot's skills without much of the modern electronics to guide the plane.

We took a taxi from the Nantucket airport to our next bed and breakfast: Union Inn. On Nantucket the only town is the Nantucket town, so it is simply "the Town". Union Inn is located in the town and the town itself is very walkable. The innkeeper was very friendly and welcoming; he told us what we could do for the two days we are on the island. The Inn looked like an old house with large wooden planks for the floor that made it uneven, and our room was on the second floor with a detached bathroom. They made the bathroom look very modern with glass door shower and large mirror on the walls.

One of the things the innkeeper told us about was fishing trip. There are boats that take people out to sea for a 3 hour fishing trip, and that sounded like fun, so we went. They are called Just Do It Too. Apparently there is another one called Just Do It on the shore of Cape Cod somewhere. We went out to sea at 4pm. On the way, we saw a colony of sea lions on the beach. They watched us as we passed by, with fishing poles in the water trying to catch some blue fish. We stopped at a ship wreckage spot to fish for sea bass. It was pouring rain while we caught a few sea bass. Good thing we had our yellow Black Dog raincoats on, only the bottom half of our bodies were soaked. Jenn kept getting spider crabs but those we don't keep, so we just throw it back in. On the way back, we used yet a different pole to catch strip bass. The ones we caught were too small to keep, so we put it back to the water. After all is done, we came back with a bag of sea bass filet. The captain of the boat told us we can prepare the filet with lime juice and tomato. We went to the nearby supermarket to buy the ingredients and an ice box to keep the fish. We decided to eat the fish for dinner, so we tried marinating the fish in our room, while watching TV. After about an hour of preparation, the fish turned from a translucent color to an opaque white. We ate it with diced tomatoes, french bread, onions, and champagne. They went together nicely.
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