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Last Updated: 09/30/2008 05:00PM • Subscribe via RSSATOM

Risky Business

09/30/2008 ● By Super Admin

Now that “back-to-school sale” time is over, we see the retailers setting us up for the approaching holiday season. It seems like it never stops! Along with the “peer pressure” retail sales, many people are being squeezed by the cost of gas prices, and some worry over the fact that the value of their home has dropped, or that their job may be in danger. But there is good news – most of us have seen this before and persevered. Capitalist markets tend to rise and fall in cycles. Will the stock market recover? How about the real estate market? The answer is yes of course, if history is any guide. Recently, I read a forecast from Dan Laufenburg, Chief Economist for Ameriprise Financial, suggesting that the United States economy will actually skirt a recession, by definition, this year; but we may end up in one next year, beginning in the second quarter. As I write today, Laufenburg happens to be in the minority camp of economists who instead believe a recession will happen sooner. He also suggested that inflation may become a problem and the Federal Reserve may need to raise interest rates before next year to combat it. I wonder what rising interest rates will do to home mortgage rates and the real estate market in general? I suspect that neither the stock nor bond markets will like the answers. But, only time will tell.Another real question is - will the fear of not being able to borrow money in an emergency, or being pinched for cash by the cost of gas, get inside our heads and suppress the natural urge to spend money this holiday season? If American consumers, who make up roughly 70 percent or more of our economy’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product), slow their spending it could continue to hurt our economy. In recent history, we usually just spend our way out of slow economic times. And, already we have heard reports of discount retailers posting better sales and profits compared to department stores and some high-end retailers. You can bet that department stores and high-end retailers will fight the big discounters (such as Wal-Mart) for a share of your gift-giving dollar, by hosting aggressive sales and promotions during the upcoming holiday season. So, we might not need to limit our shopping to discount stores for all of our holiday spending in 2008! There may be some impressive deals to be had at department stores.I strongly believe the best advice continues to be to hang in there with your investments and house. If you don’t need to sell now, does it really matter what the current price is? This could be said for both stocks and homes. With that said, it is critical that you know your risk tolerance and make sure your portfolio is aligned with it. Diversification continues to be the best strategy to minimize risk in a portfolio, by utilizing different types of investments. Natural resource mutual funds, for example, have been a great diversifier over the past 24 months. Consider consulting a professional financial advisor if you have any question about whether or not you are properly invested during these volatile times. If you have an advisor, don’t put off the meeting she is asking you for. Your money and future goals are too important to leave unmanaged. Russel Phelps is a Certified Financial Planner™ with Ameriprise Financial in Folsom. He can be reached at 916-351-0000 or russel.l.phelps@ampf.com.

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Wine Class

08/31/2008 ● By Super Admin

You can love something without understanding it…just look at the popularity of Lost. But it’s always nice when you do know something about the object of your affection. Take wine for example. I enjoy the occasional sojourn to the vineyards of Placer or El Dorado County with friends. But when I get there, I see others sipping, swirling and saying things like “it’s got good legs” and I end up feeling uncomfortable and intimidated, at least until the third or fourth stop. Rick Kushman, the longtime TV columnist for the Sacramento Bee, (and their funniest writer, if you don’t count the angry letters-to-the-editor) enjoyed wine, but didn’t much understand it either. So he wrote a book. A Moveable Thirst, co-authored with Hank Beal, the executive wine buyer for Nugget Markets, is a great read for anyone who has ever wondered if there was room in the wine world for people who don’t walk around with the collar up on their polo shirt. I caught up with Rick to get the scoop:T: Why wine? Why not beer…or grain alcohol?R: It would have been tough to get our wives to let us tour grain alcohol plants, and believe me, I’ve asked. Seriously, wine is fun and it makes food, and life better. Plus the more you learn about it, the more interesting and the more fun it gets. And the subject needs normal people writing about it to spread that sense of fun. Not that I’m normal… I’m just saying.T: What’s the number one mistake of the novice wine drinker?R: Listening to other people, and looking at price. I say in the book, if you love it you’re right; if you hate it, you’re right.T: Which wine has the most pretentious fans?R: Cabernet, European cabs and cab blends. Cabs are big money reds –  the ones that can get cultish and exclusive and let people pretend they’re cool. I’ve never figured out why people think wine makes you cool. I mean, would you do that with anything else, like, say potatoes? Who says, “I only eat imported potatoes?”T: Which wine has the least?R: White Zinfandel. When someone asks what he or she should look for in a glass of white zin, I tell them, “the buzz.” T: When some people sip wine, they taste blueberries and apricots and chocolate. All I ever taste is wine. Is there something wrong with me?R: Tom, there’s a lot wrong with you, but nothing involving wine. You can smell a cake and know if it’s chocolate, so eventually with some practice and attention, you’ll get different smells and tastes out of the wine.   T: Three questions a novice should ask to look more wine savvy?R: First thing: never try to look wine savvy because there’s no reason. Who cares if you’re not a pro? But, the questions to ask are really simple: “Tell me about your wine?” “What might I notice in it?” and “What food would it go well with?”T: Three questions they shouldn’t?R: “Can I have more?” “Is that hot server single?” And, “Was that your cat I just ran over?”T: Your book is about Napa, but what about the Sierra Foothills? When are you going to give those wineries some love?R: I do love the wineries in the foothills. And I’ll be writing about them in the Bee in my new column, The Good Life, and on the Bee’s wine Web site, sacwineregion.com. And, yes, my professional life now involves drinking wine and watching TV. See what going to college gets you?T: Your favorite wine to review TV shows with?R: Anything with high alcohol [content]. T: Is it true that a guy sniffing the cork is an uninformed tool?R: Total tool. When they drop the cork on you at dinner, do not touch it, or put it in your pocket, [just] ‘cause you paid for it. There’s nothing you can get from the cork.T: Thank you for helping me no longer be “that guy.”R: Uh, Tom, buddy, you’re still that guy. But I do what I can.T: Last question: Now that you’ve explained wine to me, can you explain Lost?R: The only thing I can tell you Tom is: the more wine you drink, the more sense Lost makes.Catch Tom on the Pat and Tom Morning Show on New Country 105.1 KNCI.

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VW Sportwagen

08/31/2008 ● By Super Admin

With the cost of fuel helping to short out the world’s economy, fewer people see the logic in buying massive SUVs for the daily grind. Interestingly, buyers who once saw station wagons as an automotive styling plague are beginning to rethink the idea of a tiny SUV, or essentially, a wagon. And, fuel economy aside, there are a lot of other reasons to love a wagon over an SUV – they’re easier to drive, ride better, often easier to get in and out of, take less room to park, frequently look better and are simply smarter for a daily use regime.Volkswagen is the latest to the segment with the new Jetta SportWagen. Where the Passat wagon was once the VW wagon of choice (it was the only one), the Jetta SportWagen brings a level of youthfulness and fun that the Passat is simply too formal and familial to offer. In a word, the SportWagen is fun. Yes, that adjective can be used in conjunction with wagon.The SportWagen is available in three trim levels and accompanying prices: S (starts at $18,999), SE (starts at $21,349), and SEL (starts at $25,990); and they are all well equipped from the get go. But, VW has taken the liberty of offering a wide array of optional extras to help tailor the exact SportWagen that customers would like to have. Things like polished aluminum exterior mirror covers, several rims from 16 inches to 18 inches, mild body kit upgrades, fog lights, leather, rear cargo cage, panoramic moon roof, manual or automatic transmission, and normally aspirated or turbocharged 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine (SEL only) are but a few of the things buyers can choose from to build the wagon that suits their lives perfectly.The top-of-the-line SEL is the best equipped with heated leather seats, leather shift knob, brake lever, and steering wheel, the turbocharged engine, 17-inch wheels, 12-position power driver’s seat with three-position memories, larger dual exhaust tips, premium sound system, and several more standard features that all come together to create a vehicle that truly rivals even higher-priced nameplates.Beyond how well equipped it is, the SEL is also no slouch, zipping to 60 miles per hour in 6.9 seconds, roughly a full second quicker than the non-turbo equipped S or SE. Each is relatively athletic and much more inspiring than the heavier, larger Passat, but not quite as capable as an Audi A4. Again, keeping the prices in mind, the SportWagen is a gem.Poking around with the “Build It” feature at vw.com, and selecting the most expensive wheels, panorama moonroof, and no roof storage options, we were able to load an S model to the hilt, and tip the price to just over $28,000, but for all the goodies we checked off in the options box, it’s a bargain. We clicked the same options with an SEL and broke the piggy bank for a cool $37,917. A bit flabbergasting for a VW, but again, taking into account all of the bells and whistles, both standard and optional, it’s not a horrific deal, but does knock loudly upon the Audi A4 door. Electing the same options for an SE, we built a $33,276 wagon.In terms of comfort, the SportWagen isn’t cavernous, but it’s not tiny either – it’s just right. A little snug, but not overbearingly so, the seats are supportive, the visibility is good, and it’s simply an easy car to drive. It also offers no pretensions whatsoever, meaning you don’t get glaring jealous eyes staring at you along the highway, but rather curious folks wanting to know more. And, should you go antiquing one weekend, you’ll have plenty of room for all the needful things available, and the merchants won’t be inclined to demonstrate the pricier sides of their goods, thanks to owning a VW.Later in 2009, VW will offer a Clean Diesel version of the SportWagen, which promises to be a much more efficient vehicle than we’re used to seeing. Some sources cite that 35 MPG on the highway isn’t far fetched, and in town, the Clean Diesel SportWagen won’t be hard pressed to achieve 28 MPG, which is utterly amazing. However, the turbo and non-turbo gas-powered engines currently available do pretty well too, finding 21/31 (T) and 21/29 (NT) respectively.All things considered, the wagon is back, but in a new way. Thanks to sleek styling and ample performance, the VW SportWagen isn’t the plague-inducing wagon of yore, but rather a sexy alternative to the bank-breaking SUV.

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Feross Aboukhadijeh

08/31/2008 ● By Super Admin

Feross Aboukhadijeh is every parent’s dream. After becoming Oakridge High School’s 2008 class valedictorian and a national merit scholarship recipient, he is off to Stanford this month to study computer science and electrical engineering, with the goal of inventing the next big Internet craze. “I want to create something that is the next Google, something so innovative that everyone is going to use it,” Feross enthuses.When most high school students were sitting at home playing video games, Feross was designing his own Web page, a site he described as a precursor to You Tube. But it wasn’t all computers and programming code for Feross. At different intervals he was a member of the cross-country, track and basketball teams, eventually helping the cross-country team win the state championship for two consecutive years. He also kept himself busy with a variety of other clubs and activities, leaving many people wondering what his parents did right.“We are very proud of him, of course,” says Cindy Aboukhadijeh, Feross’ mother. “I can’t take any of the credit, it all belongs to him. His nature was always to search out, learn and take challenges. We just provided guidance.”Feross credits his success to the simple love of learning. “Do what you enjoy and you’ll be successful. Put time and energy into it, have passion, and just do your homework!” Good advice, Feross.<hr>For more on Ferross Aboukhadijeh, be sure to pick up this month's copy of Style-Folsom El Dorado Hills edition. Click on the "Get Your Copy" link on the bottom of this page for some of our newsstand locations. Or, to order a copy of this issue, please email Gloria Schroeder at gloria@sierrastyle.com, or call her at 916-988-9888 x116.

Read More »
Wine Class

08/31/2008 ● By Super Admin

You can love something without understanding it…just look at the popularity of Lost. But it’s always nice when you do know something about the object of your affection. Take wine for example. I enjoy the occasional sojourn to the vineyards of Placer or El Dorado County with friends. But when I get there, I see others sipping, swirling and saying things like “it’s got good legs” and I end up feeling uncomfortable and intimidated, at least until the third or fourth stop. Rick Kushman, the longtime TV columnist for the Sacramento Bee, (and their funniest writer, if you don’t count the angry letters-to-the-editor) enjoyed wine, but didn’t much understand it either. So he wrote a book. “A Moveable Thirst,” co-authored with Hank Beal, the executive wine buyer for Nugget Markets, is a great read for anyone who has ever wondered if there was room in the wine world for people who don’t walk around with the collar up on their polo shirt. I caught up with Rick to get the scoop:T: Why wine? Why not beer…or grain alcohol?R: It would have been tough to get our wives to let us tour grain alcohol plants, and believe me, I’ve asked. Seriously, wine is fun and it makes food, and life better. Plus the more you learn about it, the more interesting and the more fun it gets. And the subject needs normal people writing about it to spread that sense of fun. Not that I’m normal… I’m just saying.T: What’s the number one mistake of the novice wine drinker?R: Listening to other people, and looking at price. I say in the book, if you love it you’re right; if you hate it, you’re right.T: Which wine has the most pretentious fans?R: Cabernet, European cabs and cab blends. Cabs are big money reds –  the ones that can get cultish and exclusive and let people pretend they’re cool. I’ve never figured out why people think wine makes you cool. I mean, would you do that with anything else, like, say potatoes? Who says, “I only eat imported potatoes?”T: Which wine has the least?R: White Zinfandel. When someone asks what he or she should look for in a glass of white zin, I tell them, “the buzz.” T: When some people sip wine, they taste blueberries and apricots and chocolate. All I ever taste is wine. Is there something wrong with me?R: Tom, there’s a lot wrong with you, but nothing involving wine. You can smell a cake and know if it’s chocolate, so eventually with some practice and attention, you’ll get different smells and tastes out of the wine.   T: Three questions a novice should ask to look more wine savvy?R: First thing: never try to look wine savvy because there’s no reason. Who cares if you’re not a pro? But, the questions to ask are really simple: “Tell me about your wine?” “What might I notice in it?” and “What food would it go well with?”T: Three questions they shouldn’t?R: “Can I have more?” “Is that hot server single?” And, “Was that your cat I just ran over?”T: Your book is about Napa, but what about the Sierra Foothills? When are you going to give those wineries some love?R: I do love the wineries in the foothills. And I’ll be writing about them in the Bee in my new column, The Good Life, and on the Bee’s wine Web site, sacwineregion.com. And, yes, my professional life now involves drinking wine and watching TV. See what going to college gets you?T: Your favorite wine to review TV shows with?R: Anything with high alcohol [content]. T: Is it true that a guy sniffing the cork is an uninformed tool?R: Total tool. When they drop the cork on you at dinner, do not touch it, or put it in your pocket, [just] ‘cause you paid for it. There’s nothing you can get from the cork.T: Thank you for helping me no longer be “that guy.”R: Uh, Tom, buddy, you’re still that guy. But I do what I can.T: Last question: Now that you’ve explained wine to me, can you explain Lost?R: The only thing I can tell you Tom is: the more wine you drink, the more sense Lost makes.Catch Tom on the Pat and Tom Morning Show on New Country 105.1 KNCI.

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Food & Wine

08/31/2008 ● By Super Admin

Bidwell Street BistroAppetizer:Grilled Marinated Jumbo Prawns with Mango Salsa     Serves four12 U15 size prawns, peeled and de-veined1 mango, peeled, pitted and diced small1 lime1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped1 small red onion, finely chopped1 small habanero chile, finely minced1/8 cup cilantro leaves4 ounces Canola oil2 garlic cloveskosher saltground black pepper For the marinade: Combine 1/3 of the diced mango with the garlic, cilantro and oil – blend well with a hand blender. Pour over the prepared prawns and marinate at least one hour or up to six hours.  For the mango salsa:In a small mixing bowl, combine the remaining diced mango with the red bell pepper and the red onion. The habanero has quite a bit of heat, so add as much or as little as you would like. Squeeze the juice of half the lime and season to taste with salt and pepper. Adjust with more limejuice if necessary. Preparation: Remove the prawns from the marinade and season both sides with salt and pepper. Grill over a hot flame until just cooked, and serve immediately with the mango salsa.Wine Pairing:2007 Sobon Winery ViognierFor more Wine Pairing Recipes, be sure to pick up this month's copy of Style-Folsom El Dorado Hills edition. Click on the "Get Your Copy" link on the bottom of this page for some of our newsstand locations. Or, to order a copy of this issue, please email Gloria Schroeder at gloria@sierrastyle.com, or call her at 916-988-9888 x116.

Read More »
VW Sportwagen

08/31/2008 ● By Super Admin

With the cost of fuel helping to short out the world’s economy, fewer people see the logic in buying massive SUVs for the daily grind. Interestingly, buyers who once saw station wagons as an automotive styling plague are beginning to rethink the idea of a tiny SUV, or essentially, a wagon. And, fuel economy aside, there are a lot of other reasons to love a wagon over an SUV – they’re easier to drive, ride better, often easier to get in and out of, take less room to park, frequently look better and are simply smarter for a daily use regime.Volkswagen is the latest to the segment with the new Jetta SportWagen. Where the Passat wagon was once the VW wagon of choice (it was the only one), the Jetta SportWagen brings a level of youthfulness and fun that the Passat is simply too formal and familial to offer. In a word, the SportWagen is fun. Yes, that adjective can be used in conjunction with wagon.The SportWagen is available in three trim levels and accompanying prices: S (starts at $18,999), SE (starts at $21,349), and SEL (starts at $25,990); and they are all well equipped from the get go. But, VW has taken the liberty of offering a wide array of optional extras to help tailor the exact SportWagen that customers would like to have. Things like polished aluminum exterior mirror covers, several rims from 16 inches to 18 inches, mild body kit upgrades, fog lights, leather, rear cargo cage, panoramic moon roof, manual or automatic transmission, and normally aspirated or turbocharged 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine (SEL only) are but a few of the things buyers can choose from to build the wagon that suits their lives perfectly.The top-of-the-line SEL is the best equipped with heated leather seats, leather shift knob, brake lever, and steering wheel, the turbocharged engine, 17-inch wheels, 12-position power driver’s seat with three-position memories, larger dual exhaust tips, premium sound system, and several more standard features that all come together to create a vehicle that truly rivals even higher-priced nameplates.Beyond how well equipped it is, the SEL is also no slouch, zipping to 60 miles per hour in 6.9 seconds, roughly a full second quicker than the non-turbo equipped S or SE. Each is relatively athletic and much more inspiring than the heavier, larger Passat, but not quite as capable as an Audi A4. Again, keeping the prices in mind, the SportWagen is a gem.Poking around with the “Build It” feature at vw.com, and selecting the most expensive wheels, panorama moonroof, and no roof storage options, we were able to load an S model to the hilt, and tip the price to just over $28,000, but for all the goodies we checked off in the options box, it’s a bargain. We clicked the same options with an SEL and broke the piggy bank for a cool $37,917. A bit flabbergasting for a VW, but again, taking into account all of the bells and whistles, both standard and optional, it’s not a horrific deal, but does knock loudly upon the Audi A4 door. Electing the same options for an SE, we built a $33,276 wagon.In terms of comfort, the SportWagen isn’t cavernous, but it’s not tiny either – it’s just right. A little snug, but not overbearingly so, the seats are supportive, the visibility is good, and it’s simply an easy car to drive. It also offers no pretensions whatsoever, meaning you don’t get glaring jealous eyes staring at you along the highway, but rather curious folks wanting to know more. And, should you go antiquing one weekend, you’ll have plenty of room for all the needful things available, and the merchants won’t be inclined to demonstrate the pricier sides of their goods, thanks to owning a VW.Later in 2009, VW will offer a Clean Diesel version of the SportWagen, which promises to be a much more efficient vehicle than we’re used to seeing. Some sources cite that 35 MPG on the highway isn’t far fetched, and in town, the Clean Diesel SportWagen won’t be hard pressed to achieve 28 MPG, which is utterly amazing. However, the turbo and non-turbo gas-powered engines currently available do pretty well too, finding 21/31 (T) and 21/29 (NT) respectively.All things considered, the wagon is back, but in a new way. Thanks to sleek styling and ample performance, the VW SportWagen isn’t the plague-inducing wagon of yore, but rather a sexy alternative to the bank-breaking SUV.

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Food & Wine

08/31/2008 ● By Super Admin

Café CampanileAppetizer:Summer Heirloom Tomato salad with Bufala Mozzarella, Opal basil, sea salt and aged white balsamic vinegar¼ cup of aged white balsamic vinegar¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil 3-3oz balls of Mozzarella di Bufala6 heirloom tomatoes ¼ cup of green basil leaves1 bunch of Opal basil1 cup of basil micro greensSea saltFresh cracked pepper Preparation: In a small saucepan, slowly reduce the balsamic vinegar by half; once cooled, pour into a squirt bottle and set aside. In a small saucepan, boil salted water and blanch the basil leaves for five seconds, remove the basil and place in a salted ice bath. Squeeze the basil until it has no water content and place into a blender with the extra virgin olive oil. Blend for two minutes, strain through a cheesecloth and place in a squirt bottle, set aside.Using the same pot with the salted water, core two of the tomatoes and score the bottom of each, making an “X” pattern. Place them into the boiling water for 10 seconds, then into the salted ice bath. Once cool, remove the skin from the tomatoes, cut in half and squeeze them to remove the seeds. Finally, cut them into half-inch cubes.  To serve: Slice the tomatoes and Mozzarella into quarter-inch discs and arrange them on the perimeter of a plate, alternating tomatoes and the cheese. In the center of the plate, pile a stack of the chopped tomatoes, and dress them with the olive oil and balsamic. On top of the chopped tomatoes stack the basil micro greens. Lastly, dress the salad with the basil-infused oil and vinegar, and season with salt and pepper.   Wine Pairing:2007 Chateau Bonnet Sauvignon BlancFor more Wine Pairing Recipes, be sure to pick up this month's copy of FoothillStyle. Click on the "Get Your Copy" link on the bottom of this page for some of our newsstand locations. Or, to order a copy of this issue, please email Gloria Schroeder at gloria@sierrastyle.com, or call her at 916-988-9888 x116.

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