Friday, February 11, 2011

We dodged a bullet!

We love our old building, we really do. We are committed to saving it for future generations, no matter what it costs, we really are. That said, anyone contemplating doing anything like this should go into it with eyes wide open. Let's talk about insurance.

Since purchasing this building in 2005, we had had it insured as our home through a regular homeowner's policy with the same company I have used for all my insurance since 1979. Without naming names, keep in mind that I became a military officer in 1979 and said company was extremely exclusive and popular with military officers. The building was insured at approximately the price we paid for it, plus some for our personal belongings and upgrades. A few months ago a representative from this company called and said that the replacement value of our building had been determined to be more than ten times the value we were insuring it for, above the ceiling this company had for a homeowner's policy. Therefore, we could no longer insure our house through the only company I have used for over thirty years. The drop dead date for the end of the policy was set at 12:01 a.m. on February 11, 2011. Today, in other words.

I set out immediately looking for insurance locally. I was told the same thing by every agent I queried--all the companies use the same underwriters and have the same limits. Since I am a regular HGTV viewer, I knew that even the new "replacement value" figure, while outrageous for Bedford, couldn't be that unusual on a national basis (I mean, just last night I saw a condo in New York City listed at $10 million); who insures these high-value homes? One kind agent suggested I call Indiana Landmarks, which I did, and they set me up with a national organization that offers insurance policies for historic landmarks.

This was great, except for one thing: given the new "replacement" value for the building, the cost of the new insurance was going to be more than three times what we were paying before. The monthly insurance payment would buy me a new car. Still, I didn't see any other options, so I said, go ahead, with a desperate sinking feeling in my heart that we would never be able to spend another dime actually renovating the building because our whole budget would go into insuring it. The kicker in all this is that we couldn't sell this property for one-twentieth of the new "replacement" value.

DH didn't take the news well. He's become a real cheapskate in his old age and he loves to send me off in search of bargains. I had already spent a lot more time on this than I wanted to (how fun is it to spend your day on the phone with insurance agents who all give you the same bad news?), so I put it back on him. "Find me an agent who doesn't use the same underwriters as everybody else, and I'll make the call."

Well, bless his heart. At the eleventh hour he got a contact through one of his contacts. I called the agent and left a message in the middle of a big snowstorm a couple of weeks ago. It took a couple of days to get a call back, but in the end everything looked great to start at 12:01 this morning, with premiums based on cash value instead of replacement value, at a cost of one and a half times what we were paying before, but still within reason. The agent sent me a form, and I filled it out and sent it back.

Uh-oh. New glitch. As many of you know, we like to offer our studio space to artists who want to teach classes and such. Recently Tara Jones, a gifted local photographer, has moved her base of operations to the dispatcher room, and Tara has an exhibition scheduled to open tonight. (The gorgeous photos above of our old jail are Tara's work.)

You can guess the rest. The new company was adamant that we would only get our insurance if Tara had her own. Instead of spending yesterday getting ready for her exhibition, Tara spent it getting her own insurance so that she could open her exhibition today. For now no other artists will be able to use the space unless they come up with their own insurance, so the entire "art center" concept has become a lot more complicated. Still, I feel that we dodged a bullet and emerged from the experience older and wiser. Thank you to not one but two insurance agents who really hustled to make this all happen!

If you are in the Bedford area, come on out to the exhibition. It's up all weekend and you can get more information at

Friday, February 4, 2011

Recipe Report - Spicy Chicken with Cucumber Yogurt Sauce

The January 2011 issue of Better Homes and Gardens has a lot of recipes that look interesting. I already reviewed one of them (see "Super Bowls" from January 1), but instead of trying something from the February issue, I chose another recipe from January. This one is called "Spicy Chicken with Cucumber Yogurt Sauce." There's a picture of it on page 83 (the picture above is my version, not BHG's) and the recipe begins on page 99. The marinade for the chicken involves some ingredients I don't use often, including fresh ginger, fresh mint leaves, and curry powder. I thought plain yogurt was a strange base for a marinade, but DH says it's common in Middle Eastern cuisine. Add garlic, paprika, cinnamon and cayenne pepper and you've got a great-smelling marinade.

The recipe called for chicken wings or SMALL drumsticks; unfortunately all they had at our local store were big, fat drumsticks. I should have slashed them before they went into the marinade, to make the marinade soak in a little better, but I didn't think of it. DH also observed that instead of baking the chicken fast on high heat (400 degrees) for 40 minutes, it would have been better to bake it longer at lower heat. I was astounded by this observation, coming from the man who cooks everything on the highest burner setting, but maybe he discovered the other numbers on the dial while I wasn't looking.

The chicken was nice; the ginger in particular made for a wonderful aroma. The real winner in this recipe, though, is the cucumber yogurt sauce. If you've ever had tzatziki at a Greek restaurant, you've got the general idea. I used plain yogurt, full-fat, plus grated cucumber, garlic, salt, cumin and mint. Cumin is another one of those ingredients that doesn't get trotted out too often. Anyway, as I said, this sauce was a star. Long before the chicken was ready, DH had eaten half the sauce as a dip with veggie chips.

I served the chicken and sauce with basmati rice. I don't really like to serve rice plain because it tends to be dry, but the yogurt sauce solved that problem. I probably should have added carrots or broccoli to the menu for color if nothing else, but both the boys inhaled their dinner without noticing what it looked like. When I asked DS what he thought of the dish, he said, "Good." When I asked him if I should make it again sometime, he said, "Sure." So there you have it, from the boy who won the "Silent Man" award last year from his cross country coach.