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Expat wanderer

Not Good News: More Foreclosures in USA

U.S. home foreclosures set another record in July

Thu Aug 13, 2009 12:11am Reuters


By Lynn Adler

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. home loans failed at a record pace in July despite ongoing federal and state programs to avoid foreclosures, which have severely strained housing and the economy.

Foreclosure activity jumped 7 percent in July from June and 32 percent from a year earlier as one in every 355 households with a loan got a foreclosure filing, RealtyTrac said on Thursday.

Filings — including notices of default, auction and bank repossession — have escalated with unemployment.

“July marks the third time in the last five months where we’ve seen a new record set for foreclosure activity,” James J. Saccacio, RealtyTrac’s chief executive, said in a statement.

“Despite continued efforts by the federal government and state governments to patch together a safety net for distressed homeowners, we’re seeing significant growth in both the initial notices of default and in the bank repossessions.”

More than 360,000 households with loans drew a foreclosure filing in July, a record dating back to January 2005, when RealtyTrac started tracking monthly activity.

Notices of default, auction or repossession have reached nearly 2.3 million in the first seven months of the year — with more than half a million bank repossessions, the Irvine, California-based company said.

Making timely payments keeps getting more harder for borrowers who have lost their jobs or seen their wages cut.

The unemployment rate is 9.4 percent and President Barack Obama has said he expects it will hit 10 percent.

Obama’s housing rescue is gaining traction in altering terms of loans for struggling borrowers, but slowly.

Earlier this month the U.S. Treasury Department detailed the progress of the top servicers in modifying loans and prodded them to step up efforts to stem foreclosures.


States where sales and prices surged most in the five-year housing boom early this decade remain hardest hit.

California, Florida, Arizona, Nevada accounted for almost 57 percent of total U.S. foreclosure activity in July.

Illinois had the fifth-highest total filings, spiking nearly 35 percent from June, in an example of how moratoriums often delay rather than cure an inevitable loan failure.

Default notices spiked by 86 percent in July, from artificially low levels the prior two months. A state law enacted on April 5 gave delinquent borrowers up to 90 extra days before foreclosure started, RealtyTrac said.

Michigan’s foreclosure activity fell 39 percent in July from June, mostly due to a 66 percent drop in scheduled auctions. A state law that took effect July 6 freezes foreclosure proceedings an extra 90 days for homeowners who commit to work on a loan modification plan.

Other states with the highest foreclosure filing totals last month included Texas, Georgia, Ohio and New Jersey.

Nevada had the highest state foreclosure rate for the 31st straight month, with one in every 56 properties getting a filing, or more than six times the national average.

Initial notices of default fell 18 percent in the month, with a new Nevada law taking effect on July 1 requiring lenders to offer mediation to homeowners facing foreclosure. Scheduled auctions and bank repossessions each jumped more than 20 percent, however, boosting overall foreclosure activity in the state by 4 percent from June.

California, Arizona, Florida, Utah, Idaho, Georgia, Illinois, Colorado and Oregon were the other states with the highest foreclosure rates.

(Editing by Kenneth Barry)

Things are turning around in the USA, but these foreclosures were already in the pipeline, and more are coming due principally to people borrowing more money than they could really afford, and people who have lost jobs and can no longer pay their mortgage.

Now I am going to sound like your MOTHER: Do not take an adjustable rate mortgage. Fix your credit, get a good score, and take the very best 15 or 30 year FIXED mortgage you can get, and before you buy, make sure that you figure taxes and insurance as well as the monthly mortgage and interest when figuring your monthly payment. Make sure you can still eat, and have a little left over for emergency car repairs. It is so much better to live in a house that you can afford than to lose everything you have invested in a house you can’t afford.

If you get into trouble, talk to your lender right away. Lenders do not want to foreclose; it is in their interest as well as your own to find a way to allow you to reduce payments for a while to keep the relationship on track. There is some flexibility. Negotiate.

August 13, 2009 Posted by | Family Issues, Generational, Interconnected, Living Conditions, News, Shopping, Social Issues, Statistics, Values, Work Related Issues | 9 Comments

Vietnamese Salad Rolls (Woo HOO on ME!)


OK. They may not look like much to you, but these are my very first Vietnamese Salad Rolls, one of my favorite eats in the whole world.

And I am giving myself a BIG WOOO HOO for doing them.

You all think I am much braver and more experimental than I really am. I have loved these for probably 15 years, but on my own I could never figure out how to make them, and I really didn’t want to try. I told myself I couldn’t get all the ingredients, anyway.

“Oh yes!” said my French friend, mistress of the kitchen, nothing she couldn’t do, and she invited us for dinner and the first course was Vietnamese Salad Rolls, made in her own kitchen. “They have the rice wrappers at all the Phillipino stores in Kuwait.”

Who knew? My French friend knew ALL these little secrets.

She carefully explained how to make them, but my mind shut down when she said “There is one part that is a little tricky – the rice wrapper has to soak for ONE SECOND in a pan of hot water, but only one second!” To me, that sounded very scary and daunting.

Then she gave me two packages of the wrappers.

I took them out now and then and read the instructions and put them back in the cupboard. I even shipped them from Kuwait to Doha with me. I read detailed instructions on the internet. I printed some out.

Yesterday, I found more wrappers at the MegaMart and bought two packages and now, with plenty of back up and with an unanticipated energy and hopefulness, I thought “why not give it a try tonight?”

The secret to making these is to have everything ready in advance – a bowl of cooked shrimp, sliced in half down the spine (so both halves look like a shrimp), a bowl of basil leaves, a bowl of mint leaves, a bowl of chopped parsley, a bowl of thinly sliced lettuce, a bowl of julienned carrots, a package of the rice wrappers, the cooked vermicelli in a strainer (it stays flexible because these go together fairly fast) and a flat round pan of hot water to soften the rice wrappers.

Once you have the ingredients assembled, the assembly – which for some reason was the part that daunted me – goes fairly easily and rapidly. If you soak the thin, brittle wrapper for exactly one and a half seconds, and lay it on a cutting board, it becomes very flexible and exactly the right texture. I started 3 inches from the top with the shrimp, then lay the rest of the ingredients in a row vertically, but almost on top of each other. Then I pulled the bottom up over the ingredients and tucked it in – not too tightly, but very snugly, folded in the sides, then wrapped the top over the already-rolled up section, and wow – a salad roll!

Vietnamese Salad Rolls

• 2 ounces rice vermicelli
• 8 rice wrappers (8.5 inch diameter)
• 8 large cooked shrimp – peeled, deveined and cut in half
• 1 1/3 tablespoons chopped fresh Thai basil
• 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
• 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
• 2 leaves lettuce, chopped
• 4 teaspoons fish sauce
• 1/4 cup water
• 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• 2 tablespoons white sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon garlic chili sauce
• 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
• 1 teaspoon finely chopped peanuts

1. Bring a medium saucepan of water to boil. Boil rice vermicelli 3 to 5 minutes, or until al dente, and drain.

2. Fill a large bowl with warm water. Dip one wrapper into the hot water for 1 second to soften. Lay wrapper flat. In a row across the center, place 2 shrimp halves, a handful of vermicelli, basil, mint, cilantro and lettuce, leaving about 2 inches uncovered on each side. Fold uncovered sides inward, then tightly roll the wrapper, beginning at the end with the lettuce. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

3. In a small bowl, mix the fish sauce, water, lime juice, garlic, sugar and chili sauce.

4. In another small bowl, mix the hoisin sauce and peanuts.

5. Serve rolled spring rolls with the fish sauce and hoisin sauce mixtures.

• The fish sauce, rice vermicelli, chili garlic sauce, hoisin sauce and rice wrappers can be found at Asian food markets.

These are so fresh-tasting and light, perfect for a hot summer evening, perfect for a special Ramadan breaking-the-fast appetizer. Once the rolls are made, seal them on a plate under a couple layers of saran-type wrap to keep the wrappers from drying out. You can make them a couple hours in advance and wrap them good and store them in the refrigerator; they keep well for a couple hours. Don’t make more than you can eat the same day; they don’t keep well overnight.

The recipe above uses a different sauce than we use. The Vietnamese in France use this sauce, which is more of a vinaigrette, but the Vietnamese in Seattle and in St. Petersburg, Florida, use a peanut sauce:

1/2 cup peanut butter
2 Tbs Thai sweet chili sauce (sometimes called chili pepper sauce for chicken) it is that thick, sticky sweet orange-y red sauce with pepper flakes in it)
2 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs rice vinegar
1 Tbs sugar
1 Tsp finely chopped ginger
1 Tbs tahina

Cook one minute in microwave and stir until all the peanut butter is dissolved. Then add liquid – can be water or orange juice or pomegranate juice or chicken broth or sake (!) to thin to a thick salad dressing consistency.

AdventureMan was so amazed and delighted when he came home and saw I had been able to make these all by myself! I am so amazed and delighted that I can do it! Wooo HOOOOOOO! We didn’t eat them as an appetizer; we like them so much, we ate them as the main course, with some finger-food veggies – snow peas and carrots – as side dishes.

August 13, 2009 Posted by | Adventure, Cooking, Doha, ExPat Life, Food, Friends & Friendship, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Recipes, Shopping | 8 Comments

“We Be Slangin'” from TrendCentral

Have you heard of, another website that keeps track of the most ephemeral of the ephemeral – what is happening now and what might be coming down the pipeline?

Here is an article from on new vocabulary, for those who want to understand what the next gen is saying:


Decoding the latest Gen Y vocab

Did you know the word “hipster” didn’t always mean someone who laced every sentence with snark and pretended not to know other people’s names? Yeah, at one time “hipster” was used to describe beatniks that listened to jazz in the “wrong” side of town and took speed-induced road trips across America. As pop culture evolves, so does the slang we use to describe the world around us. Here are a few new words and terms we have been hearing around the block and on the web:

Real Talk
n. This phrase is used to highlight that whatever is being said is the actual truth and not the rose-colored variety. One of the most famous users of this expression is vlogger Mr. Chi-City, who tends to drop the phrase every few seconds.
“Real talk, I was so hungover, I slept next to the toilet, real talk.”

Social Notworking
v. Checking your social networking pages while on the job.
“I got caught Facebook stalking by my boss today. I hope he doesn’t get mad I was social notworking.”

n. A person who dresses like a hybrid of a gypsy and a hipster.
“There were hoards of gypsters at that Fleet Foxes concert afterparty in Echo Park last night.”

n. A tunic or shirt that is scandalously worn as a dress; the term has come into use because of the trend of girls leaving the house without a vital component – their pants. (And we’re not talking about mistaking leggings for pants; we mean the bare-legged girls that seem to be just wearing an oversized men’s shirt.)
“Can you believe she wore a shress to school? She looked like she just came from a slumber party.”

n. A word used to describe just how epic (i.e. awesome) something is.
“Did you see Tony jump out of the tree into the swimming pool? It was totally stupid but I gotta say the epicocity level was 10.”

abbr. This strictly means “down to” and originated in the land of texting. Like other phrases that begin at the thumbs of teenage girls, DT has migrated into actual verbal conversations.
“Do you want to go shopping tomorrow?” “DTGS”

n. A term used to describe a member of the opposite sex.
“See them berries sipping on martinis? They look ripe for a picking.”

Total LOL at Social Notworking!

August 13, 2009 Posted by | Aging, Cross Cultural, Language | Leave a comment

Stat Bump

There are a lot of factors in blogging that I don’t control. I have no control over the policies of the countries I live in. I have no control over who might like my posts and tell their friends. And I have no control over what posts might tickle interest among blog readers.

Kuwait has a lively, active blogging community, even in the face of competition from FaceBook and Twitter. Many bloggers have gone inactive, working in new areas, and have come back to blogging. Leaving Kuwait, moving to Doha, I lost about 300 – 500 regular viewers per day. I know, I know, some of you found the sunrise-over-the-Gulf daily photos SO so boring, but there were Kuwaitis all over the world who checked in just to see what Kuwait looked like each day, and having been in their position (I still check Seattle every day, and Pensacola) I know how they feel.

Some posts I consider “filler.” Maybe I can’t think of anything to say, so I share a piece of news that interests me. Or I ask a question. Posts I just tapped off and posted without giving it a lot of thought then take off, and over the months and years maintain a steady popularity. The posts I like the best are posts where my readers have stepped in, commented and we’ve all learned more about something.

At Halloween, I had my all time high stat bump – on an article I had written two years earlier. Last night, I watched the numbers climb irrationally on a news article on the Perseids – and oh, by the way, even though last night was the peak, they are still out there, and if you can find a quiet, light free spot, you are in for a thrill. I remember one year, AdventureMan and I headed for Clearwater Beach, and it was like Spring Break except it was dark, what a hoot! Everyone had blankets or beach loungers, laying out flat, looking up at the sky – with all their clothes on! It was night!

This is what I could see this morning:


Ah well, coming up are Friday and Saturday, the two worst-stat days of the week. Some days I don’t even bother blogging on Saturday!

Have you ever had an irrational stat bump? Did anyone in Kuwait or Doha go out last night to watch the Perseids? Any luck?

August 13, 2009 Posted by | Blogging, Doha, Entertainment, Kuwait, Qatar, Statistics | 7 Comments