Elena Ruz Sandwich

Elena Ruz Sandwich

By Christina Morales

  • YIELD 1 sandwich
  • TIME 10 minutes

Kelly Marshall for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Roscoe Betsill. Prop Stylist: Getteline Rene.

During the late 1920s or early 1930s, the Cuban socialite Elena Ruz Valdés-Fauli asked for a sandwich with turkey, strawberry preserves and cream cheese in a soft medianoche roll at El Carmelo restaurant in Havana.

The sandwich was an original request — it didn’t yet exist on menus in Cuba — but it eventually became something of a beloved national dish. Like other popular Cuban dishes, it combines the sweet and the salty. Some Cuban chefs say that it lends itself to adaptation and experimentation with other jams and sandwich meats. It’s best enjoyed with plantain chips and a Cuban soda, such as Materva or Ironbeer.

Featured in: A Socialite Invented This Quintessential Cuban Sandwich



  • 1 Cuban medianoche roll or a brioche hot dog roll (5 to 6 inches long)
  • 2 tablespoons cream cheese, softened, plus more as needed
  • 3 ½ ounces sliced turkey breast
  • 1 ½ tablespoons strawberry preserves, plus more as needed (see Tip)
  • ½ teaspoon unsalted butter




  1. Slice or split the bread roll in half to fill as a sandwich. Spread a 1/3-inch-thick layer of cream cheese on the bottom half. Lay turkey neatly on top of the cream cheese. Do not overfill the sandwich. Evenly spread jam on the top half of the bread and sandwich with the bottom.
  2. In a pan over medium-low heat, melt butter, swirling to evenly coat the pan. Place the sandwich bottom side down in the pan and press it with a spatula or a cast-iron skillet. Heat to warm the sandwich, until the bottom is lightly toasted but not burned, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Flip the sandwich and repeat with the other side. Remove from the heat, cut the sandwich in half at an angle and serve immediately.


  • If you have leftover cranberry sauce from Thanksgiving, feel free to substitute for the preserves. You can also swap in guava jam for the strawberry preserves.


Don’t hesitate to call The Sierra Lifestyle Team for evaluations of your home’s value or to tour homes on the market you have an interest in. We are here for you, and Alisa (almost) always answers her cell phone, 530-559-4871.


Most Popular Home Decor Styles by Room

Most Popular Home Decor Styles by Room


As the homebuying and remodeling spree continues amid the pandemic, homeowners are showing they really care about what their home looks like.

Google searches for “interior design styles” have increased 40% in the past week alone, according to a study from Uswitch, a mortgage comparison firm.

Researchers analyzed more than 4 million pins across Pinterest to find which decor styles are the most desired across each room of a home and to determine the most popular interior design trends overall on Pinterest.

Styled, Staged & Sold blog

The most popular pinned style is vintage, the study found.

“It appears it’s ‘in with the old and out with the new’ as vintage comes in at number one,” researchers note.


Broken down by room, other style favorites also emerged.

For example, in the bathroom, contemporary designs that center on clean lines and neutral colors, along with dashes of black, have gained popularity. In the home office, the industrial look was a favorite, characterized by large open spaces, lots of textures, and bare brick walls.








In the family room,

homeowners favored a rustic style that shows naturally aged, casual design and usually includes a color palette of greens, browns, and autumn colors.

In the kitchen,

Pinterest users favored vintage looks, which offered a warm, nostalgic feel. Homeowners are choosing paint colors, furniture, and even some appliances to create a vintage feel in the kitchen.










Don’t hesitate to call The Sierra Lifestyle Team for evaluations of your home’s value or to tour homes on the market you have an interest in. We are here for you, and Alisa (almost) always answers her cell phone, 530-559-4871.

Homeowners Can Make the Most of Their Yards—Even in Winter

Homeowners Can Make the Most of Their Yards—Even in Winter

After almost two years of pandemic life, homeowners understand the significant value of having a yard.

Here are 8 ideas for getting creative with outdoor space. 

January 2022


by Barbara Ballinger

Key Takeaways:

  • Backyards continue to be a way to extend square footage, even during colder months.
  • To get started, homeowners should make a list of their favorite ways to spend time outdoors.
  • They should consider decorating “rooms” of the yard but also have a place to store items when storms and winds come.

Spending time outdoors at the height of the pandemic was a way to get fresh air, exercise safely, and expand living quarters. Now, nearing two years later, an outdoor retreat has become even more sought after, causing homeowners and design professionals to get creative in maximizing square footage.

©AleksandarNakic – Getty Images 

Whether homeowners have a big suburban yard, rural acreage, or a small urban balcony, there are multiple ways to take advantage of the space, even in winter. They can pile on layers or follow the Swedish mantra of Friluftsliv, which translates to “open-air living and the value of spending time in remote locations for spiritual and physical well-being.”

The key isn’t the size of their space, or which activities homeowners do, but taking advantage of Mother Nature’s gifts—air, sky, clouds, sun, and greenery.

Millennials and other new homeowners have become particularly adept at using their yards for almost everything—from camping out with a tent and fire pit to organizing a staycation, or setting up an alternative office when they need a break from their indoor space, says Kris Kiser, president and CEO of TurfMutt Foundation, the education arm of the Alexandria, Va.-based Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, which encourage enjoyment of nature.

©OPEI/TurfMutt Foundation 

Kiser says there’s even a new term for this trend, which doesn’t need translation: Backyarding!

Here are eight ideas to share with clients to help them make the right investments in furnishings, landscaping, appliances, and more for their yards.

Link the indoors and outdoors by blurring lines.

The most common way to do this is to add more windows and doors to connect the spaces and make the glazing bigger to achieve better views. It can also be done by using more colors and textures found in nature inside the home and bringing in plants. Homeowners can also decorate outdoors as they do inside, according to the online design resource, Houzz. The company’s search data shows that people want their backyards to be relaxing extensions of their interiors, which can be handled with stylish, durable materials, as well as by adding a fireplace or fire pit, outdoor TV, sound system, and comfortable seating, pillows, and rugs.

©OPEI/TurfMutt Foundation 

Set up an outdoor office.

Many people made do with cramped makeshift offices during the pandemic. Others created separate indoor spaces but working outdoors can literally offer a breath of fresh air to ramp up creativity. Flowers, bushes, and trees can become the living backdrop on conference calls instead of the kitchen counters or office bookcases. Essentials to make it work include strong Wi-Fi, an electrical outlet or two for equipment that’s not wireless, a sturdy table for a laptop, a comfortable chair, lighting for night-time work, and a rug to add warmth underfoot. Some may want a small portable generator to keep power running, Kiser says.


Dine al fresco.

Homeowners shouldn’t limit themselves to only eating dinner outdoors. Any meal—breakfast, brunch, lunch, cocktails, and snacks—can be enjoyed plein air. They should have a nice flat area, whether a balcony, terrace, or deck, to set up a table and chairs with enough space to navigate around them. Homeowners also should choose a material that won’t need frequent repainting—many closely resemble real wood and stone and are sustainable. Add the right equipment—a grill, pizza oven, running water from a spigot that won’t freeze (or a sink), and firepit—to make the experience more enjoyable. They can hang some lights, maybe a curtain, and if there’s room and funds, construct a pergola for an overhead cover. If the homeowners like the sound of running water, they can add a recirculating fountain so the water won’t freeze in the winter.

©OPEI/TurfMutt Foundation 

Add entertainment.

All work and no play isn’t fun, and the outdoors is a perfect place for classic games like croquet and badminton, and board games such as Monopoly and Clue, or jigsaw puzzles. Many families are also investing in large-screen outdoor TVs and movie projectors. And then there are all the pools being built. If there is no room or funds, they might consider a less costly above-ground pool or smaller hot tub. Suggest they position it close enough to the house so they’re not trekking far in the cold or snow.


Establish a wildlife habitat.

Attract pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and birds by planting the right flowers and plants. Add a greenhouse if there’s room, which will allow homeowners to garden all year. A birdhouse and feeder or two, and great additions; even a chicken coop is becoming more commonplace.

©Allie Filley 

Kris Kiser and Mulligan (Mo-Mo) – OPEI/TurfMutt Foundation 

Make a yard pet friendly.

Are your clients’ pet owners? If they have a dog, they could add a fence of some type, maybe a sandpile for digging, a doghouse that’s large enough so Fido doesn’t feel cramped, and perhaps an agility course so he or she gets good exercise. Hardscape like bricks, concrete pavers, or stone can be an alternative spot to urinate that won’t ruin your lawn. Also, homeowners can consider some faux lawn choices—many look authentic—and avoid planting things that are toxic to dogs and people, according to The Spruce.


Store neatly.

Even outdoor spaces can become cluttered. A shed or closet in a garage can be set up with shelves, bins, and hooks to hang rakes, bicycles, helmets, and more. This will also keep tools out of reach of young children, and provide a place to store fuel safely, too, says Kiser.


Create some privacy.

While homeowners may want to have a friendly relationship with their neighbors, they may also want some privacy at times, especially when working from home or throwing parties. Fences work well, but so can living screens of greenery—rows of trees, bushes, or vines. They should choose native materials that don’t require a lot of watering and consider materials that provide color or texture year-round. Suggest they start small with plantings that will grow over time, which is less costly than investing in big, mature plants.

While many of the tips on this list can be undertaken by a skilled DIYer, homeowners should also consider contacting a contractor, landscape designer, or architect sooner rather than later since many are booked far in advance.






Mortgage Rates Post Big Jump This Week

Mortgage Rates Post Big Jump This Week


January 14, 2022

Inflation continues to press on mortgage rates. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.45% this week, up from last week’s 3.22% average, Freddie Mac reports.

“Mortgage rates rose across all mortgage loan types, with the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage increasing by almost a quarter of a percent from last week,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “This was driven by the prospect of a faster than expected tightening of monetary policy in response to continued inflation exacerbated by uncertainty in labor and supply chains. The rise in mortgage rates so far this year has not yet affected purchase demand, but given the fast pace of home price growth, it will likely dampen demand in the near future.”

Despite rising mortgage rates, owning a home remains more affordable than renting, the National Association of REALTORS® reports. The monthly mortgage for owning a median-priced home is $1,260 compared to the average rent of $1,540, NAR notes on its Economists’ Outlook blog.

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages with mortgage rates for the week ending Jan. 13:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.45%, with an average 0.7 points, rising from last week’s 3.22% average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 2.79%.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 2.62, with an average 0.7 points, increasing from last week’s 2.43% average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 2.23%.
  • 5-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages: averaged 2.57%, with an average 0.3 points, rising from last week’s 2.41% average. A year ago, 5-year ARMs averaged 3.12%.

Freddie Mac reports average points along with commitment rates to better reflect the total upfront cost of obtaining the mortgage.

Market Observations, January 2022

Market Update, Nevada County 


  December 2021 is a Seller’s market*

Home For Sale in December 2021: 164 units.

•  Down 26.8% compared to last month
•  Down 16.3% compared to last year

Home Closed in December 2021: 116 units.

•  Down 4.9% compared to last month
•  Down 26.6% compared to last year

Home Placed under Contract in December 2021: 104 units.

•  Down 23.5% compared to last month
•  Down 10.3% compared to last year

*Buyer’s market: more than 6 months of inventory based on closed sales
 Seller’s market: less than 3 months of inventory based on closed sales
 Neutral market: 3 – 6 months of inventory based on closed sales

  December 2021 Average Sold Price per Square Footage is Neutral*

Average Sold Price per Square Footage in December 2021: $298 

•  Down 5.4% compared to last month
•  Up 10% compared to last year

*Based on 6 month trend – Appreciating/Depreciating/Neutral

December 2021 Average Continuous Days on Market trend Remains Steady*

Continuous Days on Market in December 2021:28 

•  Down 24.3% compared to last month
•  Down 42.9% compared to last year



December 2021 Sold/Original List Price Ratio is Falling*

Sold/Original List Price % in December 2021:96% 

•  0% compared to last month
•  Down 1% compared to last year

*Based on 6 month trend – Rising/Falling/Remains Steady

December 2021 Average For Sale Price is Appreciating*

Average For Sale Price (in thousand) in December 2021: $772 

•  Up 0.5% compared to last month
•  Up 1.6% compared to last year

December 2021 Average Sold Price is Depreciating*

Average Sold Price (in thousand) in December 2021:$558 

•  Down 15.2% compared to last month
•  Down 4.5% compared to last year

*Based on 6 month trend – Appreciating/Depreciating/Neutral


December 2021 is a Seller’s market*

Months of Inventory based on Closed Sales in December 2021: 1.4 

•  Down 21.8% compared to last month
•  Up 16.1% compared to last year

*Buyer’s market: more than 6 months of inventory based on closed sales
 Seller’s market: less than 3 months of inventory based on closed sales
 Neutral market: 3 – 6 months of inventory based on closed sales


Don’t hesitate to call The Sierra Lifestyle Team for evaluations of your home’s value or to tour homes on the market you have an interest in. We are here for you, and Alisa (almost) always answers her cell phone, 530-559-4871.





Home Insurance in Nevada County

Home Insurance in Nevada County

By Kimberly Moore


CA homeowners insurance has been in a state of crisis since the Camp Fire destroyed the entire town of Paradise, CA in November of 2018.

Some homeowners in Nevada County have faced yearly non-renewals and/or significant rate hikes year after year. One of the most frustrating aspects for homeowners has been the big red ‘X’ designating entire zip codes as high fire risk regardless of mitigating factors taken by responsible homeowners. Those homeowners who have cleared their property, installed sprinklers, and added fire-retardant roofing have seen no improvement in their acceptability to insurers nor to their policy rate with the last resort insurance offered by the CA FAIR Plan. The difficult to swallow news is that the CA FAIR Plan filed for a 48% rate increase with the CA Department of Insurance in 2021 with new rates anticipated for February 2022. The rate increases won’t be an ‘across the board’ percentage. Some homeowners will experience only a slight increase in rate, while others could see dramatic increases as much as 130%.

Rate will now be determined using a new AI system that better identifies wildfire risk to specific structures.

Although that may sound bleak, it is potentially very good news for Nevada County. The new AI developed by the tech company Zesty.ai is a scoring model known as Z-FIRE. Z-FIRE uses property specific factors which influence wildfire risk, rather than blanket decisions based only on map lines. This means that homeowners will have the power to affect their wildfire risk and therefore the policy or rate they receive. Z-FIRE employs over 15 data sources including aerial imagery, local weather data, building materials, slope, and brush clearance. Farmers Insurance has predicted the ability to add 30,000 new policies in California based on the new system.

With the openness of insurance companies to the use of new technology, which takes into account the diligent efforts of homeowners, this could be good news for Nevada County.



Kimberly Moore

“I chose to enter the real estate market after spending several years helping Nevada County residents obtain home construction financing and homeowners insurance. I have a passion for helping people with all aspects of their housing needs.  As a former loan officer, insurance agent, and teacher, I am particularly well-equipped to guide homebuyers through the complexities of purchasing and selling homes. I also specialize in home decor and remodeling; I love assisting homeowners with getting the most return possible on their investment and homebuyers to find and establish a dwelling perfectly suited to their needs and preferences.”



Environmental Sustainability in Nevada County

Environmental Sustainability in Nevada County

TREX Stretchable Plastics Recycling Program November 2021 – April 2022

Nevada City Rotary

Nevada City Rotary Club’s Environmental Sustainability Committee has initiated a pilot recycling program aimed at collecting plastic bags, shrink wrap, and similar plastic film that Waste Management does not pick up.

We are doing this in cooperation with the TREX company, which turns the returned plastic film into outdoor decking, fencing, benches and other outdoor furniture   https://recycle.trex.com(link is external).  Our hope is to provide a means for people to dispose of a form of plastic that until now has not been able to be recycled in our county, and typically ends up in landfills, further contributing to pollution and carbonization of the atmosphere.

Trex melts the plastics and combines them with other recyclables in their materials process. Here is a video from Trex on what they collect and their materials process-Trex Eco-Friendly Decking.

Look for bins in various locations around the area including Briar Patch, B&C True Value Hardware, Madelyn Helling Library, Nevada City and Grass Valley CoHousing and other locations to be added.

We are also collecting from AJA Video Systems. Nevada City Rotary team members are monitoring the bins and gather the materials on a regular cycle that have been deposited. SaveMart Grocery in Grass Valley is an established TREX partner collection their own store, as well as customer plastics. They have agreed to bail our collections and deliver them to TREX.

Environmental Sustainability Committee

Nevada City Rotary is proud to form our Club/s Environmental Sustainability Committee in conjunction with The Rotary Foundation’s official launch of the Focus on Supporting the Environment(link is external).



Christmas Lights In Alta Sierra

Christmas Lights In Alta Sierra

Light up Alta Sierra, 2021 🎄

by Alisa Johnson

Pack up your car with hot cocoa, a few blankets and take a ride around Alta Sierra and enjoy the light displays. Thank you to all who provided streets for this list. I hope you enjoy your night out looking at lights.





Please know the route is just a resource. Feel free to make your own route or use your favorite mapping app along the way. Click on the images and save or download the PDF here AS_Christmas Lights 2021.

Hope you enjoy this and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy 2022.


What Homeowners Should Know About Solar Panels

What Homeowners Should Know About Solar Panels

Increasing energy costs are spurring more homeowners to go solar, but an abundance of choices in the field can make the decision daunting. Help homeowners weigh the options with these five considerations.


by Barbara Ballinger

Key Takeaways:

  • More efficient and lighter solar modules help to lower energy bills.
  • Experienced installers and module manufacturers recommend how many panels a roof needs based on how much power residents use and other factors.
  • Federal tax credits are still available.          

Installing solar panels or modules to convert sunlight into electricity and conserve energy is not a new concept. Back in 1954, researchers at Bell Laboratories demonstrated the first practical silicon solar cell.

But solar power has been heating up over the last 10 years, with a 50% average annual growth rate in the U.S., according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. This is due, in part, to the Solar Investment Tax Credit put in place in 2006 that now reimburses 26% of the cost for solar systems on residential and commercial properties. Other factors have also played a role, including low interest rates. Homeowners can bundle the cost of panels into their mortgage, says Amy Tovel, marketing manager of Ichijo USA, a company that installs modules on many Pacific Northwest homes.

©MN Custom Homes 

Many homeowners are becoming more energy conscious, says architect Nathan Kipnis, FAIA, LEED AP, whose Kipnis Architecture + Planning offices are in Chicago and Boulder, Colo. It’s rare for one of his company’s major projects not to include solar panels or wiring for installation later, largely because of increasing efficiency, he says.

Still another reason is that more areas are enacting mandates. California regulators recently voted to require builders to include solar power and battery storage in new commercial and high-rise residential projects, as of Jan. 1, 2023.

The state of Washington now requires new homes to have energy credits, as of Feb. 1, 2021, and solar panels represent one option to attain them. Homes greater than 5,000 square feet require additional credit. To meet those criteria, MN Custom Homes doubles the amount of solar panels for its larger homes, says vice president Ben Brittingham.

What About Those Federal Credits?

The Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy has shifted numbers, so it’s important for homeowners and the professionals they work with to stay abreast. Before the Biden administration took office, the Federal Solar ITC was scheduled to be reduced to 22% in 2021.

However, In December 2020, Congress passed an extension of the ITC to provide a 26% tax credit for systems installed in 2020-2022, and 22% for systems installed next year in 2023. (Systems installed before December 31, 2019, were eligible for a 30% tax credit.) The tax credit expires starting in 2024 unless Congress renews it.

Lastly, the panels have become less of an eyesore due to improved aesthetics, whether on a roof or in a yard stationed on the ground—sometimes preferred due to the absence of trees—says Suvi Sharma, founder and director of Solaria Corp., a Fremont, Calif.-based solar manufacturer focused on the residential market.

But as the field grows crowded with manufacturers and installers touting longer-lasting solar systems with greater efficiency and less cost, deciding which one to choose requires research.

“The promises some companies make are wildly flowing,” cautions Madison, Conn.-based architect Duo Dickinson. Another caveat is the cost fluctuation of panels due to tariffs on imports, now at 18%. Though these are set to expire next February, China remains a top location for manufacturers.

But home buyers seeking a new home may not have to make choices as more developers and builders incorporate solar during construction.  

That’s the case with Pearl Homes’ new community, Hunters Point, in Cortez, Fla. Owner Marshall Gobuty wanted to construct the first NetZero LEED certified community in the U.S. “Anybody can build a house but not everybody can reduce the carbon footprint,” Gobuty says, adding, “Our goal is to build homes that generate more power than they consume.”

©Pearl Homes 

Hunters Point home rendering. 

When completed by early 2022, all 86 homes, averaging 3,300 square feet, will have roof panels, WaterSense plumbing and fixtures, and GE EnergyStar appliances. Though the company is still deciding which panels to use, they are going with installer my-RESI out of Millstone Township, N.J., and sonnen’s ecoLinx energy storage system, which Gobuty believes offers the most efficient, safest battery, and a 25-year warranty. Homeowners will pay a fixed fee to the HOA for a set amount of power and backup.

©Go Solar Group 

But homeowners should be aware that having solar power doesn’t eliminate an electric bill since there’s still a fee to be connected to the grid, says James O’Connor, director of marketing for Salt Lake City-based installer, Go Solar Group.

Here’s what home buyers who are working with a builder or architect on a new home—or retrofitting an existing home—should consider when choosing components from various providers to make solar work.  

  1. Roof and house orientation.

How much surface solar modules cover on a roof or how big the installation is on the ground makes a difference in the amount of energy produced. Generally, they are placed facing south or west to be exposed to the most sunlight, optimizing power, says Dickinson. Pearl Homes’ will cover 88% to 92% of a roof surface. Covering 100% may produce more power than occupants can use.

  1. Panels.

In recent years, panels have become more efficient, thinner, and better looking, thanks to monocrystalline designs that use a single photovoltaic cell rather than several cells that the older polycrystalline designs relied on. As a result, the updated panels can occupy less roof space because they pack in more power, O’Connor says.

Questions to Ask

To help your clients make the best decision, share these questions for vetting solar companies.

  • Is my roof designed so it can accept panels?
  • Does it face the right direction for optimal efficiency?
  • How much of the roof surface needs to be covered, or how many panels are needed?
  • Is the roof in good shape for panel installation or should it first be replaced?
  • Does my community have restrictions about aesthetics, such as not allowing panels on a house in an historic district or visible from the street?
  • What are the pros and cons of leasing or buying panels?
  • How long has your company been in business and how many installations do you regularly do? What accreditations do you have? Are you NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners) certified?
  • If we’re not ready to install solar yet, is it worthwhile to prewire to save on costs later?
  • What warranties do you offer and for how long?
  • What, if any, snafus can happen when going solar?

The number of panels installed is generally based on the amount of electricity occupants use, which is why an installer often asks for 12 months of electric bills, says Mike Koehler, vice president and solar business developer for Gardner Capital, St. Louis.

If the next owner of a solar powered house uses more electricity, they might request a larger array, he says.

What this means for a homeowner who chooses a newer 400W panel, for example, versus older 370W panel, is that they may only need to install 38 panels instead of 41 and save about 33 square feet of roof space, Koehler says. And because the 400W panel is more efficient, it will generate more electricity, he says.

Installers also need to know local ordinances. For example, Evanston, Ill., doesn’t allow panels to stick up past a roof’s ridge line or be visible from the street if the roof is flat, says Kipnis. They also need to know local utility rules since some will buy back excess power, Koehler says. Rocky Mountain Power, which services most Utah customers, gives credit for excess energy, says Scott Cramer, president of Go Solar Group.  

  1. Batteries.

Extra energy can be stored in batteries. Different solar panel manufacturers prefer different battery companies. For example, Solaria buys batteries from Sonnen, Sharma says.

  1. Installers.

Installation costs have dropped as more installers have entered the niche and become more experienced, says O’Connor. Besides the modules and batteries, homeowners who go solar need an inverter to hold panels, wiring in place, and a meter. Sharma suggests homeowners ask installers which modules they use, the price of each panel, number needed, what they look like, how much shipping to the site will be, and if permits are needed.

  1. Costs and return on investment.

A typical panel system might run between $15,000 and $25,000, which includes ancillary equipment and labor, Koehler says. Yearly savings vary greatly depending on the utility and if it offers incentives, he says. The good news is that a typical warranty lasts a long time; Solaria’s is 25 years, Sharma says.

How much money is saved also depends on how a purchase is made. “If someone pays out of pocket, it may take seven to 10 years for a payback, but if someone leases the system, the savings will be less per month, but the homeowner has no upfront investment,” Koehler says. 

One caveat relates to whether a solar system will increase a home’s value. One study from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that the panels are viewed as upgrades and home buyers have been willing to pay a premium of about $15,000 for an average-sized solar system. Additionally, the homes sell faster than those without solar. 


Brittingham of MN Custom Homes thinks that the ethical rather than financial reasons are becoming a bigger buyer incentive. “A return on investment is still longer term since there are still big out-of-pocket expenses,” he says.

Another caveat is that not all homeowners benefit equally from having a solar system. Those who live in a house with a lot of trees that block sunlight will see less benefit, as will those who already use little electricity or have inexpensive electricity.


Barbara Ballinger

Barbara Ballinger is a freelance writer and the author of several books on real estate, architecture, and remodeling, including The Kitchen Bible: Designing the Perfect Culinary Space (Images Publishing, 2014). Barbara’s most recent book is The Garden Bible: Designing Your Perfect Outdoor Space, co-authored with Michael Glassman (Images, 2015).


Dulce de Leche Icebox Cake

Dulce de Leche Icebox Cake

By Laurie Ellen Pellicano
  • YIELD 8 to 10 servings
  • TIME 30 minutes, plus 6 hours’ chilling


Joel Goldberg for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Barrett Washburne. Prop Stylist: Paige Hicks.

Icebox cake, so named because it sets in the fridge or freezer, comes together with a little mixing and stacking.

All it needs after that is time to chill, making it ideal for hot days. This version combines store-bought sandwich cookies with dulce de leche whipped cream for a cookies-and-cream meets salted caramel flavor. If you’d like, garnish with crumbled cookies.


  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  •  cup store-bought or homemade dulce de leche
  • 1 (10-ounce) pack (about 40) thin chocolate sandwich cookies (such as Oreos)


Ingredient Substitution Guide


  1. Line a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with a double layer of plastic wrap, pressing it into the corners and leaving several inches of overhang on each side.
  2. In a large bowl and with an electric mixer, beat together the heavy cream, crème fraîche and salt on medium-high until stiff peaks form, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer 2 cups of the whipped cream to a medium bowl and stir in the sugar. Add the dulce de leche to the remaining whipped cream in the large bowl and beat on medium-high for 1 to 2 minutes until stiff peaks form. Season to taste with more salt.
  3. Using a spoon, flick small dollops of both cream mixtures across the bottom and sides of your lined pan. Using a spatula, smooth it into a ¼-inch layer along the edges and bottom.
  4. Cover the bottom with 8 cookies, gently pressing them into the cream. Flick more small dollops of both cream mixtures across the surface of the cookies, then smooth the surface.
  5. Press a row of cookies upright along the long edge of the pan. Generously scoop the whipped creams using the cookies, alternating flavors, and press them upright against the vertical row. Continue forming rows until the pan is full. Tap the pan against the counter to settle the cookies into the cream. Cover the cookies by flicking the remaining cream across the surface, then smooth it out.
  6. Enclose the loaf in the plastic overhang and freeze until completely firm, at least 6 hours. The cake will keep frozen for up to 1 month. To serve, unwrap the top of the loaf, invert the loaf onto a platter, remove the pan and plastic and slice with a serrated knife.





Court Says Sending Email Can Create Binding Contract

Court Says Sending Email Can Create Binding Contract

October 4, 2021

Be careful before you press send—what you write in that email could be legally binding, as held by a New York state appellate court in July.

The case involved settlement negotiations that occurred over an email exchange between two attorneys. The attorneys were negotiating a settlement and one of the messages contained a certain dollar amount for settlement. That email contained a standard signature block but did not include the attorney’s typed signature. The other attorney confirmed the agreement.

A trial court ruled that the email exchange did not create a binding agreement because the sender did not type their name in the email message. Previous cases have stated that as well.

But on appeal, a higher court reversed that ruling.

“This case means that pressing ‘send’ on an email is now potentially equivalent to signing a piece of paper containing whatever statements appeared in the email,” Forbes.com columnist Joshua Stein reports on the case. “An actual typed signature is not necessary.”

The court also ruled that for an email to bind parties, it must summarize all “material” terms of the deal. In this case, that constituted the amount of money to be paid.

Senders may want to make it clear in writing that your email does not intend to create any form of a binding agreement.

Many standard email disclaimers state that automatically on every message. But still, even with a disclaimer in place, watch your messaging before you press send, Stein cautions.


Yes, Sending an Email Can Create a Binding Contract,” Forbes.com (Sept. 28, 2021) and NYcourts.gov


Careful with those emails!