"Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both." ~ Benjamin Franklin

It's Tax Season - Hey, Iowa - Want Some Good News?

>> Monday, March 30, 2009

Yeah, me too. This ain't it. (Sorry for all the political stuff lately... It seems we're losing our freedoms faster than anyone thought possible...)

Anyway, it seems the Iowa legislature is looking to do away with the federal deductibility with Bill HSB284. Don't know what federal deductibility is? In a nutshell:

In Iowa we have the opportunity to deduct our federal income tax burden from our ordinary income prior to calculating our taxable income. This is regardless of whether or not you itemize.
Democrats claim that eliminating federal deductibility will allow Iowans to pay their bills, pay for college tuition and cover day-to-day expenses. But according to their own math, it will only give the average Iowan an extra 17 cents a day.
Now, I'm not a tax accountant. Luckily this guy is. So I'll let him break it down...

- $63,350 is the new $125,000.
The promoters of the repeal say it will only affect "households" with incomes over $125,000. Wrong. The top rate, and the tax increase, kicks in at $63,350. The "$125,000" figure apparently assumes two-earner couples with each earner getting at least $63,350. Iowa's rate structure taxes each earner separately.

Making it worse by comparison: The Legislature Democrats would eliminate the deduction for federal taxes paid while lowering the top stated Iowa tax rate from 8.98% to 6.98%. They tout this as making Iowa's top bracket "competitive" with Nebraska's top rate of 6.84%. They are right, but not in a good way. When you do the math, you see that they are increasing Iowa's top effective rate from lower than Nebraska to higher (and, of course, much higher than South Dakota's top rate of 0%).

I especially loved this quote from Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, in the WCFCourier:
"The most well-off Iowans are likely going to pay a little more.

Says the tax guy:
Making it look like they really just want to raise taxes on somebody. If they wanted to make it look like real reform, they wouldn't be focusing on making somebody pay more; they'd be looking at what system would best finance the state budget needs at a low compliance cost without driving businesses and jobs from the state.

Well off, of course, meaning anything over $63,350. So, let me ask you punk: do you feel wealthy?

FYI: The bill is being debated at the committee level today and there is a public hearing at the State Capitol on Tuesday, March 31 from 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm on House Study Bill 284. You can support efforts to protect federal deductibility by being present and showing your support during the discussion.

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Shared Sacrifices

How is a 9% increase in spending sacrificing anything?

“We made the tough choices,” Paterson [governor D-NY] said in a statement released yesterday night. He said the spending and tax plan called for “shared sacrifice” that “stabilizes our finances.”

Governor Paterson is not talking about the government sacrificing anything - he is talking about the New York taxpayer sacrificing their livelihood. Taxes in New York state just jumped for "the rich", you know, any family making over $40,000 a year. Oh, and additional, hidden taxes will come from "...increased fees on utilities, excluding telephone, as well as higher levies for vehicle registration and licenses for hairdressers."

Somehow, I don't think Gov Paterson will equate this action with the last paragraph of the article, which ends with "In New York City, the jobless rate rose 1.2 percentage points to 8.1 percent in February." When it's hard to stay in business, businesses close or move and take their jobs with them. That fact has been proven and recorded throughout history. It shouldn't be a surprise to the looters. And maybe it's not.

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Step Back in Time

>> Sunday, March 29, 2009


We visited Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts a couple weeks ago. Visit Have Kid Will Travel and step back in time with us.

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This is what 52% of American wanted?

In what way and on what planet is this a good thing? I don't care if the GM CEO needed to step down or not. The point is that it is the Board of Director's decision, not a politician's. What President Obama has done now is cause insecurity and panic with that company. Why? Because they are now slaves to Obama...Just like AIG.

How could Obama ever consider this to be a good thing? Ever? This is going to make it worse. This will install a political insider, not someone who knows how to manufacture cars that people are willing to purchase. Wesley Mouch would recognize this. Is Directive 10-289 coming soon?


UPDATE on Monday: The market falling was an obvious response. Either President Obama thought of that or he didn't. Neither answer reflects well upon him. He has hurt a lot of people and a lot of companies. Not because of his specific action listed above, but because of the THREAT of that action.

UPDATE Monday Evening: I like PJTV's take on this.

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In Soviet Canada....

This one is for you Joe. No, I really don't think "Soviet Canada" as we are much closer to having fewer rights and freedoms in the US than the USSR. And if many of the leftists get their way, we'll have the purges here too.

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Another Busy Saturday

>> Saturday, March 28, 2009

We had actually planned to have a relatively relaxing Saturday...

HA! The weather decided to turn gorgeous so we went to Fall River and toured Battleship Cove. Practically every area was accessible on the ships and the submarine. We spent almost 4 hours there and didn't see everything.

We left there, got a bit lost and missed the last tour of the Lizzie Borden B&B/Museum.

No worries- Doug decided we would just take the short drive to Newport, Rhode Island... Just to look around. In the 4 hours we were there we barely scratched the surface of the town. We arrived too late to get on a tour of the incredible mansions or to begin the beautiful Cliff Walk. We need at least a weekend- preferably 4-5 days to really take it in.

Which leads me to ask... Niagara Falls is currently "winning" the poll of what we should see on our way home. Should I add Newport & reset the poll?

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May I Interest You in Some Tea?

>> Friday, March 27, 2009

desmoinesteaparty_blog


So, in two months our elected officials and our President have spent more money than the entire US grosses in a year. Timothy Geithner has requested the ability to take over any financial company he thinks is failing (because, you know, he did so well with the whole AIG bailout). California is looking to ban black cars because of the energy it takes to cool them (I'm guessing dark blues and greens will be swept into this as well). Under Obama's cap & trade plan "energy costs will necessarily skyrocket".

Is this what you voted for (I didn't!)? Have you had enough of this abuse of power? If you're like me you've called the offices of your elected officials (some aren't so pleasant), sent them letters, or picked them apart online. Have they heard you yet? I wonder...

If you're in the Des Moines area (or just want to drive in and join up) and you're sick of all the "taxation without representation" consider yourself invited to the Tax Day Tea Party. If you're in another state go to the Tax Day Tea Party site to find a location near you.

We will be in Massachusetts and plan to head into Boston for the third Boston Tea Party. (Did you know there were two before? Yep, the one we've all read about, and a second one, March 7, 1774.)

Don't forget your video cameras- local media probably won't cover the Tea Party; they will instead focus on the small band of protestors.

If you tweet I suggest following #tcot.

Suggested reading materials:



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I'm Not Sure the "Expert" was Really Such an Expert

>> Thursday, March 26, 2009

You may remember that I took the expert from Family Circle's Financial Planner: Expert Money Advice to task the other day for doling out bad credit card advice.

It seems I should have pulled apart the entire article because, with the exception of the first piece of advice (yes, keep contributing to your 401k) I don't agree with much else that was shared.

Let's move on to the next question:

Q. How much should I have in savings?

A. At least six months of living expenses. The general rule of thumb has always been that dual-income families should have three to six months of living expenses accessible in a savings account earning at least 2.5 percent. But fewer than 40 percent of adults have enough savings to tide them over for even three months, according to Bankrate.com. And now that the economy is so uncertain, experts are leaning toward six months. "If someone loses his job, it's anybody's guess how long it will take to become employed again," says Donald E. Whalen, a certified financial planner in Alpharetta, Georgia. But don't get overwhelmed by the thought of having to save so much money -- "living expenses" doesn't mean cash for leisure activities. It's the money needed to cover bare essentials, like mortgage, food, and health insurance.

To beef up your emergency fund:

A. Set up a weekly automatic debit from your checking account into a high-interest savings account, and increase the amount when you can.

B. Raise the deductibles on your home and auto insurance, or shop around for a better deal, then stow the difference in a savings account.

C. When you finish paying off a credit card, keep making payments -- to your emergency fund.

D. Try bundling expenses (like getting phone, Internet, and cable from one company) then stash the savings.


I am going to disagree right away. If you have any consumer debt the most you should have in savings is $1000. That is enough to cover *most* emergencies. Now, if you have no debt then, yes, 6 months of living expenses is what you need. Now, on to the tips to beef up your savings...
  • A) Sure, deduct a weekly amount into your emergency fund until you reach $1000. BUT a high interest savings account is still much less than the interest on your credit card debt. Work on a snowball to pay off that debt (trust me, it works! We've paid off over $17,000 since last summer using this method)
  • B) Yes, increase those deductibles! The savings can be significant. In fact, you should review your policies annually with your insurance agent to make sure you have the proper coverage. But use the savings to pay down debt!
  • C) When you pay off a credit card roll that payment into the next item on your snowball. It will disappear faster and give you more money to toss at the next bill... And the next... And the next... Until they are gone!
  • D) Sure, go ahead an bundle your expenses. But if you really want to save money get rid of those expenses all together! We got rid of our home phone and cable- a savings of $100 per month! And we don't miss them! (You can watch many shows online for free!) Throw the money at your snowball!
  • How we got our emergency fund & started our snowball:
  1. I had a huge garage sale. Everything that was stored in our basement & attic, clothes that we didn't wear, toys the girls had outgrown or just didn't play with, CDs we didn't listen to, DVDs we didn't watch, books we didn't read anymore... I sold a ton of stuff! Books, CDs & DVDs can also be listed on Half.com (I've made a nice amount on there), items on eBay (the nicer stuff) or Craig's List, kids clothes can be taken to a consignment shop where you can get store credit ('cuz your kids are gonna be needing clothes) or cash, or donated to Goodwill (where you get a tax credit). Sell it- it's just "stuff". You can get more when you're not broke!
  2. We got rid of cable TV, our home phone, eating out & any unnecessary expenses. I started using cash only (sign up to win an envelope system here)
  3. We let the land we owned in Missouri go back to the man we bought it from. Sure, we were out thousands of dollars but what good is land that you spend $400 a month on and never use?
OK, on to the fourth question in the article:

Q. Is it okay to ignore my bills if I can't afford the payments?

A. No way. Ignoring your bills will result in late fees, negative credit, and higher interest rates -- to the tune of as much as 32 percent on your credit cards, according to a study by advocacy group Consumer Action. Foresee a problem making a payment to your credit card or your mortgage company? Pick up the phone. "If you proactively call and explain the situation, you'll probably get better treatment," says Ken Robinson, a financial adviser in Cleveland. You may be able to work out a different payment plan or lower your interest rate. The same goes for taxes: File your return on time, then contact the IRS to talk about an installment plan, if need be.

I almost think this contradicts what she just said in question 3. This is why it is more important to pay off those bills instead of building a huge emergency fund. The bills will continue to come - even if you don't have any money! And, as was stated in the previous answer, your emergency fund is for bare essentials- not debt!

And now, "advice" on what to do if job loss is imminent (I'm going to hit these one by one):
Before I Lose My Job

It seems like the headlines are announcing new layoffs every day -- more than half a million jobs were lost in December 2008 alone. Luckily, even in this shaky economic environment there are a few things you can do to prepare.

Apply for a home equity line of credit. If you're unemployed, you'll have a hard time persuading a bank that you can repay this loan, so now is a great time to secure a line of credit in case you need it. You pay interest only if you have to tap into it. The bad news: It's harder to get a HELOC than it used to be. Aim for a bank that will waive all application fees and charge an annual fee (once approved) instead. "I'd rather do that than pay $150 up front and then find out they're not going to give me the loan," says certified financial planner Constance Stone.

Do NOT go get a line of credit "just in case"! You don't want to build up more debt- especially when you don't have an income to pay the bills when they come due. And paying an annual fee to borrow money, on top of the interest rate? Do people really do this? Oh, and if you can't pay? You can lose your house! Bad, bad, bad advice!
Get a physical. Encourage your husband to get one too, and take the kids to the pediatrician and dentist. You don't know what kind of health coverage you'll have in the future or how much it will cost, so get care while you're still on your employer's dime.
OK, this one is not so dumb. Healthy people spend less on medical costs.

Downgrade your health coverage. When open enrollment comes around, try a less expensive health insurance plan for the upcoming year, if you can. That way, if you end up having to pay COBRA (your current health plan at full cost), you will pay less.

I'm not really sure about this one... What worked for us was to switch to an HSA. We pay less per month on our premium + our deposit to cover medical expenses than we were on our full coverage insurance (and by less I mean a few hundred dollars). But we are self employed; no employer covers our health insurance. I would say look into this option with your employer, or if you believe a lay-off or firing is imminent.

Adjust your withholding. Reduce federal and state withholding to get more cash in your paycheck -- then don't spend it. Sock away the extra money in a high-interest savings account. If you remain employed, you can use the money to pay your taxes. But if you or your husband gets laid off, the money will be readily accessible so you can pay your bills.

Again with the high interest savings account... Use the money to pay off debt. When you are ready to build your emergency fund talk to your bank about easy to access money market accounts- they have higher interest than savings accounts and you can usually get your money in a day or two; some even have checks.

Check your credit report. Potential future employers will likely be checking your credit. Everyone should get a free report from annualcreditreport.com and fix any errors -- now.

You should get your credit report annually (it's free) and check it thoroughly. Identity theft is rising. We subscribe to LifeLock. They watch over our credit and let us know if something fishy arises (I've been very impressed). Sure, you can do what they do- but it is very time consuming and annoying (I've tried, it's worth the cost to me for someone else to handle it).



indiv_promo_banner_468x60

The items highlighted in green were Originally published in the April 1, 2009, issue of Family Circle magazine.

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I Think Capital One May Have Read Iowa Geek... (aka Credit Card Rewards)

>> Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Because I don't recall contacting them about my rewards issue. If you recall I was lamenting that I hadn't accumulated enough rewards to actually "earn" anything as the smallest "cost" was 5000 miles and I only had 2173.

Today I got a call from Capital One. Again, I don't recall sending them an email about this issue. The very helpful representative said that she understood that I was "having a problem redeeming points" before I closed my account.

"Yes," I said, "the lowest value is 5000 and I don't have that many."

"We can just send you a check for the value of the points," she replied. "They are worth 1%, so we will send a check out for $21.73 today and close your account if you wish."

I said that would be great and thanked her.

No, it's not much, but I am impressed all the same. Those miles really aren't worth anything to me and Capital One didn't have to call and let me know they could convert them to cash. I'm pretty sure that if I had just closed my account online that those miles would have just disappeared. So, kudos, Capital One. That's good customer service.

Now, if I could only remember if I contacted them about this or not. 'Cuz I really don't remember doing so...

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I Hate to Disagree with the Expert But...

>> Tuesday, March 24, 2009

April's Family Circle magazine has an article titled Financial Planner: Expert Money Advice. And while I hate to disagree with the expert I have to when it comes to advice #2...

Q. Should I stop using credit cards?

A. Not necessarily. Some advisers suggest hiding credit cards under the mattress during tough times, and, indeed, wielding a debit card has become a popular alternative. But using your debit card exclusively has disadvantages -- fraud and error protections aren't the same -- and credit cards can be part of a responsible spending plan. They can also help you establish a solid credit history. "Unfortunately, some people misuse credit cards by thinking, 'I'll do this now and get myself out of it later,'" Stone says. "But balances grow, and these people are in trouble before they know it." So treat your credit card as if it's a debit card, recording each transaction and subtracting it from your bank balance. Then pay your bill in full each month.


I want to point out that if your debit card carries the Visa or Mastercard symbol they carry the SAME fraud and error protections that credit cards have. (See this great debit card article.)


Also, it is very, very easy to only pay minimum balances on a credit card. If you are disciplined enough to not run up your credit card and pay it off each month, well, good for you! Most people are not that disciplined. In my opinion, credit cards are not part of a responsible spending plan. It is way too easy to say "I'll pay it off next month" and let the debts ride until you have too much debt and not enough money to pay it off.


I have been following Dave Ramsey's plan since early last summer and we have paid of thousands and thousands in debt. It really works. Our goal is to pay off our home in 10 years and have a zero credit score in 20!


One part of Dave's plan that I was hesitant (ok, practically had to be forced to do) was the envelope system. I didn't want to be "limited" to the cash in my pocket. But what I found was that my spending was more controlled, I bought only what we needed and those things I thought I had to have really weren't worth it if I was paying cash. It hurts to pay cash! (In a good way!)


Want to win one of Dave's envelope systems? Go visit The Trendy Dollar. Leave a comment for her then search the rest of the site. She'll get you pointed in the right direction. (Did I mention her family recently paid off all their consumer debt?)

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Obama reaches out to France

>> Monday, March 23, 2009

President Obama sent a love note to Jacques Chirac of France. That's all well and good, however, the current President of France is Nicolas Sarkozy and he's NOT HAPPY. Not happy at all.

Pretty soon, we'll be talking about "former ally" France and "former ally" Britain, along with "former allies" Brazil, Mexico, Poland, Czech Republic, Pakistan, India, Canada, Japan...

Who have I missed? Ah, the lovely "overcharge" moment with Russia...


You have to see what Obama's Teleprompter says:

Somebody poked him on this story and the TOTUS responded thusly:

***************

Obamas Teleprompter at 10:35pm March 22

Dude

Its FRANCE ok...heck - even I have trouble stomaching those surrender moneys...its not like he insulted the UK or embarrased himself with Russia...I mean c'mon...FRANCE

BTW - I have to tell you. I had to talk him off the idea of sending the Statue of Liberty back to them...he's just not that into it...I'm not either but it would look bad. Warm Regards TOTUS **

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New Looks at Have Kid Will Travel!

As I get busier I find it to just be more efficient for me to pay to have things done. Like designing the new website... Sure, I could do it (as many of my bloggy friends can attest to since I have helped them with designing their sites) but the time it takes... Well, I just don't have it. So I hired a web designer who was referred to me by my incredibly talented friend Elaine...

Destri sent me a super cute logo last night and I can't wait til the new website debuts to share it!

Super cute, no? And the girls are pulling Trunkis! I love it! What do you think?

If you're in the market for a new look to your blog or want to design a whole website from the ground up I am having a great time working with Destri. I can't wait to see the whole site together!

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A Star is Born

>> Sunday, March 22, 2009

We had a very busy weekend... Grandma (my mom) made a trip out to Boston to visit and we kept her busy! Saturday we visited Salem and Sunday was Boston. I'm working on articles & photos for Have Kid Will Travel- I'll let you know when I get them posted. (I'm having HKWT redesigned so things are a bit wonky right now. Hopefully they will be righted soon. Until then, have you seen my article on Cohasset, Massachusetts?)

What I really want to share, though, is this bit from today. We had dinner at the Black Rose (probably our favorite restaurant in Boston). There was live entertainment tonight by Frank Ryan, a Dublin native, who performs around the Boston area with his band Celtic Clan. As we were preparing to leave I sent the girls up with a tip for him. He asked if they wanted to get on stage & sing! Brenna, my little performer, was all over that. Caelan followed but wanted nothing to do with the singing...



Frank gave the girls a CD of his band's Irish tunes as a prize for singing. For Brenna, though, the applause may have been the best payment... We stayed for one more song (Wild Irish Rover) and danced, clapped and sang (OK, I sang. I had a pint with dinner...) before we had to leave.

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Apparently Our President Can't Bowl

>> Thursday, March 19, 2009

But should he have said it this way?


Appalling. Oh, thanks Keith for sharing. How's that shiver running down your leg, now?

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Thank You, Senator Harkin, But I Think My Outrage Points a Different Way

And that would be at you and every other senator who voted to bail out AIG.

Today I received this in my inbox. It's a message from my esteemed senator titled Outrage Over AIG Bonuses.

The first paragraph goes like this:
This week, I was just as outraged as I am sure many of you were, when I learned (I bolded the words) that millions of dollars were paid out in bonuses to employees at companies that received bailout funding. I am dumbfounded to think that some of the very people at AIG whose recklessness caused such harm to the financial system and our economy are now being rewarded.
Maybe, Senator, you would have known about the bonuses if you had read the entire bill before you signed it... Do you remember the conversation I had with a staffer in Harkin's office just last month? The one in which the staffer said to me: "So you expect the senator to read and memorize this entire bill?"

You're damn right I expect him to read the bill! That's what he is paid to do!

The message went on:
What’s more is that the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department knew about these bonuses before they went out and did not aggressively act to stop them. The Treasury needs to step up oversight of those companies who have received federal bailout dollars and become a much more forceful watchdog of taxpayers’ dollars.
Not only did they know about the bonuses, Senator, they specifically worked them into the bail out. Chris Dodd owned up to that... (which means he lied and should be impeached).

And now we see what our Senator really thinks of Iowans...
Up and down Main Street, businesses are closing, homes are being foreclosed on and people are in financial trouble, while workers on Wall Street continue to profit. But, folks in Iowa look at that and see business as usual. They see one set of standards for ordinary working families and a very different set for the privileged and wealthy. They see the federal government requiring union workers at GM and Chrysler – some making as little as $14 an hour – to renegotiate their contracts and accept lower compensation as a condition for federal relief for their employers. But the bonus contracts for millionaires at AIG are held up as somehow untouchable. Iowans are sick and tired of seeing those who break the rules get richer and richer.

I hate to tell you, Senator, but us "folks in Iowa" don't see different rules for others. In fact, us "folks in Iowa" believe in the inherent fairness of life. I believe that's why we live in Iowa. Of course you may not spend enough time in your Cummings shack or your Indianola rental properties to really know how Iowans really are. Your Beltway mentality is showing, Senator. Oh, and $14 an hour is "middle class", sir. Of course it won't buy much in Alexandria, VA.

He finishes:
Congress must act now to recoup the bonuses paid out. We need to pass legislation that completely taxes those bonuses away. We need to send a message to AIG and other companies who received bailout money. They need to know business as usual will not be tolerated, incompetence and recklessness will not be rewarded and this kind of insult to Iowans and all Americans will not be allowed to stand.
Hasn't congress done enough? If you "pass legislation" on these people who, themselves, did nothing wrong, what's to stop you from destroying any contract that gets in your way? It is unconstitutional. But John at Powerline (he's a lawyer, too), says it better than I can.

So, Senator, I am unswayed by you hypocritical rant. In fact, I hold you responsible. You are, after all, supposed to be representing me. I expect you to do your job.

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Isn't that special?

So the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Briton comes to see the new President of the United States and brings with him items of historic and intrinsic value.

Let me think... how did our esteemed and "highly vetted" President reciprocate? Ah, yes, we gave the guy that is blind in one eye and going blind in the other 25 DVDs. Nice. Classy even.

But wait, there's more! Oh yes. You think I'm going to mention the $15 spur-of-the-moment gift shop purchase for the Browns' boys, but you would be wrong. Maybe I'll mention that the only picture of Mrs. Prime Minister and Mrs. "Toned Arms" President doesn't even show the face of one of the participants. But no, I'm letting that go. Ah, you say, maybe he'll mention the scrapping of the traditional side-by-side press conference and the bad impression that sends. But no.

Oh no. It's worse than that.

The DVD set given to PM Brown cannot play in European DVD players. He tried.

Smarterest President evah!



UPDATE: Ace has profanity laced headline (you've been warned), but I do like his Photoshop of the TOTUS (Teleprompter Of The United States). And he pointed out something I missed in the initial scan of the Telegraph. "A White House spokesman sniggered when I put the story to him and he was still looking into the matter when my deadline came last night." Words. Fail. Me.

This is how we treat our friends?!

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Just Watch This

>> Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Have you read Common Sense, The Rights of Man and Other Essential Writings of Thomas Paine (Signet Classics). As you can probably guess, we own it. So this video, written & delivered as if it is the reaction of this founding father, caught my attention. Just watch it. It's worth your time (I don't care which "side" you're on.



Anything you disagree with? Doug disagreed with doing away with the electoral college... But otherwise... I can't argue with the logic. I do hate to do away with good tea, though...

It was pointed out elsewhere that tea bags may not make it to your representatives desks- something about poison worries. Not sure if that's true but, honestly, why waste good tea? Here in Boston they sell official "Boston Harbour Tea", made by the original Boston Tea Party Company. Here's a photo. I'm thinking to copy and send it. I'm pretty sure my politicians will get the message.
Just right click & "save image as" to copy.

Also on my book shelf (and should be on every American's):




Now is the time to know what this country was founded on. Before it's lost.

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The Great Scam

Lorie Byrd lays it out


In a related post, President Obama has snubbed 2 more good trading partners and friendly countries.

Wait until he insults the Chinese. They have a long memory and over a $trillion$ dollars of US Treasury Bonds. It would be much cheaper for them to devalue the bonds than to go to war. Or, devalue the bonds, we can't afford to fight (since we have budget deficits and no one left to willingly lend us money at a loss) and have North Korea resume military operations against the South. We can't afford to send men and materiel over to the Korean Peninsula, so China formally annexes Taiwan. Then the fun really begins.

Jody inputs:
I really like this Michelle Maklin piece from the NY Post.


UPDATE from Doug: Will President Obama return the "bonus" check HE received from AIG?

Powerlineblog has some good commentary, especially the last paragraph. It's almost as if it is not really about stimulus and more about control...or something.

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Funny, I Don't FEEL Rewarded

>> Tuesday, March 17, 2009


As we slowly remove ourselves from the grip of consumer debt I find myself closing credit card accounts for cards that have long since been cut apart and tossed out with dirty diapers and non-recyclable containers.

One such card is my Capital One "No Hassles" Rewards card. I realized tonight, as I was flipping through account information, that the account was still open. And, in fact, had rewards that had yet to be used.

If you've been reading a while you may remember my last "rewards" purchase: a really nice slow cooker. I love my slow cooker and I use it often. However, it "cost" 6300 "points" which is, in essence, $6300. It's not that nice.

So, anyway, I find that I have 2173 "points" on this card that has been cut up for quite a while now. What can that get me? Nothing. Not a thing. The cheapest (and I do mean cheap) items are 5000 "points". I do see, however, that I can transfer these points to another Capital One account. Though I am sure there is a fee for such action. But, hey, if anyone wants my "miles" before I close the account let me know. Just read the fine print...

There may be a small fee for said transaction before said transaction can take place. This may or may not be entirely legal. Fees will be paid via PayPal and transfer will be completed as soon as fees are deposited.

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Kiss Me


You all know that I love my Irish heritage. But I'm pretty fond of my Iowa roots, too. In fact, I can't wait to leave the south shore and return to my Midwest home. And when I do I'll be making a run downtown to get this shirt at Smash...

A few of their other shirts that made me laugh...

Don't meth with Iowa

Iowa: Wave the next time you fly over

Des Moines, Iowa: Let us exceed your already low expectations

And this one, which I want to send to all my friends...

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Happy St. Patrick's Day

>> Monday, March 16, 2009


Beannacht Lá Fhéile Pádraig

Although many may not believe it, St. Patrick's Day is not about drinking green beer. Nor is it about food, though it is called his Feast Day.

St. Patrick's Day celebrates Ireland's patron saint, who baptized thousands, explained the Trinity using a clover and converting pagan kings to Christianity.

From Thomas Cahill's How the Irish Saved Civilization :
Back in the 5th century, the Irish Celts were unevangelized, extremely barbaric, cannibals, slave traders, and participated in human sacrifices. They would sail across the channel to England at night and kidnap people that would be good for slaves or concubines and would kill the rest. They would then drink their victims’ blood and would take their skulls back with them to use as drinking cups.

On one of these kidnapping voyages, they captured a 16 year old boy and took him back to be a slave. This boy came from a Christian family. During his slavery, he began to pray and his faith grew tremendously. One night, he received a vision from God where he saw a ship and heard God say “Your ship is on the shore. Go get on it!”. This boy knew being caught trying to escape would be certain death, but his faith was great and he walked 200 miles to the coastline. He was not captured, and sure enough, there was a ship ready to set sail. He convinced the sailors to let him on board. At sea, they shipwrecked and ended up landing somewhere in France. They wandered around with no food. The sailors finally asked this boy, “If your God is so great, pray and ask Him to give us some food so we don’t die!” The boy responded, “No, I will not pray for you. You fall on your knees and confess God as the only true God and then ask Him yourself!” They did, and God sent a herd of swine over the hill to provide food for them.

The boy ended up in a monastery in France where he became a student of the Bible and the Christian faith. He eventually returned to his home in England. One night, he saw another vision, this time it was the face of an Irishman that he recognized, and this Irishman said “Holy child, come walk with us once more!” He understood that God was calling him to return to Ireland to bring the gospel to them. His family was livid when he explained this to them, telling him that they would surely kill him on the spot and eat him. But he told them that he had to go. He knew their language and he knew their culture. Consequently, he knew how to win them to Christ.

He ended up going to Ireland with a couple of his friends. He was not killed; in fact, he ended up leading thousands of Irish Celts to Christ. By the end of this man’s life, God used him so mightily to transform this nation, that the Irish were the first nation to abolish slavery. He planted over 700 churches, trained 3000 pastors, and performed 100,000 baptisms!

St. Patrick gathered the converts into monasteries to teach them the Scriptures and train them in evangelism. These Irish monks copied the Scriptures and also Roman and Greek classics, such as Homer’s writings. Without these numerous copies by the Irish, it is doubtful these classics would have survived the destruction the barbarians brought to the Roman Empire. Some even go as far as to say that the Irish saved civilization. After the Roman Empire fell to the godless barbarians, it was these Irish monks that brought Christianity and civilization back to Europe. In fact, they went to Rome and taught the Romans trade skills and Latin! It’s hard to believe that the Irish had to re-teach the Romans their own language and the advanced skills the Romans were known for! It goes to show how devastating the fall of the Roman Empire was to Rome, and how quickly they went from powerful to nothing.


Tradition states that Patrick drove the snakes from Ireland. While Ireland probably had no actual snakes on its shores, the story may have a ring of truth to it. Snakes often represent evil (and quite often, Satan) in literature. By stating that Patrick "drove out the snakes" is symbolically stating that he drove out Pagan practices and brought in a new age of religion.

While you're thinking of all things Irish head over to Have Kid Will Travel and check out my Boston's St. Patrick's Day Parade post. And take a virtual tour with my Ireland posts.

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Caelan Sleeps

It seems we wore Caelan out yesterday. Here is a clip of her reaction to screaming fire trucks directly in front of us during the St. Patrick's Day parade in Boston.

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Norton Online Living Report

Tuesday, March 17 at 11:30 am EST, Symantec will share the results of their most recent survey. It provides insight into rapidly changing technology, Internet usage and the social impact of these things on individuals and families. The findings for this report are based on a survey of 9,000 online adults and kids in 12 countries-the U.S., Canada, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, China, Japan, India, Australia and Brazil.

The findings will be shared through a webcast and host a discussion featuring Symantec Group President, Janice Chaffin, teen parenting author Dr. Michael Bradley, and other guest speakers.

To preregister for this event please click here.

This information courtesy of

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www.momcentral.com


Smart Solutions for Everyday Moms

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Wearin' O' the Green

>> Friday, March 13, 2009

St. Patrick's Day is next Tuesday. I love St. Patrick's Day, if only because it's the only day my sister doesn't give me a lot of flack for my love of Ireland and my joy in our Irish ancestry.

Since we are on the south shore (which is what the locals here call the area on the ocean south of Boston but not yet to the Cape) we will head into Southie (that is, South Boston) for the St. Patrick's Day Parade on Sunday (which in not St.Patrick's Day. I'm still trying to finagle a 2 day hop to Dublin to actually see a parade on St. Patrick's Day).

We'll see the parade, hopefully walk along the Irish Heritage Trail and get some dinner in a pub, complete with Magners. Mmm...

To spread the Luck of the Irish on to all o' you I have a few things to share:

Learn the Irish language for free at Rosetta Stone thru March 19. There's a big button on the home page; you can't miss it. Be aware, even if your computer has a microphone the set up requires a headset mic. (I have to get one.) Thank to Deb at Just a Mom's Take on Things for this info.

Check out my favorite Irish recipes over at Fab Food Friday. Taste tested in my kitchen... If I can make them you can! I've even included beverage suggestions.

Craving a trip to the Emerald Isle? Take a virtual trip with me at Have Kid Will Travel. See where we've been and what we've done while roving the countryside.

And don't forget music to set the mood. Here are a few of our favorites:

The Glengarry Bhoys: Juice is a particular favorite.

Paddy Wagon is a twin cities Irish band I used to see at Kieran's in Minneapolis. Live At the Dubliner is great fun.

Celtic Woman is wonderful. I would start with:



Loreena McKennitt is always worth listening to.


Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Sláinte!

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Last Weekend's Fun

>> Thursday, March 12, 2009

Last weekend we visited Old Sturbridge Village, a "living history" village. The girls really enjoyed it as they were able to explore, touch and play. It provided much-needed energy burning for all of us!






I'll be doing a more in depth article over at Have Kid Will Travel soon!

Click on the pictures for larger views so you can read the journaling.

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Loads of Hope

In Iowa we know quite a bit about natural disasters. Sure, we don't get the media attention on places like New Orleans when Katrina hit but I'm pretty sure the devastation of the Parkersburg tornado was at least equal to it- if not more devastating as the town was, quite literally, wiped off the map.

Since we are on the verge of spring, when most large storms happen in my part of the country, I want to share a little on how Tide (the laundry detergent) helps during crisis. They have a program called "Loads of Hope", which brings a bit of normalcy into affected areas. I know that bringing in a semi filled with mobile washing machines or a van to provide help to local laundromats may seem trivial as you read this. But, when everything is upside down, clean clothes and a sense of normalcy matter.

Where it all started

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the need for clean clothing became critical, and Tide found a way to help. So in November 2005, the Tide Loads of Hope truck headed to Camp Hope in the Metairie, LA area and cleaned over 10,000 loads of laundry. The spirit of this first venture informs and inspires everything Tide Loads of Hope program does.

Tide Loads of Hope truck:

*32 high-effiency washers and dryers stationed on the truck
*Can do 300 wash and dry cycles a day - equal to one year's worth of laundry for a single family
*Will wash about 9,000 loads of laundry over a four-week period
*Leveraged during massive disasters where electricity is unavailable in the region

Tide Loads of Hope vans:

*In partnership with a local laundromat, the Tide Loads of Hope vans provide free laundry service at the same load rate as the trucks
*Leveraged during disasters

How you can help:

You can purchase Tide's "Loads of Hope" vintage T's for $20. Shirts are in both men's and women's styles and come in blue, green, red & yellow.

Created in soft cotton, this limited edition vintage tee not only shows your sense of style - it shows your heart. All profits will go towards recovery efforts for families affected by disaster around the country.

This shirt features the Tide bull's eye on the front and "Loads of Hope" on the back.

Many of us have seen devastation first hand and want to help but aren't sure how. Tide's Loads of Hope gives you the chance to help bring a bit of normalcy into the midst of devastation.




This post was brought to you via BlogHer.

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Thanks Midwest Girl!

>> Wednesday, March 11, 2009

After reading about my daughters' new favorite place to eat my bloggy friend Midwest Girl at Heart sent me this bit of info:

Next Week is is Menu Madness at Friendly’s, and there will be kids meal deals starting at just $1.99 March 16 thru March 19th

The girls will be beyond thrilled to have our weekly dinner "out". For more info on this deal visit Sisterly Savings.

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My Girls' New Favorite Restaurant

>> Monday, March 09, 2009

I'm afraid my girls may go into shock when we leave Massachusetts. Not from leaving the cozy ocean front house. Not from the great commuter trains and boats they look forward to taking. Not even from the exploring we do every weekend.

No, when we leave Massachusetts my girls are going to miss their new favorite restaurant. Which they have eaten at a total of two times. Two. And now every day I hear about how they want to go to Friendly's.

And it's not because of the food. Which is actually pretty good. And the prices aren't bad; a kid's meal is $4.99. And can include pink milk! An adult can order a full meal for $9.99. (One kid's meal is big enough for them to share, and an adult meal is big enough for Doug & I, so it's also pretty economical).

And by meal I mean entree, drink and ice cream sundae of your choice. And not a teeny ice cream sundae, but a really, really good one. Which may or may not be a clown with an ice cream cone hat or a monster made of mint chocolate chip ice cream with peanut butter cup horns.

Is it any wonder that my girls love it? And end up looking like this after eating?




Oh, the simple joys of being a kid...

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My New Crocs


Wow... With a resounding 68% of the vote (and the favorite of the ladies in the Crocs office) I will be ordering the Olivia in brown. Thanks to everyone for their votes!

And the winner of the free pair of Crocs (up to $50 and in stock) is:

Random Integer Generator

Here are your random numbers:

46 

Timestamp: 2009-03-09 15:01:42 UTC


Congratulations to
MaggieM said...

I voted for the Brown Olivia Flats for you. For me, definitely the Nickelodeon Dora Flowers Kid's Cayman! Both of my granddaughters love Dora the Explorer! If I win, I'd have to purchase a pair for the other granddaughter to avoid any fights breaking out, lol!

I guess you'll be buying an additional pair of Crocs! @GeorgeSmithJr will be in contact with you soon!

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Handy Tips with... Alka-Seltzer?

>> Sunday, March 08, 2009

OK, I don't give much any thought to Alka-Seltzer. But after reading this article at Woman's Day I may have to get some.

1. Deep-Clean Vases Fill with warm water and drop in two of these baking soda–rich tablets. Let soak for an hour to remove the stains you can’t reach.

2. Speed-Scrub the Toilet Twice a week, drop two tablets into the bowl; 15 minutes later, do a once-around with the toilet brush.

3. Make an All-Purpose Cleaner Drop three tablets into 8 oz warm water. Once the fizzing stops, wipe down counters, tiles and tubs.

4. Safely Unclog a Drain Drop three tablets into the drain and run hot water for a few seconds (the hotter the water, the more fizzing). Let sit for 15 minutes.

5. Build Rockets Entertain little ones by heading outside with an empty film canister, filling it halfway with warm water and dropping in a half-tablet. Snap on the lid and place the canister lid down. Take a step back and watch it launch into the air. (Ahhh, here's the problem with digital cameras! No film canisters!)

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Shhh... Don't Tell Anyone...

>> Thursday, March 05, 2009

Honestly, you don't realize just how good you have it until you are away. For example:

Brenna & Caelan go to preschool & gymnastics at Triad Kids Campus. For under $375 per month they each have a one hour gymnastics class per week, Caelan has 1.5hours of preschool (a class of 10 with 2 teachers) a week and Brenna has 7.5 hours (a class of 12 with 2 teachers). The facility is huge, the classrooms are large & airy and the staff and teachers are amazing.

Now, I know my standards may be high... But, just as comparison...

For 8 weeks of gymnastics here, in a gym 1/4 the size of Triad's and a class 3x bigger we paid $268. Ouch! And for Brenna to attend a preschool (Caelan isn't old enough in the state of Massachusetts) 2x a week, 8 hours total for 6 weeks (in a class of 20 with 2 teachers) is $415! OUCH! This preschool can't even begin to compare to what we are used to in terms of space or quality. And it's one of the best in the area!

Of course the places we are going are nice... They just aren't as nice as what we are used to.

Now, Doug makes a nice income... Upper middle class- in Iowa at least. I'm not sure how people live out here with the cost of housing, child care, schooling... Wowsers.

But, let's just keep this between us. If all these coastal people realized just how good we have it in "fly over" country they might decide to move!

On that note: As we were dropping Doug off at the train station today a lady pulled up beside the van. I rolled down my window (does a window roll down if it's automatic?) to have her ask if we had just moved to Massachusetts. I told her that Doug is working out here for a while. Turns out her family moved out last summer from Johnston- another Des Moines suburb. "it's a small world after all..."
Just so you know... I'm not moving here...

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Do You Work From Home? Are Your Kids in Preschool?

According to my accountant preschool costs qualify for the dependent care credit. I wasn't aware of this and wondered how many other WAHMs (and Dads) may not have known about it.

Just because you work at home doesn't mean you don't work! Take your deduction!

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Torn! Help Me Decide! And Maybe Win A Pair of Your Own!

>> Monday, March 02, 2009

First I must say that I have never, ever, been a fan of Crocs. Of course my girls are infatuated with them. But I couldn't bring myself to even buy them a pair- until I found a pair at a garage sale for Brenna. And those "Croc-y shoes" became her favorites last summer, through the fall, and she even tried to wear them in the snow.

While at the amazing Blissdom conference I received a Crocs initiation- and became aware that Crocs makes more than those ugly things my girls adore. And I got a certificate for a free pair- up to $50.

So now I have a problem! I don't know what to choose!

Alas, the pair I fell for is outside my price range. I may have to buy these orange Cape Cod flats myself if I am impressed with the shoes I get.

And that is where you, my dear readers, come in. Help me choose my shoes!





The choices are:

These super cute Olivia flats in brown. These will go with practically anything- jeans, pants, capris, skirts.



These bright and fun Celeste canvas slip-ons in red and cotton candy. I love the bright colors and think these would be wonderful summer shoes. Also available in suede in the outlet.


I'm not a big fan of leopard print, but these Malindi leopard flats with the cotton candy base are classic and versatile.


So... What do you think? I've got a poll in the right sidebar. Let me know! I'll be placing my order next Monday...

UPDATE!!!

A big thanks to @georgesmithjr & Crocs! After you vote over in my sidebar come back and leave me a comment telling me what Crocs you would choose from their site (under $50 and pending availability) and you could win them! That's right... help me choose my shoes and you have a chance to win your own!

Share the love: RT @iatraveler Help me pick my #crocs & win a pair for yourself! #Blissdom09 http://bit.ly/JO8eu Thanks @georgesmithjr & #crocs! (No extra entries but it's nice to share...)

Contest ends Monday, March 9 at 10am. Open to US & Canadian resident only. Make sure you leave a contact email!

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The Boats of Boston

>> Sunday, March 01, 2009

Saturday was a perfect day for exploring- sunny and 40 degrees. If the wind had died down it would have been perfect.

I'm calling Saturday our boat day as we were on boats for most of the day. We began by taking a commuter ferry into Boston Harbor. Wow. So much better than the trains. Comfy, not crowded, quiet... And you could even buy popcorn, which excited the girls to no end. You would have thought they'd never had popcorn before.


After our small snack on the ferry we had lunch at the Black Rose, our favorite restaurant so far. Doug enjoyed his bangers & mash, I had a Reuben. Then we went back to the harbor to catch another boat- this one to the Boston Navy Shipyard. Where we toured the USS Constitution.


and the USS Cassin Young, a WW II destroyer.



I have to tell you... Even though the girls could have honestly cared less about these ships they were so good and patient. The open rooms on the destroyer were especially fascinating to them- the kitchen had a mixer about 25x bigger than my Kitchen Aid, but the girls knew just what it was. And the "doctor's room" fascinated Brenna.

After our tours and a run through of the USS Constitution museum (with a stop in the gift shop where I found a new favorite thing) we hit Faneuil Hall for a snack/dinner before catching our ferry back home.

Sunday was a lazy day. We were lazy as it's snowing and icy. We left the house for a while in the afternoon to run a couple errands. Then it was back home for cuddling and movies.

Right now it's snowing and schools are already being canceled. Forecast is 5-8 inches tonight and an additional 4-6 tomorrow. Hunh... I'm guessing that may shut things down here...

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