Monday, December 31, 2012

Home Alone - Day 9

I am so bad!  I am late with another daily home alone post ... what are we all to do with me?

Day nine was not quite as restful as days 7 & 8.  I left Piper, EJ's puppy, in her puppy playpen in the basement while attending church.  When I arrived home she had figured out how to escape her playpen (I assume she climbed onto the top of her pet crate and jumped over the enclosure).  She had made quite a mess in the  stairwell, mudroom and kitchen.  I scolded her, put her outside and spent about an hour cleaning up after her.  I've also removed her pet crate from the puppy playpen and placed her dogie bed directly on the concrete floor.  We'll see how long it takes her to figure out how to escape now that she doesn't have anything to climb upon.

I am very frustrated with the U.S.Postal service.   The packages I mailed the big boys for Christmas have arrived late or not at all.  We also have a monthly bill that, after 4 weeks, has not been delivered.  JP finally received his gift box - BUT AB and BT have not received theirs.  I spent an entire year making BT's homemade gift, it is not something easily replaced.  I have a very foreboding feeling that both AB and BT's gifts were stolen after being left on door steps.  As inconvenient as it is for the boys, it appears that I will have to require signatures for any future deliveries.  Please don't leave comments about using UPS as an alternative shipping method - Their track record with me is even worse than the U.S. Postal system.  I simply can not understand why I have had so many issues with packages & mail that I send since moving to eastern Montana - regardless of the shipping company I choose.  The common denominator is that all the packages and mail I've had issues with were sent from our local town.  I have not had any issues with items sent from our neighboring town.

My ankle has improved greatly - thank you for your prayers.  The swelling is considerably reduced and I am walking well without much pain.

I recently received a few anonymous questions in the comments section of my article on Biblical Submission. Although I responded in the appropriate comments section I thought I'd also take a few moments to respond in a post.

The questions posted were:
"Do you ever.miss your freedom? I know since.it is voluntary, its not.really slavery (as you mentioned). Do you miss having choices on what the direction of your own life will go? Does your.husband order you to do anything stupid (not illegal, just.not.sensible)? Do you have.any boundaries, such as what.orders.you will not.obey?"

These questions were left in the comment section of Biblical Submission - Part 1.  I hope the inquirer took time to read parts 2-4 in their entirety.  I hope he/she will come to understand that Biblical submission and abuse are NOT synonymous terms.  Biblical Submission is about submitting one's will to God's plan and design for marriage. Many years ago when I realized that most of the conflict in my marriage was a direct result of my lack of respect and honor toward my husband, I also realized that the ONLY way I could ever Biblically submit to Mr.B was by learning to submit to God and His plan for marriage.  

So, question 1. Do I miss my freedom?  
Since I live in a no-fault divorce state, it would be quite easy to leave my marriage if I chose to do so.  Biblical submission does not encompass a husband controlling his wife's comings and goings.  It is about respecting one's husband as the leader of the family.  Biblical submission is about fostering a husband's trust in his wife.  Mr.B is 100% confident in me.  He trusts me because I've NEVER given reason not to.  He is fully confident that only death will separate me from our family.  Thus, there is no reason for me to "miss my freedom" OR for Mr.B to ever be concerned regarding my comings and goings.  Biblical submission relates to my integrity as a person and my consideration towards others.

Question 2.  Do you miss having choices on what the direction of your own life will go?  
I laughed out loud when I read this question.  Why?  Because I've been a mother for almost 29 years.  Mr. B does not nor has he ever controlled my life choices.  Reality check:  if I wanted a different life than the one I have, I should have made different choices 30 years ago.  When I chose to have a family, I chose to always put their needs before my own wants, desires and goals.  When one chooses to have a family, whether that family is just a husband & wife or whether 10 or more children are added to the mix, the husband & wife should be mature enough and responsible enough to put their own selfish and childish desires aside for the needs of the other family members.  If the husband and/or wife are not willing to do so, then they are in great need of repentance before the Lord. This aspect of biblical submission is not about a husband authoritatively directing his wife's life choices. It is about the husband and wife putting the needs of the family before their own wants.  (note:  needs and wants are not synonymous terms)

Questions 3 & 4.  Does your husband ever order you to do anything stupid (not illegal, just not sensible)?  "Do you have any boundaries, such as what orders you will not obey?"
Biblical submission does NOT encompass a husband aggressively reigning over his wife, commanding her here and there.  Biblical submission is about learning to work together as a team.  In our family, Mr.B is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO).  I am the Chief Operating Officer(COO) and, because I am so detailed oriented, I am also the Accountant.  As the CEO, Mr.B, generally sees the big picture.  He sees what direction he'd like our family to go.  As the COO, I am in charge of all the little details to help get us there.  If  a challenge arises that I do not know how to handle OR if my efforts are not achieving the desired results, Mr.B and I work together on finding a solution.  I respect Mr.B, and because I am ALWAYS honest with him, he respects me.  I have no need of worrying about what I will or will not obey because Mr.B is a respectful person who does not order me to do anything, much less something immoral, un-biblical or illegal.  I am Mr.B's closest confidant, best friend and co-captain.  We are a team and without each other our entire family fails.

I sincerely pray that the worldly misconceptions of biblical submission that the women's liberation movement brought us, will be shattered.  Biblical submission is most simply defined as, recognizing that the husband and wife are a team.  The husband is the captain and the wife is the 1st mate.  A well organized ship does not run smoothly with two captains nor with two 1st mates.  Biblical submission allows the husband to take the helm as captain with his wife steadily by his side as 1st mate resulting in smooth sailing for the entire family.

Well that concludes my posts for day 9 on being home alone.  Mr.B and the children are planning to arrive home tomorrow or Wednesday, depending upon road conditions.  Sadly, I will most likely not be able to post daily as my time will be directed toward the cares of my family.  Although I have thoroughly enjoyed these past  10 days of indulging myself, I am looking forward to the return of those I love most.  I only have a few short years left with OG and EJ before they head out to make their own ways like their older brothers.  Then Mr.B and I will be left with nothing to do but annoy each other between visits from grandchildren.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Home Alone - Day 8

Nothing exciting to report.  Since my ankle is swollen I've been trying to stay off my feet as much as possible and chores have been slow.  I spent most of my time today working on a crochet project.  I hope to have it finished by Monday evening.

This week has given me an opportunity to realize how much laundry my family dirties and how much food they eat.  Eight days alone and I've had only one load of laundry, one dishwasher load of dishes and cooked only two meals - I have plenty of leftovers.  If my family were home I'd have washed at least 2 loads of laundry every day and I generally spend at least 5 hours per day in the kitchen cooking meals that result in few leftovers.

Today was Mr.B's 2nd cousin's very formal wedding.  From all accounts it was GORGEOUS!  OG very much enjoyed dressing up and attending this fancy event.  Mr.B bought EJ new boots, a new belt and a new sports coat. It is reported that he looked very dapper.  I am eager to see the photos when they all return home.

I have abundantly enjoyed the quiet.  I am sort of dreading all the noise that will return with my family.  Yeah, call me weird - as much as I love my family (this home alone adventure is proving that they encompass my WHOLE life), I do not miss the noise that accompanies them.

Till tomorrow ...

Home Alone - Day 7

I am late publishing Day 7's post.  On the way into my office last night, I severely twisted my ankle.  I heard a loud pop and then came the excruciating pain.  At first I was almost certain I had broken my ankle.  However, after 4 Advil (2 taken immediately after the incident & 2 taken before bed) and a good night's sleep, I believe I've only sprained it.  Morning chores have been slow as I've limped around in 6" deep snow  hauling feed sacks and water buckets.

So, how was day 7?  Aside from injuring my ankle, very restful and mostly peaceful.  I say mostly peaceful because during my phone conversations with my family, EJ attempted to engage me in an argument.  The second time within two days.  We are not even in the same house and he's not having to obey or even try to get along with me yet, he decides to pull his regular antics.  This upset me considerably.  I was hoping that time away from mom would cause his heart to grow fonder.  No, there is not one single indication that he's missed me.  EJ has, thus far, been my most difficult child for his age.  He isn't a "bad" kid, he just likes to ignore me and argues about EVERY instruction I give him.   He is obedient and gets along well with Mr.B.  Other people compliment me on his behavior and helpful attitude.  He, for the most part, gets along pretty well with others - just not his mama. On the other hand, OG started crying saying she misses me and Mr.B is thinking about packing up and leaving for home tomorrow, two days early.  I don't do drama or changed plans very well.  I like consistency.

Well, I'm off to prepare myself some breakfast.  I'll post about Day 8 this evening, so "tune back in".

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Home Alone - Day 6

It's been 5 days since I last washed laundry - I still don't have a full washer load.  Leftovers from two meals cooked before my family left and one take-out meal have fed me all week.  Although I drink a large glass of milk with breakfast every morning, I still have more than 1/2 a gallon.

It has been snowing, off & on, for the past three days.  It is beautiful outside.  Everything I view is like looking at a winter scene on a Christmas card - gorgeous.  (no photos - OG took our camera on vacation)

Since EJ's been gone, I've been in charge of training his puppy, Piper.  She is beginning to catch on.  She comes when I call her name.  It also seems she is beginning to understand the word, "outside".  I hope EJ is consistent when he returns home so Piper continues on this positive trend.  It is obvious she, and Sam our older dog, miss OG and him.

My day was another excessively lazy one.  Do I feel guilty?  Not at all.  All the chores are done and the house is clean.  Since I'm the only one here, it stays that way.  I have come to realize that I need the rest.  I anticipated having trouble sleeping at night due to a significantly slower pace of life and much less work. On the contrary, I've slept very well at night even with a little catnap during the day.  A sure sign of exhaustion.

Speaking of sleep, I'm going to turn in.  Praying you all sleep well this evening.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Home Alone - Day 5

Today was truly a LAZY day.  I began the morning visiting via telephone with Mr.B and then with Mrs.A.  Thus, I had a late start with the morning chores.  Thankfully the animals did not seem to notice that I was running late with feed and water.  Aside from deep cleaning the master bath, I've done nothing productive today.  The evening is being finished with a hot aroma therapy bath filled with a generous portion of eucalyptus spearmint stress relief bath soak
During my home alone time I have discovered that during winter months here in the freezing north, I am need of a set of flannel sheets.  Every night I've climbed into bed the sheets have been freezing cold!  Maybe I will be gifted with a set for Valentine's Day or Mother's Day.
I very much enjoyed this lazy, quiet day.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Home Alone - Day 4

Christmas Day.  I received FOUR separate invitations to Christmas dinner.  My personal desire was to decline all of the them, however, the 1st person to invite me was one of our community's senior citizens.  Her children and grandchildren, save one never married daughter, live out of state & do not travel to eastern Montana during winter months.  Ms.SP seemed so desperate to have another person spend the day with her and her daughter, I couldn't bring myself to refuse her invitation.  I took a couple dozen eggs for a hostess gift and a pumpkin pie as contribution to the meal.  When my family left to travel south, I had envisioned spending a very quiet day lounging on the sofa watching cheesy Christmas movies & eating bowls of popcorn.  Ms.SP seemed truly delighted to have me as a guest today and after all was said and done, I am very glad I accepted her invite.

All my lounging plans were not put aside.  I was home by 3:30, an entire hour before dark.  I finished up the farm chores, put on my most comfy clothes & wool socks, popped a bowl of popcorn and enjoyed two Christmas movies that Mr.B and the rest of my family would NEVER watch with me - LOL!

Although my day did not go as originally envisioned, I feel so abundantly blessed by our community.  These families and individuals conveyed a sincerity in their invitations that I've never felt before.  I sincerely feel like they really wanted me to join them - it does not seem their invitations were extended merely out of pity (which is a good thing because I was not saddened, in any way, about the prospect of being alone today - I have been blessed with the gift of rest, something I am in great need of).  That communication of sincerity has turned out to be a most precious gift and has abundantly blessed me.

My plans for the remaining days alone include a resolve to stay at home, reflect on the Word of God, meditate upon the Lord and enjoy the opportunity to bask in rest and relaxation.  I am now off to indulge in a cup of hot cocoa before retiring for the evening.

Blessings and, again, Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Home Alone - Day 3

Well, here I sit with my cup of hot cocoa at the close of another day at home alone.  Won't you pour yourself a cup of hot tea, cocoa or whatever you enjoy most and join me?

Today was full of surprising gifts.  We received a box of gifts from my dear BFF sister in Texas.  She has the most incredible knack for sending the most thoughtful gifts.  The obvious time and effort she puts forth means so much to me.  I am touched that someone could and/or would love me so much as to be so thoughtful.

 I also had an unexpected visit from our neighbors.  I was not expecting to see them drive up this afternoon.  Yes, my next door neighbors DROVE to our house.  As ridiculous as that may sound to most, you all must remember that my next door neighbor is 1 1/2 miles away.  Since our temperature was 1 degree Fahrenheit @ 2:30 this afternoon, I think a drive in a warm vehicle was practical.  Mr. W and his two beautiful children blessed us with a Christmas gift AND some bison!  I decided to wait until my family returns home to open the gift and I am confident Mr.B will be very grateful for the bison.  EJ & OG will be disappointed they missed a visit from their friends.

This evening I attended my 1st ever candlelight Christmas service.  In all the years I've been a Christian, family obligations have kept me from attending a candlelight service.  The singing was angelic.  The message was delivered with compassion and love.  BUT, my favorite portion of the evening was the closing when the candles were lit. As I stood in the dark watching each person light his/her candle the symbolism of the witness of Jesus Christ was so poignant.  We all stand in the darkness of sin separated from God.  Because of the gift of Jesus Christ we each have the opportunity to be reconciled with God.  But how do we receive that gift?   The Christian stands in the light of God and his/her world is illuminated (a person stands with a lighted candle).  The Christian tells us of the gift of Jesus Christ, we then must choose to accept the gift (light our candle) or reject it.  When we accept the gift we then witness to another person and he/she has the opportunity to accept (light his/her candle) or reject.  As the message is spread and accepted one person at a time is pulled out of the darkness of sin and into the light of God.  As we went around the church lighting candles, I noticed that one man's lit candle was extinguished.  To me this represented a fall from our Christian walk.  However, when his candle went out, his neighbor turned to him and offered to help him re-light his candle. He accepted the offer and was once again illuminated with light.  When we fail and succumb to sin's temptations, we have the opportunity to repent and be reconciled, once again, to God.  Oh! how I wish I were eloquent enough in my writing to effectively convey the message of how the lighting of the candles ministered to my heart.  What a beautiful gift the Lord gave me this Christmas!

I pray you and your loved ones experience something special and moving in your hearts this Christmas.

MERRY CHRISTMAS & GOD BLESS


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Home Alone - Day 2

This morning was a cold one!  When I left for church the temp was only 5 degrees & it was snowing.  I think our high temperature today was only around 9 degrees.

So, what did I do today?

Morning chores & got ready for church un-rushed and void of the usual Sunday morning chaos.
Arrived on time for a lovely Christmas service at church.
Read all the wonderful Christmas cards our church family blessed us with today.
Took cardboard boxes to the recycling center in our neighboring town.
Picked up Chinese take-out from the new Chinese Restaurant in our neighboring town.
Talked with Mr. B and the littles via telephone. They are having a terrific time!
Scrubbed puppy urine off the basement floor (fortunately its unfinished concrete).
Received a scrumptious gift basket from Mr.B's family that included a touching card wishing I were there this year.
Bundled up then shoveled and swept snow from the walkway & deck.
Enjoyed a cup of hot cranberry apple tea & a chocolate covered graham cracker (from above mentioned gift basket) while blogging.  So glad to be back blogging, I've missed it.
Enjoyed a second evening of candle light - this time I added candle light to the kitchen and master on-suite.
Finished a quiet and relaxing day by watching Masterpiece Classic's "Downton Abby" in my pj's cuddled up in a blanket on the sofa.  No one interrupted me while watching the program, how refreshing!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Home Alone - Day 1

That's right!  I'm home alone.  My family has gone south for the Christmas holiday & left me to tend the farm.       So, what shall I do all by myself for 10 -14 days?  I have no idea - I've never been home alone.  I have been a mom for 28 1/2 years and have never been home alone for more than a few hours.  So, I suppose I'll blog about the experience & you can either pity or envy me.  Shh, I'm secretly, hoping you will turn green with envy.
The B family left at 5:30 AM this morning.  Aside from the given of feeding and tending the animals, my day was filled with the following:

Tidied up the basement.
Tidied up the children's bedrooms.
13 loads of laundry - 6 loads was bedding.
Deep cleaning and rearranging the mudroom.
Enjoyed a cup of hot cocoa while watching an old Harrison Ford movie, "Presumed Innocent"
Enjoyed lighted candles in the mudroom and living room. (EJ is so rambunctious I dare not light candles when he's home.)
Talked with my BFF, Mrs.A, on the telephone.

Tune in tomorrow to see what Day 2 brings ...

Monday, December 17, 2012

I'm Such A Tease!

To my faithful readers, I must apologize.  I thought I was returning from my blogging break over a month ago.  I even posted a couple entries.  However, life stepped in and has prevented me from being able to return as I had desired.  I hope to return soon.

Praying Heavenly Father's abundant blessings upon you and yours during this Christmas season as you rejoice and celebrate the birth of our Savior.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

From the Kitchen ...

Now that our weather has turned cold and old man winter has brought us our 1st real snow, 6" not a little dusting like the photos from a couple weeks ago, I have had the opportunity to spend more time in the kitchen.  I've started baking bread again & thanks to a tip from my dear friend, Mrs.A, Mr.B LOVES it.  Despite being uninspired lately, I've also been planning our meals again.  OG & EJ have been joining me in the kitchen by preparing one supper meal each week & cleaning the kitchen one evening each.

This week's meal plan includes the following:

Sunday - mock chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, green beans
Monday - tamale pie, Mexican corn
Tuesday -crock pot vegetable soup, bread & butter
Wednesday - homemade pizzas: spinach pesto, sausage & green pepper
Thursday - EJ's night: meatloaf, broccoli, corn
Friday - OG's night: Salisbury steak w/ gravy, macaroni & cheese, carrots
Saturday - spaghetti w/ meatballs, garlic bread sticks

What are your supper plans this week?

Curiosity Got the Cat

Not long after dinner today, I was working in my office.  OG was upstairs practicing guitar in her bedroom.  EJ was supposed to be in the basement den playing with his farm set & Lego's.  Suddenly, I hear a muffled cry, "HELP! HELP!".  It's EJ's voice.  I hurry to the kitchen threshold and call out, "Where are you?"  As OG comes running down the stairs, EJ hollers, "Downstairs!"  I rush down the basement stairs and find that EJ decided to TEST his coon/fox trap.  Well, it works!


As funny as we all thought this was at the moment, I am thankful we weren't outside working, or worse, he wasn't outside in our current 12 degree, 6" deep snow testing his trap where we couldn't have heard his cries.

Another Granny Square Afghan



While away on my blogging break, I used my spare time to complete this twin sized granny square afghan.  This colorful afghan was created with remnant yarns collected from other projects and 2nd hand stores.  I love its bright cheeriness, don't you?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

What Kept Us Busy?

Now that I've returned from my blogging break, I thought I share a "few" photos highlighting some of the things that kept us so occupied.

1.  Mr. B spent several weekends working with the littles on their shooting.
OG missed that one.

EJ not only shot this one but a total of 9 out of 10

2.  4-H and County Fair

OG & Samson receiving a blue ribbon in the 4-H dog show

EJ's Best in Show for his archery display

OG's Best in Show for her shotgun display

EJ with his Interview judge for his shotgun project

The front of our 4-H club's parade float

No one ever told Mr. B the b-day hat should go on TOP of his head!


Just a cutie riding in the county fair parade
3.  Hauled home and stored 35 straw bales for our chickens, lambs and garden.


4.  EJ's and OG's 1st day of school.

All dressed and eager to go ...

... to 1880's country school!

EJ at his seat w/ his slate behind him.

Recess!

The 1880's school room.
5.  Grandpa had another birthday!!

Chocolate cake w/ chocolate frosting is Grandpa's favorite.
 6.  More tractor & clean up work.



 7.  EJ played pee wee football and had a TON of fun!!


Although the orange team has the ball in this photo, our blue team was undefeated this season.

EJ is down front in the nose guard position
 8.  Food preservation - this may seem like a lot to some folks, but if the freeze had not got our garden so early, we'd have had 2-3 times this.  As much as we harvested, we are still a very long way from supplying our family for a year.

33 qts. carrots; 60 pts. green beans; 12 qts. spaghetti sauce; 4 pts. salsa; 7 1/2 qts. dill pickles; 15 pts. bread & butter pickles; 3 1/2 pts. bell peppers; 6 1/2 pts. green onions; 8 qts. zucchini; 9 qts. yellow squash; 2 gal. broccoli; 14 pts. turnips; 29 cantaloupes; 1 pumpkin

Well, that's some of what we've been up to during the past couple months.  I am now preparing for Christmas.  I have two of the children's homemade gifts completed & 3 more to go.  Upon completion, if I have any time left I will make a few gifts for extended family and close friends.

What have you been up to?  Are you finished or just getting started with your Christmas preparations?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Looking for Encouragement?

Yes, I am a conservative person.  I hold to and practice very conservative beliefs and ideas.  Needless to say the 2012 election results are a huge disappointment to me.  Fortunately, God has placed wonderful people in my life who are blessed with the gift of encouragement.

For those of you who, like me, may need some encouragement regarding the elections please stop by Marcia Wilwerding's blog, eHomebody.com and read her post entitled, "A Word of Encouragement to Godly Women Following the Election 2012".  Her post is most uplifting.  Here's a link:

http://ehomebody.blogspot.com/2012/11/a-word-of-encouragement-to-godly-women.html

Praying you find blessings in your day,
Mrs.B

Monday, October 29, 2012

Taxmageddon, part 3

Even with all the tax increases scheduled for 2013, there are still some ways you can increase your take-home pay.  Listed below are several income avenues the IRS can not touch.  Please remember to check with your tax accountant regarding the detailed qualifications of these "tax free" sources.

Tip #18:  Municipal Bonds.  Municipal bond interest is federal tax-free.  The tax-free benefit increases the higher your income, BUT caution must be taken to ensure the underlying municipality is not in dire financial condition.

Tip #19:  Pay for health insurance premiums with pre-tax income.  For now (until 2014), most health insurance premiums are tax-free.  This is scheduled to change in 2014 to help pay for the the Affordable Care Act, but for now make sure you are using pre-tax dollars to pay for these premiums.

Tip #20:  ROTH IRA and ROTH 401(k).  While amounts contributed to these retirement savings accounts are taxed, any earnings made on these contributions are federal tax-free as long as the holding period and distribution rules are followed.  Most agree that today's tax rates are lower than those projected for the future, especially 20+ years in the future.

Tip #21:  Health Related Spending Accounts.  Contributions and earnings in health related spending accounts are tax-free as long as the funds in the account are used to pay for qualified health care expenses.

Tip #22:  Car Pooling.  While commuting expenses are not generally deductible, any reimbursement of commuting expenses by fellow passengers is not reportable as income.

Tip #23:  Downsize Your Home.  Up to $250,000 ($500,000 for married filing jointly) of capital gains on the sale of your principal residence can be tax-free.

Tip #24:  Certain Employer Compensation.  In addition to current health care premiums (beginning in 2014 your health care benefits will be taxed as income), below are a few employee benefits that are not taxable.  All have limits, but every tax-free dollar is more money in your pocket - airline miles earned on business credit card use; certain employer provided education assistance; qualified adoption expense reimbursement; up to $50,000 in employer paid term life insurance; flex spending accounts for dependent care and health care; commuting expense benefits for parking and mass transit commuting.

Are you taking advantage of all your federal tax-free income opportunities?

Are you overlooking or under-reporting your your charitable donations?  Here's a few tips to help ensure you are reporting all your deductible charitable giving.

Tip #25:  Research the Charity.  Make sure the charity you donate to is a qualified non-profit organization.  The IRS has revoked the non-profit status from thousands of organizations for failure to file the proper documentation.  Ensure your donations are allowed by asking the organization to confirm their non-profit status.  You may also confirm this on-line through the IRS at www.irs.gov.

Tip #26:  Receipts and acknowledgements.  Although there are many different tax rules governing this, the basics include a receipt and donation acknowledgement from the charitable organization.  Other documentation may be required, but without the receipt and proper gift acknowledgement you will not be able to claim the deduction.  Not sure if you'll receive a gift confirmation from the charity?  Limit your donation check to less than $250.00, then use your cancelled check as a receipt.

Tip #27:  Use caution when donating a vehicle.  If the vehicle you donate is not used for the business of the organization or for training others and they simply re-sell it, your donation is limited to what they receive for it and not the usually much higher fair market value.

Tip #28:  Non-cash donations.  Keeping track of non-cash donations, such as clothing & household goods, is one of the most overlooked deductions.  Keep a paper trail for each donation, include the quality of the item and take a photo of the goods.  Only items in good or better condition can be donated.

Tip #29:  Charitable mileage.  You may deduct 14 cents per mile while driving for charitable activities.  Charitable driving miles can add up to a sizable donation.

Tip #30:  DO NOT donate cash.  Rule changes make it very difficult to claim a cash donation deduction.  So resist the urge to place cash in a collection basket; write a check so you will have a paper trail.

Tip #31:  Donating appreciated stock.  If handled correctly you can use the higher value as a donation deduction without paying taxes on the appreciated value of the stock.

Remember deducting charitable tax donations on your federal taxes will lower your tax bill thus, putting more of that hard earned income in your pocket.

Again, please discuss these tax tips with your tax accountant to make sure you follow all IRS rules and maximize your allowable deductions.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Taxmageddon, Part 2

Here are few more tax tips to help you prepare for the upcoming tax increases.  Plan now so you aren't surprised by a large unexpected tax bill at the end of next year.

2012 marks the last year the following tax provisions will be available, so, get them while you can.

Tip #6.  $1,000 Child tax credit.  The current $1,000 child tax credit will be reduced to $500 in 2013, plan accordingly.

Tip #7.  Preferred Dividend Tax Rate.  The ordinary tax dividends tax rate will no longer have a preferential tax rate of 15%, dividends will be taxed as ordinary income, 15% - 39.9% contingent upon income levels.

Tip #8.  The adoption credit.  In 2013 the $12,650 adoption tax credit will be completely eliminated.

Tip #9.  Full use of deductions and exemptions.  Also in 2013, as your income increases, itemized deductions and personal exemptions will be phased out.

Tip #10.  $2,500 American opportunity tax credit.  This college tuition tax credit expires and will not be available after 2013, regardless of income levels.

Tip #11.  Are you using your kids to lower your tax rate?  Remember your children under the age of 19 (under 24 if a full-time student) can have net unearned income taxed at their generally lower tax rate.  (Unearned income is usually investment and interest earnings).  The income limitation for 2012 is $1,900.  But be careful, investment income over this amount is taxed at the parent's tax rate.   This higher rate on excess earnings in a child's account is commonly called the "kiddie tax".

Remember the following tax breaks expired in 2011 and are no longer available.

Tip #12.   Mortgage insurance premiums deduction expired in 2011.

Tip #13.  $250 "above-the-line" deduction for unreimbursed classroom expenses for qualified elementary and secondary teachers has expired.

Tip #14.  Also expired is the general sales tax itemized deduction options versus state income tax deduction.

Tip #15.  Direct charitable contributions from a qualifying senior's IRA are also gone.

Tip #16.  Also expired in 2011, employer provided transit pass income exclusion drops from $230 per month to $125 per month.

Tip #17.  The Alternative Minimum Tax "patch" has also been eliminated.

Next time I'll include tips on how to maximize your charitable donations and review some income strategies the IRS can't touch.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

TAXMAGEDDON

Isn't that a terrible title for a returning post?  We recently received another tax update newsletter from our tax accountant and I wanted to again share a few of the tips included in the newsletter in preparation for many of the new 2013 tax increases that will affect ALL tax payers, regardless of income levels.

Tip #1:  Start cutting costs now.  Social Security withholding will increase from 4.2% to 6.2% on January 1, 2013.  This means you will see a 2% decrease in your take home pay.  ($50,000 annually = a reduction of $83.33 per month).

Tip #2:  Child tax credit and earned income tax credit will be lower and available to fewer tax payers.  Project the impact of these reductions to tax credits in 2013 so you will know what to expect.

Tip #3:  Consider taking gains and delaying losses.  In 2013, the rates of capital gains will increase, while the benefit of losses will be worth more.  Use this to your advantage.

Tip #4:  Small business owners take action.  Health care costs and increased tax rates will reduce your cash flows.  Try to create a full year projection of income and expenses, especially important to seasonal businesses.

Tip #5:  Health care reform laws.  Understand how the Affordable Care Act will impact you and your family.  Medical expense deduction threshold will increase from 7.5% to 10%.  The purchase of health insurance will be mandatory and prepare for less take-home pay with an increase in medicare tax of 0.9% to 3.8% contingent upon withholding rates and  income levels.  ($50,000 annually = a reduction of $37.50 - $158.33 per month).

Tip #6:  Flexibility.  We will all need to remain flexible and take required action this year and next to manage our tax bills.  Keep enough liquid assets (CASH) available to take action on short notice if necessary.

Also included in this quarter's newsletter were a list of tax deductions for those who looked for or are currently looking for new employment.  The following are tax deductible, (these employment related expenses when combined with other misc. expenses are subject to reduction equal to 2% of your adjusted gross income):

Costs to prepare resumes and letters including typing, stationary and postage.
Fees paid to employment agencies, recruiters, and consultants.
Transportation to interviews including out of town lodging.
Meals while out of town for interviews related to the job hunt are deductible at 50%.
Local and long distance telephone bills.

NOTE:  When added together, tip #1 and tip #2 will reduce the annual take home pay for the $50K median income earner by $1,485.96 - $2,899.92 annually.

Since I'm out of time, please check back for a future post containing additional tax tips.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

I Took a Quick Break From My Blogging Break Because ...

... It's here!  And, I live with procrastinators.  Yup! our first snow of autumn.  We had a long list of "must do's" to complete before the first snow, but we are yet quite a way off from finishing.  I become so frustrated because I work and work hard long hours but live with procrastinators who ... well, procrastinate. They say, things like, "don't worry, we'll get around to it" or "it will get done".  I asked, "What can I do to help you get to a point where this can be finished?"  I was told, I worked & I finished my portion of the tasks.


Regardless of the amount of work I completed, they didn't get "around to it" or "get it done" before the first snow, as promised.



Thankfully, the snow will not stay and we will see a few more warm days before the cold sets in for a long winter.  I am hoping this first snow will "jump start" my procrastinators and a few remaining projects will finally be finished up before the ground freezes - BUT I'm not going to hold my breath.  I predict several things will sit and wait until next spring or summer or maybe indefinitely, just as I'm still waiting on cabinetry projects that were promised last winter (we have a work area in the basement) and have yet to be started.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Before I Leave ...

... for a break from the blogging world, I thought I'd touch base with an update on what's been taking most of my time lately.

Remember a couple weeks ago when I posted about frost damaging our garden?  Well, after that post I went out to try and salvage what I could and realized that because I had not pruned the very thick foliage on my plants, only the tops and outside leaves were damaged.  I was so excited to discover that the vegetables and lower leaves were fine!  I pruned all the damaged leaves.

frost bit tops & outer leaves of tomato plants

tomato plants after pruning frost damaged leaves
That's why I'll be away from blogging for a short time.  It is now time to harvest and preserve the bounty God blessed our family with this growing season.  When canning is over I'll be back with an update on the total amount of food we've been blessed with.

God Speed & See you later!
Mrs.B

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Useless or Useful?

When our farmhouse was built in 1912 the average person simply did not own the obscene amounts of clothing that are common to U.S. citizens today, thus closet space was not considered a necessity - especially for country folks and farmers.  Although our home had an extensive remodel prior to our purchase, it still has only two closets.  Ever since we moved in I've wanted a wardrobe for the guest room.  I knew that finding one that was short enough for the dormer ceiling would be a challenge.  I prayed a short little prayer asking the Lord to bless me with one that would be the perfect size and fit for our guest room.

Last week while doing some volunteer work I found an old, battered wardrobe that had been discarded in a barn.  I asked if I could could have or purchase it really cheap.  They couldn't believe that I wanted the old, dirty, beat-up thing - so they gave it to me for FREE.  We hauled it home and cleaned it up with 1/2 c. Murphy's Oil Soap to 1 gallon water and two coats Liquid Gold furniture polish.  When we are buried under snow this winter, I plan to haul it down to the basement and completely refinish it.

before cleanup

after cleanup & in it's new home
 Just for grins and giggles, here are a couple more photos of our guest room.

reading chair & chest of drawers

 writing desk & dressing table

Cleaning up this old piece of furniture got me to thinking.  Many years ago my own poor life choices had left me pretty battered up and discarded.  I was unwanted and had been thrown away.  BUT, just like this old wardrobe where others could no longer see it's usefulness or any of it's hidden beauty, God saw.  He hauled me home, applied some soap & water, a little polish and throughout the years He's been refinishing and restoring me.  When others couldn't find any purpose in me, God found many.  When others discarded me, God retrieved me.  When others looked at me and said, "Yuck", God looked upon me and said, "She's just what I've been looking for".

So, useless or useful?  In God's eyes all are a gifted treasure.  His greatest desire is to welcome us home to His loving care for cleanup and restoration.

Isaiah 61:3 - "To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified." NKJV

Friday, September 7, 2012

Up & Downs

Today has been one of those crazy days filled with disappointments, frustrations and excitement.  Our day began by finding out the weatherman was off by about 10 degrees with last night's low.  Instead of our low being around 40 degrees it got down to 31 degrees.  Since we anticipated much warmer temperatures we did not cover our garden.  We've lost our tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, winter squash, melons, pumpkins, cucumbers, strawberries and green beans.  The carrots, lettuce and turnips are the only veggies left with green leaves.  All that work ... gone.

We went into town to get the oil changed & tires rotated on the truck and get new chains for Mr.B and Grandpa's chain saws.  I expected a 1 hr. drive into town, 2 hours for the work and an hour drive home.  We needed to be home by noon so we could work on some other projects (feed bagged, grain bin cleaned out & more work on the sheep shed foundation) and get in a good day of schooling.  Not Happening today.  The truck took 2 1/2 hours the chain saws more than 3 hours.

However, while the saws were getting new chains, the littles and I went over to our 2 favorite treasure shops and SCORED.  Here's what we found:


blue striped blouse $5, pink sweater $7, green striped blouse $6
lt. pink blouse $6, green jacket w/ black & green tank $8

green turtle neck sweater $1, burgundy jacket $1.50, green eyelet
blouse $1, blue blouse $1, dk. pink blouse $1

waffle iron $3, 4 badminton rackets w/ bird $2, steam iron $1,
snack service for 8 $2, sterling silver bowl $0.50, silver plated
trivet $0.50, glass sectioned server $0.25, 12 yellow napkins $3,
basket weave denim purse $1
OG also picked up a pair of sweatpants and two work shirts totaling $3.  EJ found a western shirt and a pair of short pants for only $3.50.  So, although our day started off less than perfect, God still saw fit to bless us abundantly.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

New Zucchini Recipes

Everyone I know who plants zucchini seems to end up with more than they anticipated.  They are always looking for new ways to prepare it.  Tuesday evening I created Warm Zucchini Bruchetta.  I promise this recipe will become a new summertime favorite in your home.  I've also included a lightly spiced and fabulously moist Apple Zucchini Bread recipe that I'm sure you will love.

Warm Zucchini Bruchetta

Bruchetta:
1 large zucchini, cut into 1/2" rounds
oil for frying
Dredging Station:
container #1 = 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
container #2 = 1 egg, well beaten
container #3 = 1/4 c. all-purpose flour, 1/2 c. cornmeal, 1 tsp. sugar, 1 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, salt & pepper to taste

Heat oil to 350 degrees. Dredge zucchini rounds in flour, dip in egg, dredge in cornmeal mixture.  Fry in hot oil until golden, about 1-2 minutes.  Place on baking rack to drain AND to retain crispness.

Toppings:
1 c. mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 tomato, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
fresh basil leaves, chopped OR 1/2 tsp. dried basil

Mix together tomato, garlic and basil.

Assembly:


Sprinkle mozzarella cheese onto each zucchini round.




Top mozzarella with 1 tsp. tomato topping.




Garnish tomato mixture with more shredded mozzarella.



 Place under broiler (on a baking rack to retain crispness) until cheese is melted and begins to brown.
 Mmm, Mmm, Good!



Apple Zucchini Bread
(adapted from Taste of Home Recipes)

4 c. all-purpose four
1 Tbsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
5 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 c. vegetable oil
2 c. sugar
1 c. packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
2 c. shredded unpeeled zucchini (about 3 med.)
1 c. shredded peeled apple (about 2 med.)
1 c. chopped walnuts (original recipes calls for 1-1/2 c. pecans)

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.  In another bowl, beat eggs.  Add oil, sugars and vanilla.  Pour over dry ingredients, mix well.  Stir in zucchini, apples and walnuts (batter will be stiff).  Spoon into three greased loaf pans.  Bake at 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool in pans for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
Yield:  3 loaves OR 3 dozen muffins
NOTE:  If making muffins, reduce baking time to 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Friday, August 31, 2012

A Family Affair

Our garden is beginning to produce a nice abundance of vegetables.  Some of our young hens are also beginning to lay - Hooray!  Most of yesterday was spent in the kitchen putting up our harvest.  Today, we will be back in there making pickles; kosher dills and bread & butters ... Yum!

Getting the whole family involved in producing, harvesting and preserving our foods not only gives me much needed help but also teaches the children valuable life skills.  For instance, not too long ago, JP told me, "If we ever go hungry it's nobody's fault but our own.  Y'all have taught us to hunt, fish, grow our own food AND clean it, preserve it and cook it."  Not only have they been taught these things, but they have also acquired an appreciation for the labor and time invested in producing enough food to feed oneself or an entire family.  Too many of today's young people don't have any concept of where their food comes from much less how much work and time it took to get it to the table.
yesterday morning's harvest

my bean snappers

37 pints green beans, 7 quarts frozen summer squash &
6 quarts frozen zucchini
A helpful canning hint:  Add a splash of white vinegar to your caner when adding the water.  Your jars come out clear and shiny.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Grateful

venison meatloaf, fresh green beans, garden salad, garlic &
chive mashed potatoes
The other evening the only thing on our supper table that wasn't grown or harvested by us was the garlic and chive mashed potatoes, but even then the chives were grown out in our mudroom.
We always seem to enjoy a sense of satisfaction when we are blessed to eat the foods we have labored over.  I am abundantly thankful to the Lord for the health and knowledge to grow and harvest our foods.

"And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you: and my people shall never be ashamed."  Joel 2:26 KJV


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Sunflower Fields


Mrs. A., this photo is for you.  Remember the old abandoned homestead we see when we turn off the highway onto our gravel road past the rail road tracks?  Here's a photo of it with the sunflowers in bloom.  I wish the photo was as beautiful and vibrant as it is to the naked eye.  Most of all, I wish you were here to admire it with me. 


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Production + Harvest = Giddy w/ Excitement

My first introduction to gardening was when I went to live with my Uncle T and Aunt J during my youth.  Aunt J's father would come out each spring and help us "put in" a large garden.  Although, as a girl, I complained about having to work in the hot and humid Texas heat, when harvest time began I was always thrilled, excited and amazed at how a tiny seed eventually produced an abundance of food.  Decades later those same feelings of thrill, excitement and amazement still wash over me every time we begin harvesting from our garden.  I am so excited and thrilled when harvest begins, I literally forget about all hard, sweaty, dirty work it took to get there - Ha!

Our garden is finally beginning to produce.

These are the vegetables we harvested on Sunday and Tuesday.
We've been harvesting spinach and lettuce for a few weeks but last week some of our other plants began producing.  Since Sunday we've harvested 3 lb. zucchini, 2 3/4 lb. yellow squash, 1 lb. green beans, 4 gallon Ziplock bags of lettuce, 1 gallon Ziplock bag of spinach, a handful of English peas AND ...

 9 3/4 lb. cucumbers - Yes! I'm planning to make pickles this week; probably bread & butters, they're my favorite.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Local Food Bank

OG and EJ are participating in our county's 4-H club this year.  As part of their community service, the club has decided to volunteer at our county's local food bank.  Most folks would consider this a worthwhile cause, right?  I mean, helping to ensure that the poor have food to eat is the least that a community can do, right?

Anyone who knows me personally knows that feeding others is what I do.  For decades I have donated food and personal hygiene supplies to my church food pantries, I have delivered bags of food and necessities to others in need, cooked and delivered meals to the ill, fed everyone who enters my home, including laborers whom I'm paying to do a job.

20+ years ago when our family lived at the poverty level, we never visited or accepted food from a local food bank.  Individuals have left bags of groceries for us on our door steps and various churches have also blessed us with bags of groceries at Thanksgiving or Christmas, however, we never asked for or expected it.  We were simply blessed by others whom God moved upon their hearts to help or assist us, even though we, ourselves, were not serving the Lord at that time.  So, our recent volunteer experience at our county food bank has been my first experience with a local food bank and how that system works.

I couldn't believe how discriminating this system was toward senior citizens and  the working poor.  When I use the term working poor, I am referring to those individuals and families who work to earn a living but make just a few dollars over the maximum guidelines to qualify for government assistance, such as food stamps, WIC, etc. OR those who do qualify but choose not to accept government assistance based on personal morals, religious conviction, etc.

While volunteering I asked Mrs. S, our county food bank coordinator, what the procedure was for folks in our community who had a need for these donations.  Mrs. S explained that since our county food bank accepts food donations from the U.S. Department of  Agriculture (USDA), the administrative department of the federal government that operates our nation's food stamp benefit programs, she MUST follow very strict rules set by the USDA regarding whom the food is given to, veering from these rules is a crime and punishable by closing the food bank, fines and imprisonment.

Our local food bank pantry is a 25ft. x 25ft. gated and locked room located in the back of our senior citizen community building and consists of 2 sections.  Section 1, 90% of the pantry's floor space including a refrigerator and two freezers, is reserved for the weekly food delivery from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  Section 2, literally two 6ft. shelving units placed in a corner, are reserved for private donations from the community.  The food bank is operated and staffed by local volunteers.

Mrs. S informed me that only those who receive government food stamp benefits will be given food from section 1, which is boxed and bagged, labeled with the recipient's name and placed on a table for pickup or delivery.  These boxes and bags contain enough food to feed my family of 4 for a week.  If recipients need or would like donations from section 2, the private donation section, to supplement their food box they may choose a few items.  However, senior citizens who qualify and receive food stamps are eligible to receive only specific products from section 1 and are barred from products in section 2.  These items make up less than 50% of the selections of what their socioeconomic peers will receive and it is only enough food or 2-3 small meals.

Section 2 is reserved for those in need who do not qualify for or accept government food stamp benefits.  These folks are not allowed, regardless of hardship, to receive any food or products from section 1.  Also, non-food stamp citizens are not allowed to receive any food from section 2 until all the food stamp recipients have been served.  If there is anything left in section 2 after this, non-food stamp residents will be given a maximum of one bag of any left over groceries from section 2.  If there is not enough groceries left in section 2 after the food stamp recipients have made their selections, then non-food stamp recipients must locate other resources for help.

After being given this information, I visited the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service web-site to inquire what the qualifications were for food stamp benefits and how much a family of 4 would qualify for.  It must not be very much if our local food bank gives a week's worth of groceries out to food stamp recipients each week, right?  I was very surprised by what I found.

According to the USDA Food and Nutrition Service web-site a family of 4 can qualify for a maximum of $668.00 per month in food stamp benefits.  Of course this amount would be reserved for families who are completely on well fare and do not work to earn a living.  Please note, that is $218.00 per month more than our family's personal grocery budget of $450.00 per month, $25.00 of which is reserved for food and necessities for our church's food pantry.  But if a family does have an income from working how much in food stamp benefits, if any, would they qualify for?  A family of four's gross income can not exceed $2,050.00 per month.  At the maximum income allowance a family of four qualifies for $321.00 per month in food stamp benefits.  (please note:  senior citizens are segregated into a very different qualification procedure and must have a much lower income and qualify for less than 1/2 of what  their younger socioeconomic peers qualify for.)

$321.00 - $668.00 per month for a family of four, plus boxes of food each week from the local food bank, plus free breakfast and lunch for students during the school year at the public school?   Contrary to what the public service ads on T.V. and the federal government tell us, if the well fare and food stamp benefit poor in this nation are being honest and refraining from well fare fraud, how can they possibly be hungry?  They have far more food resources than we (and most other hard working families I personally know) have budgeted per month for groceries.  This information helps me understand how well fare recipients can commit well fare fraud by selling their food stamp benefits for 50 cents on the dollar in exchange for cash. (Throughout the years I've encountered several food stamp recipients who've tried to sell me food stamp benefits for cash. I've never agreed to this as it is a federal offense and punishable by prison.  NEVER enter into this type of agreement, no matter how desperate the offending party may appear to be.  It is well fare fraud and you will get caught, you will go to prison and you will loose everything that's important to you).

The Lord has always impressed upon my heart to give to our church's private food pantry and specific individuals rather than government assisted food banks and organizations.  When I give to my local church and private organizations that do not accept government assistance, senior citizens and those in need who do not qualify for government benefits can have their needs met and they do not have to wait in line hoping for the leftovers of those who receive government benefits.  No, I will not give to government assisted programs.  Yes, I will continue to give to churches and private organizations as the Lord leads me.

If you, or someone you know, are in need and do not receive government benefits or are a senior citizen, I encourage you to visit your local church's food / clothing pantry.  We are there because you have a need and we want to help you.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Tax Update

2nd posting - Information every taxpayer needs to be aware of

Several weeks ago our tax accountant sent us a 2012 Mid-Year Newsletter Tax Update.  After reading over it and talking to a couple friends about the information, I thought my blog readers might also benefit from the information.  This information has been helpful in preparing me for the 2013 tax increases that our family will experience.  I hope it will also assist you and your family.

Here are a few highlights from the newsletter:

1.  Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) increases.  Today approximately 3-5 million middle and upper middle class taxpayers find themselves paying an Alternative Minimum Tax.  Starting in 2013, this number could exceed 20 million taxpayers without an extension of the AMT "patch".

2.  Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) available for fewer taxpayers.  During 2012, the number of taxpayers who qualified for this popular tax credit was greatly expanded with changes in this credit.  Those expanded income qualifications and added dependent categories are scheduled to roll back at the end of this year.  If you received EITC in 2011 or expect to receive it in 2012 you should forecast the impact it will have on you in 2013.

3.  Child Tax Credit cut in half.  The Child Tax Credit is $1,000.00 in 2012 with some of the credit being refundable.  Refundable credits can give you money back even if you owe no Federal Income Tax.  In 2013, the credit is cut by 50% to $500 and the refundable nature is set to expire.

4.  Social Security Tax Cut is Gone.  After much debate, Congress granted a 2% drop in employee and self-employed social security taxes through 2012.  This "found money" is gone after 2012 creating an average annual drop in over $500 per employee's take home pay.

5.  Medical Expense Threshold is Going Up.  When the Health Care Reform Act was signed into law it included a tax provision that raises the threshold for medical expenses prior to being able to deduct them from your income, for all income levels.  The new threshold goes into place in 2013.  Effective 2013 and beyond, the Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) threshold limit goes from 7.5% to 10% of your AGI.  Thankfully there is an exclusion built into the law that allows taxpayers 65 or older to continue to use the lower 7.5% of AGI amount.

6.  Income Tax Rate Changes for Married Filing Joint/Widow.
AGI $1 - $17,400 will increase from 10% to 15%.  (the lowest income earners in our society will see the largest tax increase of 5%)
AGI $17,401 - $70,700 remains steady @ 15%
AGI $70,701 - $142,700 will increase from 25% to 28%
AGI $142,701 - $217,450 will increase from 28% to 31%
AGI $217,451 - $388,350 will increase from 33% to 36%
AGI over $388,350 will increase from 35% to 39.6%
Plan now to ensure you will not be surprised by the drop in your after-tax income with the increased rates.  (please note:  these tax increases also apply to Single, Head of Household and Married Filing Seperately, HOWEVER the income thresholds vary for each category.

7.  Starting 2014Employer Health Care Benefits Will Be Taxed as Income.  Again, when the Health Care Reform Act was signed into law it included a tax provision that counts employer health care benefits as income.  This will raise the Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of millions, thus raising their tax rates even more than projected above.

8.  Starting 2014 - Health Care Devises and Hospital Stays will be Taxed.  Another tax provision of the Health Care Reform Act that was signed into law includes a provision to apply sales tax to all health care devices (such as bandages, crutches, wheelchairs, diabetes testing and injection supplies, inhalers, blood pressure testing supplies, etc.) and all hospital stays, including out-patient/day surgery stays (prep and recovery rooms, etc.).

As stated above, I hope this information will help you and your family plan and prepare for the upcoming reduction you may see in your take-home pay AND expected tax bill or refund.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Camp Out!

 We went camping yesterday.

 We roasted hot dogs, ate s'mores, and talked about recently read books.

By the way, did I mention this all took place in our back yard? 

Want to Reduce the Grocery Bill?

Check out Bountiful Baskets Food Co-Op (www.bountifulbaskets.org) to see if they deliver to a location near you.  For $45.00 this week I received two baskets and 5 loaves of organic multi-grain bread.
Our baskets included 2 heads romaine lettuce, 3 boxes grape tomatoes, 2 lg. bags red grapes, 7 1/2 pints blueberries, 4 red bell peppers, 2 bags baby carrots, 4 English cucumbers, 17 red potatoes, 10 peaches, 14 red plums and 8 mangoes.
The produce is delivered to our small town's community center every other Saturday.  Not only did I save almost 68%, I saved a 1/4 tank of fuel by not having to drive 90 miles to get it!

During Mrs.A's visit, we boiled and de-boned two chickens so she could prepared her famous King Ranch casserole for for us, one of my family's favorites!  It is a rare day that I purchase canned chicken stock.  Whenever I boil and de-bone chickens I freeze or can the stock (always use a pressure caner for low acid or animal based foods).  The six quarts of home canned stock, pictured above, would cost more than $12 at the grocer.