High Five Friday 9-28

What is “High Five Friday”? It’s a weekly posting I do to remind myself of all the good things that have happened to me during the week, no matter how small they are. Bad things happen in this world. That’s one thing we unfortunately cannot get away from. But these posts keep me focused on all I have to be thankful for in my life, instead of all the chaos and tragedy going on. Reminding myself of the joy and happiness in my life really does have a positive impact on my outlook on life. So I challenge you to try it. Take five minutes and write down five positive things that have happened to you this week. They don’t have to be huge, life-changing events; as you can see from my list below, nothing out of the ordinary really happened to me this week. But once I focus on that small, ordinary event, it becomes extraordinary. I know it’s cliché, but the power of positive thinking is truly amazing!

What a great week for catching up with friends and family!

1. I had a fun happy hour with two of my favorite co-workers. We went to Bricco in downtown Akron; I hadn’t been there in a long time, and that happy hour made me realize how much I miss it! Their dirty martinis are second only to Wasabi’s. Yum!

2. I found out another friend is moving back to the Fairlawn area! Can’t wait!

3. I spent a beautiful fall Sunday with girlfriends from college and their families. The day was perfect: great food, relaxed and fun conversations and the chance to just be around some of my best friends. And while I loved catching up with my friends, it was these little cuties who stole the show:

20120925-091642.jpg

Aren’t they adorable! That’s Bridget, Maxim and Lily.

4. It’s a tradition in our family to enjoy a pumpkin Blizzard from Dairy Queen each fall. On Saturday, my mom, dad and I did just that. My only regret was that I got a small! If you haven’t tried one, you must! They are delicious. Or, if you’re in the mood to make you’re own, try out my pumpkin ice cream recipe.

5. Akron has been a-buzz with excitement all week as the city prepares for the Akron Marathon tomorrow morning. I can’t wait to get downtown bright and early tomorrow morning to participate in this amazing event. Good luck to all my loved ones who are running!

Advertisements

Pet Portrait – DIY

I was recently on the hunt for art work to hang above Sarge’s food and water bowl in the hallway leading out to our back door. Along with my mom and sister, I spent an afternoon looking at several stores, but I didn’t find anything that fit my two criteria for artwork:

1. It has to be unique. I want artwork in our home to be something I wouldn’t see in someone else’s, and

2. It cannot cost a lot of money, because, well, I’m cheap.

I thought about getting another canvas of Sarge made – but since that would involve spending money getting ANOTHER canvas of our dog made, I thought that might be overkill.

Then, an idea hit me. In my head, it was so easy and would cost less than $20 to make. And guess what? I was right!

The only supply I had to purchase was a blank canvas from Michael’s. With a 40% off coupon, it was just under $8. Next, I took this picture of Sarge’s profile (taken during one of our only big snow storms last winter):

In Paint, under Page Setup, I formatted it so that the picture was 400% under “Scaling”. Make sure you do a print preview to see how the profile looks. The quality will be terrible, but it doesn’t matter – you won’t be using the actual picture.

I then printed the few pages I needed in black and white. Again – you won’t be using the actual printed picture, so no need for color. And let’s remember to be green: when blowing up a picture to this size, there will be a lot of pages you won’t need. For my picture, there was 22 pages that didn’t include any piece of Sarge’s profile.

After I printed, I cut out around the pieces of Sarge’s profile. I then taped together all of the cut out pieces, so I had a giant, blurry profile of Sarge. It would be wonderful if I could show you what mine looked like – but I deleted the pictures I took off of my camera for some unknown reason. Grrrr.

Anyway, I then taped the giant profile to the canvas, traced around it with a pencil and then carefully removed the paper.

Using black acrylic paint and paint brushes I had left over from another project, I painted around the outside of the traced line of Sarge’s profile. Only one coat of the paint was needed.

The finished product:

20120924-212318.jpg

I realize that I will win no art competitions with this, but man, I love it! It’s unique, it cost under $10 and it means something to me.

20120924-212330.jpg

Quick reader poll: How many canvas profiles of your dog can you have in your house before people start thinking you’ve lost your mind? Because I might test that limit. : )

 

 

Listen to your accountant!

When talking about my job / anything that relates to taxes to family and friends, I’m used to the blank stares, glazed-over eyes and the occasional unconvincing “Oh, wow”. But as the up-coming presidential election gets closer and closer, paying attention to what accountants are saying is something all taxpayers should be doing. Why? I’m glad you asked.

Back when George W. Bush was president, tax cuts were passed that favored individual taxpayers (known as the “Bush tax cuts”). These tax cuts were first set to expire at the end of 2010, but because of the state of the economy at the time, legislators were influenced to extend the Bush tax cuts to the end of 2012. During a time when we had a Democratic president but saw heavy Republican victories in the midterm elections, the extension of the Bush tax cuts was seen as a major political compromise.

However, as we are nearing the expiration of the extended Bush tax cuts at the end of 2012, tax analysts do not see a similar compromise this year as a likely scenario. Because of the up-coming election, improved unemployment rates and increasing attention to the climbing national debt figures, it’s unlikely legislators will extend the Bush tax cuts.

Bored yet? If you’re still with me, this is when all of this will hit home: if the Bush tax cuts do not get extended, starting on January 1, 2013, individual income tax rates will return to where they were before the tax cuts. See below for a table summarizing the rate increases:

Current rates – under the Bush tax cuts Rates schedule for 2013 – if Bush rates expire
10%; 25%; 28%; 33%; 35% 15%; 28%; 31%; 36%; 39.6%

In addition, we’ll no longer enjoy the lower tax rates on dividends and long-term capital gains. Currently, these are taxed at either 0% or 15% (based on income level). However, if the Bush tax cuts expire, qualified dividends will be taxed at the ordinary income rate (shown above) and long-term capital gains will be taxed at 20%.

So what does all this mean? Well, to some people, it might mean nothing. But to most people, it might mean a lot. If you’re interested in learning more, talk to your tax accountant. In the meantime, to read more about these and the other preferential itemized deductions and tax credits that will expire with the Bush tax cuts, check out these articles by Forbes, CNN Money and The New York Times.

National Coffee Week

Happy National Coffee Week, the one week a year when coffee habits are not only ok, they are celebrated! Want to join in on the java fun? Below are some great deals being offered by coffee shops around the country (including some freebies!).

Krispy Kreme – stop in for a free 12 oz. coffee on September 29. And if you click on that link, be sure to enter to win two free bags of coffee per month for the next year;

McDonalds – From September 23 through September 29, select locations are giving away free 12 oz. coffees. Make sure to call your local McDonalds to see if they are participating (mine is not…tear);

Einstein Bros. Bagels – they are celebrating all drinks coffee-related with daily specials. Can’t wait for Saturday! A pumpkin latte will the be perfect after-marathon-relay treat;

7-Eleven – On Friday, September 28, enjoy a free large coffee from 6 am to 10 am. And just for fun, they are incorporating a “vote”: pick a blue cup for Obama, or red for Romney.

Enjoy getting a great deal on your caffeine fix this week!

High Five Friday 9-21

What is “High Five Friday”? It’s a weekly posting I do to remind myself of all the good things that have happened to me during the week, no matter how small they are. Bad things happen in this world. That’s one thing we unfortunately cannot get away from. But these posts keep me focused on all I have to be thankful for in my life, instead of all the chaos and tragedy going on. Reminding myself of the joy and happiness in my life really does have a positive impact on my outlook on life. So I challenge you to try it. Take five minutes and write down five positive things that have happened to you this week. They don’t have to be huge, life-changing events; as you can see from my list below, nothing out of the ordinary really happened to me this week. But once I focus on that small, ordinary event, it becomes extraordinary. I know it’s cliché, but the power of positive thinking is truly amazing!

1. Lindsey and I met for dinner yesterday. I haven’t seen her since she had her little boy in July, so a long dinner with her was a welcome addition to my week!

2. I updated the About Me section of my website – which made me think about all the people, places and things I love in my life. 🙂

3. My dad had an AMAZING personal accomplishment this week. So proud of you, Daddy!

4. My co-worker, Amy, called yesterday to tell me the client we work on together sent us “Thank you” gifts for the eventful tax deadline we experienced on Monday. Because of how stressful the last few days (and the last few months) have been for us, their gesture really meant a lot. It’s a wonderful thing to feel appreciated.

4. After a crazy end to a crazy busy season, I took today off of work. So far I’ve relaxed, caught up on some reading and ran a few errands, and later I have a happy hour with some girlfriends, a get-together at a friend’s house and a movie/drinks with my husband to look forward to. I love Fridays!

10 Rules of Writing – and Life

Today I did what I said I would never do: I joined Twitter.

I guess that’s why we’re told “Never say never” – especially when it comes to the growing-faster-than-you-can-say-hashtag social media.

I may have given into Twitter, but I had no idea where to start, or who I should follow. I followed a few that came to mind first – Brad Paisley, Stephen Colbert, Starbucks, to name a few – but when I couldn’t think of any more, I turned to my trusted advisor of all-things Internet-related: Google.

The search led me to Maria Popova (@brainpicker) and the promise that she shares “random, interesting facts about creativity.” Random + interesting + creativity = I’m her newest follower. And I’m glad I am, as she delivered right away by posting a link to Zadie Smith’s 10 Rules of Writing. Zadie Smith is an author and professor at New York University, and while her list of rules are meant to be about writing, I couldn’t help but relate several of  them to life in general. Below is her list – with my added commentary and thoughts.

1. When still a child, make sure you read a lot of books. Spend more time doing this than anything else. True for children who will become writers, police officers, teachers, accountants, lawyers, doctors…or anything else. Books equal knowledge, and, as Sir Francis Bacon famously said, knowledge is power.

2. When an adult, try to read your own work as a stranger would read it, or even better, as an enemy would. Read my own work as an enemy would? That’s genius. Who else would as condemning as an enemy – someone who would look for reasons to criticize? My takeaway – make sure the work products with which you supply the world are organized, tactful and supported by truth.

3. Don’t romanticise your ‘vocation’. You can either write good sentences or you can’t. There is no ‘writer’s lifestyle’. All that matters is what you leave on the page.

4. Avoid your weaknesses. But do this without telling yourself that the things you can’t do aren’t worth doing. Don’t mask self-doubt with contempt. I have nothing else to add, except that I love this.

5. Leave a decent space of time between writing something and editing it. This translates well into a life rule – especially for things written at times of high emotions. Time calms us down and

6. Avoid cliques, gangs, groups. The presence of a crowd won’t make your writing any better than it is. And it won’t make people like you more. In fact, it will probably make them like you less. Adults do not respect cliques; the key to success among peers is inclusiveness.

7. Work on a computer that is disconnected from the ­internet. What?! How will I compulsively check my Facebook and email?! Distractions on the Internet are the Achilles heel of my productivity. Great advice.

8. Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.

9. Don’t confuse honours with achievement. This one is my favorite, and probably the rule most difficult to follow.

10. Tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand — but tell it. Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never ­being satisfied.

Anyone else on Twitter? Follow me @TrueWhit2

FREE Vistaprint Calendars

I’ve shared my love of Vistaprint before (here and here), and I’m doing it again today:

Vistaprint is offering customizable wall, desk and pocket calendars for free right now. You only have to pay for shipping, and for standard 14-day shipping, it’s only $5.32.

There are plenty of designs to choose from, and you can customize each month with a personal photo of your choice. My favorite part: you can add special days (birthdays, anniversaries, etc.) so they will be pre-printed on the calendar. These kind of calendars start at $17.99 (desk), $19.99 (pocket) and $21.99 (wall) on Shutterfly, not including shipping. That’s some huge savings.

If I was a bettin’ gal, I’d say my family and friends can except some personalized calendars for Christmas presents this year. Too great of a deal to pass up!