January 27, 2017

Breakfast: Make yours fabulous with fresh fruit and either toast or Good Morning Coffeecake!

Awwww, breakfast! 

Freshly brewed coffee (made with Ft. Bragg, California's Thanksgiving Coffee beans).
Fresh fruit.
And either sourdough toast with crunchy peanut butter (and sometimes also jelly) or a slice of my Good Morning Coffeecake (get the basic recipe here).

Paige Tangerine and organic Blackberries.

Sumo Mandarin, organic Blackberries, and organic Blueberries.

A variation of my Good Morning Coffeecake:  Orange Streusel Chocolate Chip.
Recipe Change:  substitute orange flavoring for vanilla in streusel,
sprinkle chocolate chips on top before baking.
Omit frosting.  Yum!!
I am also now baking the coffeecake in an off-size 9" x 12" baking pan.
It makes a slightly thicker coffeecake, perfect!

And by the way, if you bake at all, make sure you have a 9" x 12" baking pan in your bakeware collection.  It it is one inch shorter than the traditional 9" x 13" cake pan, so baked goods turn out a bit thicker; baking time will be slightly longer.  This pan will quickly become one of your favorite go-to baking dishes!

California citrus is absolutely fabulous this year!  Wonderful paired with fresh berries; so delicious, flavorful, and healthy to boot.  The Paige Tangerines, Navel Oranges, and Sumo Mandarins I've been eating recently are out-of-this-world delicious.  Cara Cara Oranges are next up in the rotation on my breakfast citrus list.  The Sumo Mandarin (also called Sumo Orange or Sumo Citrus) season is short, do try them if you can find them.  Read about this most delicious Sumo Citrus here.

Good Morning, everyone!

Mary Rae Fouts

January 26, 2017

Obamacare: Employer Compliance Is No Simple Task

Complex.  Sometimes hair-tearing-out complex.

That's the experience many employers have with the Obamacare - technically the Affordable Care Act, or ACA - and efforts to comply with the law.

Are you a small employer?  Large employer?  Do you have to provide health insurance coverage to employees?  If you must provide employee coverage, what coverage is best?  What tax reporting implications does the law mandate?  And the list of questions goes on.  And on.

If you are an employer, you may find this page from the IRS website outlining Obamacare's employer regulations helpful.  As far as what will, or may, happen to the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare this year, it is too soon to tell.  This is one national issue I am monitoring closely.

Tax or Insurance Concerns?

Mary Rae Fouts, EA assists clients who have complex or technical tax and insurance issues, including those related to Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act).  For more information about Mary's Tax, Consulting, and Expert Witness Services visit Fouts Financial Group.

Mary Rae Fouts

January 23, 2017

New York Times: Fascinating Internet flashback as the Times disconnects its first email address.

Oh, the memories about the dawn of the Internet and email this wonderfully written article brought back!

A must read for those of us present at the start of the Internet era and creation of email.  John Markoff, who recently retired after 28 years of working the technology beat for the New York Times, pens a neighbor friendly first person dialogue of the beginnings of the Internet era and email at the newspaper.  And to think the New York Times at first was not interested in the nyt.com domain name ... which Mr. Markoff ended up giving to the newspaper.  For free.

My Early Personal Computer and Internet Memories

I remember hooking up my dial-up modem and dialing into the Internet and email for the first time, nearly like it was yesterday.  The DOS programs.  And how bulky, heavy, and expensive personal computers were at that time.  Oh, and the hulking, heavier-than-hell 17-inch computer monitor that Dell shipped to me 5 different times in the mid-1990s, each time until the 5th shipment broken, busted, or nonworking in some way.  My husband (then boyfriend) Jim had the privilege each time of carrying it up 2 long flights of stairs to my home office in the condominium I then owned.  Followed by carrying the busted monitor back down the steps and taking it to my local Mailbox Etc. store (now the UPS store chain) for return.  Poor Jim!  We still talk about that experience.

Read this memorable article here:  Putting the Times's First Email Address to Bed .  Feel free to share your thoughts and early Internet/email memories in the comment section below.

Mary Rae Fouts

January 17, 2017

Non Sequitur Comic Strip: Thank you for speaking out against backyard puppy mills

I couldn't agree more with this recent Non Sequitur comic strip:

Credit:  gocomics.com
This so hit home for me and my husband Jim.  As I posted about before (see my August 2016 post about Lexi here), our Faithful Canine Companion Chow-mix Lexi was seized by Antioch, CA police for severe abuse and neglect in a backyard puppy mill.  One of 7 dogs seized, and the only dog to survive.

Lexi spent 3 months recuperating in the Antioch Animal Shelter while legal proceedings about her neglect and abuse case made their way through courts.  We adopted her as soon as she became available in October 2014.  When we brought Lexi home, she was about 2 years old, skinny, thin furred, and scared so that she held her tail between her legs and shook with fear.  Thankfully, Lexi's fear never turned into fear aggression, her reaction to fear was an urge to flee.  She wouldn't go up more than 2 stairs.  Terrified of garden hoses, brooms, and any stick-like object.  Lexi bonded with me immediately, but was initially terrified of men.  Clearly, a man had been her primary abuser.

Every experience was new, she clearly had never experienced a normal dog life, including daily walks.  Our Husky-mix Sid was instrumental in helping Lexi learn how to be a real dog.  Within 5 days Sid and Lexi bonded as if littermates, a bond that has continued to grow and flourish.

With love (LOTS of love), patience, positive experiences, and care, Lexi blossomed into a healthy, confident, and simply wonderful and beautiful dog.  The fearful Lexi is of another time, she thrives each day and is an excellent alert watch dog.  Loves her human Daddy Jim.  She has a voluptuous body build, an extremely thick long coat of fur, and a set of furry haunches the Kardashian sisters would envy!  So proud of you, Sweetheart.

Take a look for yourself ...

Here is Lexi at adoption in late October 2014.
Skinny, thin fur, scared with tail between legs.

And Lexi now, on the right below in December 2016.
She had just snagged the Pooh Christmas Tree topper and took it outside.  (Yes, Lexi is a spirited dog and can be a sneaky playful thief!)  Sid is examining Pooh while Lexi stretches. 

Below is Lexi enjoying a trip to beautiful Carmel, CA in November.
She had a wonderful time and loved the beach!

Lexi peacefully naps by the Christmas tree this past Christmas 2016. 

Would you ever think these are the same dog?!

We love you so, Lexi.  You will never be abused or neglected again, Sweetheart.  Good dog!  

Mary Rae Fouts

January 9, 2017

Meatless Monday - Mediterranean Vegetable Noodle Soup

Are you part of the Meatless Monday movement?  Or perhaps you would like to incorporate more vegetables, dried beans, and whole grains into your diet?

I love making homemade soups and stews; came across this delicious sounding recipe for Minestrone style soup on the Meatless Monday website.  Haven't made it yet, but plan to soon.  And yes, you could adjust the recipe and add a poultry or meat protein to it, such as chicken, hamburger, or small meatballs.  Get the recipe at the link below.  Enjoy!

Mediterranean Vegetable Noodle Soup - Meatless Monday: Greens are stewed with tomatoes, fresh basil, sage and rosemary.  Whole wheat macaroni and chickpeas transform this otherwise light soup into a hearty lunch

Mary Rae Fouts

January 5, 2017

Carrie Fisher: Will the alleged $50 million Contract Protection Insurance Policy pay out?

According to The Insurance Insider and other media outlets, Disney allegedly took out a $50 million contract protection insurance policy through Lloyd's of London for insurance protection in the event Carrie Fisher was unable to fulfill her contractual obligations for the 3 Star Wars Movies.  Such insurance coverage is common for star actors and actresses in movie and other performance productions.

Ms. Fisher died on December 27, several days after reportedly suffering a heart attack on a flight from London to Los Angeles.  She had completed filming for 2 of the 3 Star Wars movies, including The Force Awakens which debuted in 2015.  She had not, however, begun filming the 3rd movie.

However, questions remain:  What did the contract protection insurance policy actually cover?  Will their truly be a payout?

The Daily Mail has reported the contract protection policy covering Ms. Fisher was a personal accident insurance policy.  The kicker in this insurance coverage is that the policy is generally triggered in the event serious illness or death resulting from an accidental cause, and not a naturally occurring disease or illness.  If this is, in fact, the coverage Disney obtained on Ms. Fisher, it is highly questionable that a heart attack (if determined to be the cause of death) would be considered an "accident" per standard definitions in such policies.

A windfall insurance payout for Disney?  Perhaps not.

Some media outlets are labeling the $50 million insurance payout (if, in fact, their is insurance coverage payable) as a  "windfall" for Disney.  But wait a minute, let's look at the production costs for Ms. Fisher's most recent Star Wars movie, the Force Awakens.  Industry estimates of the total production costs for making and marketing the movie, and producing DVDs to be an astonishing $423 million dollars.  And that's just one movie, and doesn't not include similar costs for the 2 additional movies, Star Wars Episode VIII and Star Wars Episode IX.

Granted, Disney made a handsome profit with the Force Awakens movie.  Reports of total worldwide earnings vary, but estimates average at total revenue of about $1.5 billion.  But for any movie, blockbuster status is never guaranteed.  Remember the movie flop Ronin?  It debuted in 2013 with grand illusions of a box office blockbuster, but flopped big time and resulted in an estimated loss of $150 million.  The same flop could happen - or could have happened - with any of the Star Wars movies.

Insurance Concerns?

As a licensed Life and Disability Insurance Analyst, Life Agent, and a Fire and Casualty Broker-Agent, I provide consulting services and expert witness services to clients for a wide array of insurance matters, including life insurance and accidental death benefit insurance concerns. 

Visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com for more information about my Insurance Consulting, Tax, and Expert Witness Services.

January 3, 2017

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!  

Best wishes for a happy, healthy, and safe 2017.
And a prosperous year, too.

Garden Winter Roses, Picked Christmas day 2016.

Mary Rae Fouts