July 31, 2017

Happy National Mutt Day!

Because there is nothing more lovable than a Mutt!

Happy National Mutt Day from my Faithful Canine Companions, Husky-mix Sid and Chow-mix Lexi.  Both former "pound" dogs; Sid was a stray, Lexi seized by police for severe abuse and neglect in a backyard puppy mill.  Faithful, loyal, and simply spectacular dogs!

Sid

Lexi

We are so lucky to have Sid and Lexi as our Forever Canine Companions.  Please adopt, don't shop!

Mary Rae Fouts

July 24, 2017

Honorably Discharged Military Veterans Get Much Deserved Benefit: Tax Free Online Shopping at Military's Exchange Service

About time. The United States Military is embracing online shopping, extending the brick and motor tax free military base shopping (aka the Military PX or Commissary) to the online shopping site, the Army & Air Force Exchange Service.  This benefit will soon be available to all honorably discharged military veterans, for all military branches.

The driving reasons for the military's embrace of online shopping?  (1) Necessity.  And (2) Amazon.  Yep, Amazon.  According to this Associated Press article in the New York Times:
"Adding 13 million potential new customers will give extra ammunition to the group that runs the stores on U.S. Army and Air Force bases worldwide as it fights Amazon and other retailers for veterans' online shopping dollars."
Shopping at a United States Military Commissary, Date Unknown.

The Benefit:  It's Not Just About Tax Free

Brick and mortar Military Commissary stores sell goods to military personnel not only tax free, but at prices generally about 30% lower than local grocery and similar stores.  Having this same purchase power for online shopping will be a wonderful financial benefit (not to mention the convenience) for our retired service men and women, particularly those who lack local access to a Military Commissary store.

Interesting how shopping has evolved simply due to Amazon's presence.  Who would have thought an online book store would grow into the powerful, nearly invincible retail and shopping force Amazon is today?

Concerns about Tax Matters?

Mary Rae Fouts, EA, CFP assists clients throughout the United States who have concerns about tax planning, preparation, and representation issues, including audit and collection matters.  For more information about Mary's fee-only Tax, Consulting, and Expert Witness Services visit Fouts Financial Group.

Mary Rae Fouts

July 17, 2017

Pet Fire Safety: Do you have home safety procedures in place for your pets?

Do you have home fire safety procedures implemented for your Beloved Canine Companions?  Below is a great ... and timely ... post on the topic originally posted on Facebook by SAGE Centers for Specialty and Emergency Care.  We use their nearby Concord, CA location; SAGE is the best!  I added a couple of additional fire safety suggestions at the bottom of the post.

Wildfires are roaring once again in California and the United States Northwest.  The San Francisco Bay Area has also seen a number of very destructive residential fires recently.  If you do not have fire-related emergency procedures in place at your home for both humans and pets (this also includes working smoke detectors and visible fire extinguishers), do so today.  It just might save the lives of you and your pets tomorrow.



Concerns about Fire Insurance or Other Insurance Coverage?

Mary Rae Fouts, EA, CFP assists clients throughout the United States who have concerns about insurance coverage and related issues.  For more information about Mary's fee-only Tax, Consulting, and Expert Witness Services visit Fouts Financial Group.

Mary Rae Fouts

July 12, 2017

Pascal Rigo: Self-Proclaimed French Bread Savior Needs to Practice What He Preaches

Pascal Rigo
photo credit:  newyorktimes.com
Oh, the irony.  And all about loaves of bread.

Pascal Rigo should practice what he preaches.  

Who is Pascal Rigo?  He's the guy who founded the San Francisco Bay Area La Boulange cafe/bakery chain, which he sold to Starbucks in 2013 for some $100 million.  There was a La Boulange in Walnut Creek, just a few miles from my home.

What's Mr. Rigo doing now in the bakery world?  Glad you asked.  In his current bread-related project, he has christened himself the go-be savior of bakery bread in France.  Read the New York Times article on the topic here.  

Self-proclaimed Savior of bread produced by small bakeries in France?  
Oh, the irony!!

Mr. Rigo laments the closure of local bakeries in France, caused in part by competition from mass-produced grocery store bread, while he himself employed mass production of bread for sale to large retail outlets including Trader Joes and big box Costco.

Mr. Rigo, don't you kinda think your mass production of bread for large retail chains hurt small bakeries, the same type of bakeries across the pond that you now proclaim you will save?

Just sayin'.

And the reason Mr. Rigo’s current La Boulangerie shops in San Francisco each sell only about 50 baguettes daily, as stated in the NY Times article?  Simple.  The bread is just not that good.  One only has to look at the cult-like bread following at San Francisco's Tartine Bakery for comparison.

I am an avid baker, including baking all sourdough breads, rolls, buns, and pizza, so I am aware of the work involved in artisanal bread baking.  One can't be both artisanal and cheap at the same time; quality costs.  Mr. Rigo needs to decide if his current venture is going to compete on (1) quality or (2) price.  He can't compete on both.

And perhaps Pascal Rigo should look in the mirror and decide if he truly intends to practice what he preaches.  He certainly did not do so in the past.

Bake on, everyone.  But if it's bread, make it sourdough!

My Sourdough Bread, a recent bake.
My own recipe.
Tender crumb and golden but not hard crust.
Not too holey so your butter and other spreads don't fall through.
All sourdough, no active yeast.

Sliced homemade sourdough bread from the loaf in above photo.
Want some?

My sourdough starter after I fed it yesterday.
Made with bread flour and bottled spring water.
It  is VERY vigorous, tripled in volume as shown by original rubber band mark.
These are 2 half gallon mason jars nearly full of bubbly sourdough starter.


July 10, 2017

Fyre Festival's Billy McFarland: Arrested and Charged with Wire Fraud

Fyre Festival founder Billy McFarland arrested by federal agents.  That didn't take too long, did it?

I previously posted about the cancelled disastrous Fyre Festival and its founder Billy McFarland.  At that time I opined Mr. McFarland appeared to be a criminal Con Artist rather than a brazen 25-year-old pretty boy salesman.

Looks like my opinion may very well be accurate.

Federal agents recently arrested Billy McFarland and charged him with 1 count of wire fraud.  (But come on, just one count?!)

Anyway, what gets my craw now is that Mr. McFarland was able to make his $300,000 bail.  Ok, I get that; according to the New York Times he lives in a $21,000 a month Manhattan penthouse apartment and drives a $110,000 Maserati automobile.  So clearly Billy McFarland has sizable assets.

photo credit:  newyorktimes.com

Question:  So why is Billy McFarland currently represented by a public defender?  You know, the taxpayer-paid-for defense attorney who represents criminal defendants that cannot afford legal representation.

Does public defender representation for Mr. McFarland make sense to you? 
Sure doesn't to me.

This sordid story only continues to grow more tentacles.  Once again, truth is stranger than fiction.

Mary Rae Fouts

July 6, 2017

Date Lunch with Husband Jim at Corners Tavern in Walnut Creek

Jim and I have a Date Lunch every month at Corners Tavern in Walnut Creek, something both of us really .... REALLY ... look forward to.

Corners Tavern is hands down by far our favorite restaurant in Walnut Creek.

Here is what we enjoyed yesterday, soooo delicious!

Want some?

Jim's Manhattan

Jim's Steak N' Fries

My County Line Organic Greens Salad with
Smoked Chicken added.
The strawberries were fabulous.
The Italian Pinot Grigio Jim picked out for me
was spot on, too.  😋

Be good to yourself.  Treat yourself soon with a special date lunch with your significant other, or simply an extra special lunch by yourself or with a friend.  You'll be glad you did!

Life is short.  Be happy!

Mary Rae Fouts