February 26, 2018

Chocolate Chip Cookies! Homemade deliciousness ... Want some?

Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookies.


Of all types of cookies, there's just something extra special about homemade chocolate chip cookies.  Is it the mouth watering aroma, or perhaps the taste of chocolate chips from a warm cookie melting in your mouth?

Who knows?  But yesterday's batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies was one of my best cookie bakes ever.  93 soft, billowy chocolate chip cookies full of chips. T his bake includes both Guittard Milk Chocolate chips (31% Cacao) and Guittard Akoma Extra Semisweet Chocolate Chips (55% Cacao).  Oh, and King Arthur Unbleached All Purpose Flour.   And one of the best things about this recipe (my own recipe, adapted from a Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook recipe) is that it is mixed by hand; no mixer required.

Baking hint:  When baking, high quality ingredients are essential to baking success.  For instance, I've found a huge ... huge ... difference in the quality of chocolate chip brands.  Don't skimp on quality!


Bake some cookies soon!  After all, what's not to like?

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA, CFP®

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax, insurance consulting, and expert witness services to clients who have technical or complex concerns.  For more information visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

February 25, 2018

Dogs Sid and Lexi: Once again I'm reminded about true love.

Lexi and Sid.


Two former Pound Dogs.  Abused.  Stray.  Not wanted.

Until they came to our home in Pleasant Hill, CA.

Did we adopt them, or did they adopt us humans?

Don't know, but do know of their unconditional love for human owners Mary and Jim.

And, clearly, unconditional love for one other.

Chow-Pomeranian mix Lexi (l) and Husky-Malamute mix Sid (r).

So much to learn from our Faithful Canine Companions.

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax, insurance consulting, and expert witness services to clients who have technical or complex concerns.  She lives a canine-inspired life in Pleasant Hill, CA with her husband Jim and dogs Sid and Lexi.  For more information visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

February 22, 2018

Recreational Marijuana in California: The Prop 64 Promoted $1 Billion in New Tax Revenue is Just a Bunch of Smoke

Legalized Recreational Marijuana in California.


Just how is that all working out for the Golden State?

When California voters approved Prop 64 in November 2016, legalizing recreational marijuana sales in California, the pro-pot pushers used increased tax revenue as a huge marketing tool.

Just how much new tax revenue?

Well, the pro-pot promoters typically touted that taxes and licensing fees from the sale of recreational pot were expected to generate an additional $1 billion in annual  revenue for California state and local governments.

$ 1 Billion Bucks Baby 

Heck, here is a political mailer from the Pro Prop 64 Pot Industry promoting an extra $1 billion in revenue a year:

California Pot Promoter's Political Mailer Promising $1 Billion Annually in New (Tax and Licensing) Revenue from Prop 64, Which Legalized Recreational Marijuana Sales in California.


Sounds like a financial windfall, right?  Na, I didn't buy this expected revenue windfall back in 2016, and I don't by it now.  As I believed in 2016 and continue to believe today, the estimated $1 billion in annual revenue from taxes and licensing fees from legalized recreational marijuana sales in California was ... and is ... just a bunch of smoke.  No pun intended.

And why?  So many reasons why; take your pick from a sample.

  • The cost of testing, licensing, and taxes is estimated to triple ... triple ... the cost of marijuana purchased at a licensed brick and mortar store, compared to today's street in California.  Why is a pot smoker/user going to pay a 300% premium to purchase their weed at a licensed store, when the person can get their fix for 1/3 the price down the steet from their buddy the black market marijuana seller?
  • Most chemicals and pesticides will be banned from use in California's legal and licensed recreational marijuana.  This will make marijuana more difficult to grow; plants will take longer to grow and will likely not bare as much weed as is common in today's chemical and pesticide-laced weed grows.  Why would marijuana growers change their growing habits to make their business far less profitable, or perhaps unprofitable?
  • Marijuana remains illegal on the federal level.  Most banks will therefore not provide services to marijuana-related businesses, including those deemed legal under California Prop 64.
  • While recreational marijuana sales became legal in California on January 1, 2018, the licensing process is lengthy and complex.  Moreover, county and local municipalities do not have to follow Prop 64, and can ban legalized recreational marijuana sales, or otherwise greatly restrict pot grows and legal sales.  And this is exactly what has happened.
  • And uh, does anyone ... anyone ... think the large cartel grows, most hidden on public lands, are going to comply with any new marijuana laws?  Or that the smaller growers using stolen electricity and stolen water for their indoor grows are going to become legit and comply with said new laws?

So where are we today?  Glad you asked! Not even a drop in the bucket toward the touted grand $1 billion in new tax and licensing revenue.  According to a report recently published by the California marijuana group California Growers Association, fewer than 1% of California's estimated 68,120 marijuana growers were now legally licensed under California's recreational marijuana Prop 64 law.

More specifically, as of February 7, 2018, only 534 of the 68,120 marijuana growers were legally licensed.  That's a paltry 0.68%.  You can download the report here.

Using Current Statistics, Here is What California can Realistically Expect for New Annual Revenue from Legal Recreational Marijuana Sales

And Just What is the Estimated State Budget for Overseeing Legal Recreational Marijuana Activities, Anyway?


As I said, any dream of $1 billion in extra tax and licensing revenue from this statewide marijuana experiment in nothing but smoke.  No pun intended.  If we use the 0.68% to arrive at expected new tax and licensing revenue, that equates to $6,800,000 in new annual revenue.

And just how does this teeny tiny bit of new revenue compare to the annual cost of the state regulating legalized marijuana through the newly formed California Bureau of Cannabis Control?

Glad you asked!  The Governor’s May 2017 Budgte Revision included 201 state employee positions and a $43.2 million budget in fiscal 2017‑18 from various funds to conduct cannabis regulation-related activities.  These resources are provided across seven state departments.

So you see, the realistic $6,8000,000 in new annual revenue won't even begin to cover the current estimated $43,200,000 annual state regulatory budget.  And the monetary figures are even worse than what I have provided, as the estimated $6,800,000 revenue does not all go to the State, but rather is share with State and Local taxing authorities in California.

Granted, I don't smoke ... anything.  Never have, never will.  But that's not the point.  The point is that California voters are consistently mislead by proponents of ballot measures; and California elections are nearly always loaded with ballot measures.  Don't simply believe what you hear, or read on the Internet or in proponent propaganda.  Do your own research (which often takes very little time) before forming your decisions on voting issues.

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax, insurance consulting, and expert witness services to clients who have technical or complex concerns.  For more information visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts


February 20, 2018

Wow! Watch Border Collie Fame win the Westminster Dog Show Masters Agility Contest!

Ready to smile?  'Cause you are going to, for sure!

Meet Fame.  She is a 7 1/2 year old Border Collie who was crowned grand champion of the 2018 Westminster Dog Show Masters Agility Contest this month.


Fame with trainer/handler Jessica Ajoux, 
getting ready to run the 2018 Westminster Masters Agility Course.
Photo credit:  Fox Sports

You see,  unbeknownst to many people, the Westminster Dog Show isn't just about showing and judging purebred pedigree dogs.  In 2014, given the popularity of dog agility contests, the Westminster Dog Show added a Masters Dog Agility Contest to its program.  This agility contest is referred to as a "Master" contest because the course is designed as a master-level course, which is considerably more difficult than a typical dog ability course.  In order to compete at the Westminster Masters Agility Contest, a dog must have agility course experience, including numerous agility contest wins.

One very cool aspect about the Westminster Masters Agility Contest is that the contest is also open to mixed breed dogs ... aka your Lovable Mutts! ... in addition to purebreds.  Purebred dogs compete in 5 height divisions, from 8 inches to 24 inches.  (Champion Fame competed in the 20-inch class.)  Mixed breed dogs compete in the All-American Dog division.  (Is that a cute name for the Mutt division, or what?!)  The dog with the overall fastest time earns the championship title of Masters Agility Champion Winner.

This year, the Masters Agility Champion Winner was Fame, a middle aged, 7 1/2 year old Border Collie that exudes playfulness, happiness, hypeness, and an extreme ... extreme ... obsession for the agility course.  Her age of 7 1/2 dog years old is equivalent to about 52 1/2 human years old.  Fame smashed ... smashed ... the rest of the canine agility field, winning the championship title by an earth shattering 8 1/2 seconds!!  That's like an Olympic athlete winning the 100 meter dash by a full second.  Wow!!

Fame's smashing win is also extra sweet - and deserved - for her agility trainer and handler, Jessica Ajoux.  Jessica was injured in a head-on traffic collision in April 2017, and was not able to return to her dog agility training and handling profession until one month ago, in January.  Way to go, Jessica and Fame!

Here is Fame's fantabulous course win.  Click on the video below, and get ready to smile!


About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax, insurance consulting, and expert witness services to clients who have technical or complex concerns.  Mary and her husband Jim enjoy a canine-inspired life with their former pound dogs, Husky-Malamute mix Sid and Chow Chow-Pomeranian mix Lexi.  For more information visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

February 19, 2018

Winter Olympics: Yep, its doping once again. But you won't believe the sport involved ...

Russian curler Alexander Krushelnytsk
A new failed drug test in the 2018 Winter Olympics.  This from Alexander Krushelnytsk, one of the Russian athletes who was allowed to compete at the games.  He won a bronze medal in mixed doubles curling, competing with his wife as his curling partner.   According to the New York Times:
"Krushelnytsky, in a routine urine check, was found to have traces of meldonium in his system.  Use of the drug, a heart medicine that increases blood flow and has been banned from most sports since 2016, has ensnared other Russian athletes in doping cases in the past couple years."
What has everyone shaking their heads about this failed drug test is the sport involved:  curling.  Ya know, the sport where athletes push a granite plug across the ice, while furiously sweeping the ice with brooms to guide the rock.

Yes, curling.  The sport known for perhaps having too much beer drinking for its singular problem.   And, don't forget the vivid ... and often simply hilarious ... prints on the pants worn by Norwegian curling teams.

Norway's Mens Curling Team, 2018 Winter Olympics
Now THAT's a uniform that screams high falutin fashion!

Are the Olympic Games obsolete?  I think so.

I continue to believe that the Olympic Games have run its course, and serve little to no purpose anymore.  Heck, South Korean officials have bragged about high ticket sales for Olympic events.  However, shots of event venues consistently show row after row of empty seats.  School children are being bussed in to fill seats.  Not only that, but volunteers at the Olympic Games are instructed to remove or cover up their official clothing, and sit in empty seats to fill venue seating.  More deception.  Seems deception - whether it be faked attendance or athlete doping - is the Olympic Games' new motto.

And having said that ... Let baseball season begin!

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax, insurance consulting, and expert witness services to clients who have technical or complex concerns.  For more information visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

February 16, 2018

Happy Lunar New Year! Here's how to make your own delicious Asian dumplings, aka potstickers.

Chinese Dumplings aka Potstickers
Happy Lunar New Year as the Asian world celebrates a new year.

I am a huge fan of Asian-inspired cooking, particularly the spicy cuisines from China's Sichuan and Hunan regions.

And Asian dumplings, better known in the United States as potstickers ... I love 'em, particularly dipped in a hot Chinese chili oil or hot mustard sauce.  But boy, when they are not prepared well ... Yuck!  And in my humble opinion, most of the frozen potstickers available in your local grocery store are simply yuck!

But no worries.  I you do not have a favorite Chinese restaurant to get your potstickers, or if you simply want to make them yourself, making these versatile dumplings is not difficult.  The dough just includes 3 simple ingredients; the dumplings themselves can be filled with just about anything you desire.  Disclosure:  I have not tried a peanut butter and jelly filling.  Yet. 😄

And don't worry if your dumplings don't look perfect.  The appearance isn't going to affect the taste.  Just be certain to roll your dough thin enough so the Asian dumpling isn't too doughy.

To get started on your Asian dumpling aka potsticker kitchen venture, click on the Facebook post below and check out this easy-to-follow and informative post from one of my favorite baking and cooking companies, King Arthur Flour:



新年快乐 (Happy Chinese (Lunar) New Year) everyone!

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax, insurance consulting, and expert witness services to clients who have technical or complex concerns.  For more information visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

February 15, 2018

L.L.Bean ends its lifetime product guarantee due to abuse ... And gets served with a class action lawsuit just 3 days later!

The L.L.Bean Bootmobile
L.L.Bean.  Gotta admit I'm feeling a bit sorry today for this 100 plus year old boot, clothing, and outdoor recreation equipment company.  Disclosure:  I own no L.L.Bean products, so I have no horse in this race.

What happened at L.L. Bean?  Well you see, for decades (exact time unknown), L.L.Bean has maintained a no questions asked, lifetime replacement guarantee for its products.  But, as so often happens in life, a few bad apples -aka customers, or perhaps not even customers - have been abusing this lifetime guarantee.  And the number of bad apples has been growing.

According to L.L.Bean's executive chairman Shawn Gorman:
“A small, but growing number of customers has been interpreting our guarantee well beyond its original intent'.”  Some people had sought “refunds for heavily worn products used over many years.  Others seek refunds for products that have been purchased through third parties, such as at yard sales.”
Ouch.  Kinda like the person who continuously returns a TV within a warranty period, simply to get a new one.

Under L.L.Bean's new return policy announced this month, customers will have one year to return an L.L.Bean product, and will be required to provide proof of purchase.  After a year, if an L.L.Bean product shows defective workmanship, the company will work with the customer to provide a "fair solution" to the problem.

Sounds reasonable to me.  I mean, heck, a 30 day return policy is pretty much norm in the retail industry, including with rule-the-world E-commerce behemoth Amazon.

But, the new 1 year return policy is apparently not reasonable for a group of people and their attorney.  Just 3 days after L.L.Bean announce the new return policy ....  yep, 3 days ... the company was served with a class action lawsuit filed in federal court in Chicago.  The complaint generally claims that L.L.Bean is dishonoring its "warranty" and that consumers are therefore deprived of the warranty they purchased.  The complaint demands that L.L.Bean either honor the lifetime replacement guarantee or initiate corrective advertising in the form of notices in the L.L.Bean catalog and point-of-sale reminders about the new return policy.


Oh, and don't forget the request for at least $5 million in "damages" to the plaintiff class.  And, of course, payment of the plaintiff class attorneys' fees, costs, and expenses.   You can read more about the lawsuit and download the complaint here.

Perhaps we'll get some new lawyer jokes out of this lawsuit.  Although I'm certain the matter is not funny to L.L.Bean.

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax, insurance consulting, and expert witness services to clients who have technical or complex concerns.  For more information visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

February 12, 2018

President Lincoln's Birthday: Similarities between President Lincoln and President Kennedy

President Abraham Lincoln
photo credit:  whitehouse.gov
Today is President Abraham Lincoln's birthday, which is recognized as a legal holiday by some municipalities in the United States.  President Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809.  He was assassinated and died on April 15, 1965.

Over the years, an urban legend has grown about similarities ... or alleged similarities ... between the lives of President Lincoln and President Kennedy, who was also assassinated.  Here are just a few of the Lincoln/Kennedy urban legend similarities from Wikipedia:
  • Both presidents were elected to the House of Representatives in '46.
  • Both were losing candidates for their party's vice-presidential nomination in '56.
  • Both presidents were elected to the presidency in '60
  • Both presidents were shot in the head on a Friday seated beside their wives.  Both Fridays preceded a major holiday observed within the week.
  • During the assassination, they were sitting in an alphabetical pattern.  Their spouses first name and both president's last name. J,K,L,M- Jackie, Kennedy, Lincoln, Mary.  Jackie was seated to the left of Kennedy and Mary to the right of Lincoln.
  • Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford's Theatre; Kennedy was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald in a Lincoln automobile, made by Ford.
  • Both presidents' last names have 7 letters.
  • Both assassins' full names have 15 letters.
  • Each assassin committed his crime in the building where he was employed.
  • Both presidents were purportedly smiling immediately before the assassination began.
  • After shooting Lincoln, Booth ran from a theatre to a warehouse; after shooting Kennedy, Oswald ran from a warehouse to a theatre.
President John F. Kennedy
photo credit: whitehouse.vog
So, what do these similarities mean?  That's up for you to decide!  Mr. Martin Gardener, who has examined pattern trends/coincidences and has written about numerous events, believes 'it is relatively easy to find seemingly meaningful patterns relating any two people or events, but that such patterns often do not stand up to rigorous scrutiny. '  There are many more similarities between Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy; read the entire Wikipedia article covering this topic here.

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax, insurance consulting, and expert witness services to clients who have technical or complex concerns.  For more information visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

February 6, 2018

Tax Preparation - Take care when choosing a tax professional.

As an Enrolled Agent licensed by the United States Department of the Treasury, I am allowed provide tax preparation, tax planning, and taxpayer representation services (for audits and other matters) to clients in all 50 states and US territories.

Did you know that when I sign a tax return I have prepared (or reviewed for a fee), I take legal responsibility for its accuracy?  That's true.  This is a professional responsibility I uphold with great care, which is one reason I place great emphasis on obtaining complete ... and accurate ... information from my tax clients.

"Tax Season" for me does not run from January through April, but rather year round.  For my tax clients - who generally have technical and complex tax concerns, including tax issues in multiple states - taxes are not simply a quick return, but rather a yearround issue.

For tips on selecting a tax professional, visit this recent IRS publication "Ten Tips for Choosing a Tax Preparer"

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax, insurance consulting, and expert witness services to clients who have technical or complex concerns.  For more information visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

February 4, 2018

Quiz Answer: Can you name the part of the United States Consitution that cannnot be amended?

I recently posted the following quiz:  Can you name the part of the United States Constitution that cannot be amended?

You can read the post and comments here.  No one provided the correct answer.

And the answer is ... drumroll ...

The only part of the United States Constitution that cannot be amended is found in Article 5.  Specifically, the part of Article 5 pertaining to "equal suffrage in the Senate", better known in current day language use as equal representation for each state in the Senate.

Reason?  Many of the Founding Fathers were from lightly populated agricultural areas.  They were concerned that the densely populated communities - then Boston, New York, and Philadelphia - and their respective states (and those states' greater wealth) would be able to control government.  Some delegates labeled this risk as possible tyranny of an aristocratic upper house.  The equal representation clause for Senate representation assures that each state will have the same number of Senators, to balance the representation provided by the state population makeup of the House of Representatives.

At the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia (summer of 1787), delegates agreed to set the number of Senators to 2 per state, and that each Senator serve 6-year terms.  There was some disagreement on the number of Senators; for instance, Pennsylvania wanted 3 Senators per state.  But in the end, 2 Senators per state was the agreed-upon number.

I have read arguments from some people who believe the Senate representation provision in Article 5 could, in fact, be changed.  Not by an amendment of the constitution (which requires approval from 2/3 of the states), but rather changed by a measure approved by all of the states.  However, I do not know how widely agreed upon this process is by constitutional scholars.  Not that it would ever happen, anyway.

Thanks for participating in the quiz!

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax, insurance consulting, and expert witness services to clients who have technical or complex concerns.  For more information visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

February 1, 2018

California Crazy: California state assemblyman wants to ban plastic straws in restaurants.

In California, the political crazy train just keeps chuggin' away.

What's new on the California crazy front?  Glad you asked!  The latest piece of wacko legislation introduced in the state is from California Assemblyman Calderon.

You see, Mr. Calderon has it out for straws.  As in plastic drinking straws.  Maybe he had a bad straw experience as a child, I dunno.  Anyhoo, Assemblyman Calderon wants to make it illegal in California (proposed bill AB1884) for sit down restaurants to place a plastic drinking straw in a drink without the customer first asking for the straw.

And the proposed penalty for not following this proposed plastic straw law?  A fine of up to $1000, 6 months in jail, or both.

Yep, that's right.  A $1000 fine and 6 months in jail for placing a plastic straw in a drink.

And Mr. Calderon loudly claims that his proposed legislation is not a ban on plastic straws.  Let's just say I gotta disagree with that assertion.

I mean, golly gee.  It's not like California has any other problems to worry about, such as our schools, water supply, transportation infrastructure, housing, Jerry Brown's Crazy Train to Nowhere debacle, and so on.  Na, nothing to be concerned about.  So let's just to ahead and waste spend  a bunch of time and money trying to pass a plastic straw law.  Click here to read a USA Today article about this lunny proposed legislation.

Geesh!  Another day, another crazy somethin' in California.

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax, insurance consulting, and expert witness services to clients who have technical or complex concerns.  For more information visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts