Sunday, December 19, 2010

MERRY CHRISTMAS - 12 Gifts of Christmas

On the 1st day of Christmas my true love gave to me...a partridge in a pear tree? 
Here's 12 days of very useful gifts:
Good Will
An open heart
Family & Friends
A home on the beach
Enough money to feel secure
and five gold rings.
On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me... The song goes:
12 Drummers Drumming
11 Pipers Piping
10 Lords-a-Leaping
9 Ladies Dancing
8 Maids-a-Milking
7 Swans-a-Swimming
6 Geese-a-Laying
5 Gold Rings
4 Colly Birds
3 French Hens
2 Turtle Doves
And a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Home Improvement Tax Credits - What Qualifies

What you need to know: By Mara Lemos Stein/The Wall Street Journal
You have to act fast—some of these credits are expiring on Dec. 31.
What improvements are covered by the expiring credits?Homeowners can get a tax credit for installing certain wood or pellet stoves; energy-efficient furnaces, water heaters and air-conditioning systems; insulated roofs, windows and doors; and wall and ceiling insulation. The tax credit covers 30% of the purchase costs, up to $1,500. (For a full list, check the Energy Star website at
Is the installation cost covered?The cost of putting in heating and air-conditioning systems, water heaters and biomass stoves is, but installing new windows, doors, roofs and insulation isn't.
Can I use the tax credits for improvements in a vacation home?Sorry, no. The improvements qualify for an existing home that is your primary residence, even if it is a houseboat or mobile home. But rentals, vacation homes and new construction aren't eligible.
With time short, what improvements make the most sense?Upgrading your heating and cooling, which can be as much as 50% of the average home's energy bill. If your furnace or boiler is more than 10 years old, this may be the ideal time to replace it. All improvements must be in place and equipment in service by Dec. 31 to qualify for the tax credits.
What improvements can be done relatively cheaply?Adding insulation. If you choose to insulate just the area where your family spends most of their waking hours, for instance, the cost will be low but your family will be much more comfortable. And often insulation is a do-it-yourself project, so you save on labor costs.
Am I going to have trouble finding a contractor on short notice?Not only are contractors available, but many of them are using the expiring tax credits as a marketing tool, according to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. You can find qualified contractors at the association's website, Many of the contractors have the equipment and materials ready to go, and you'll be helping workers in an industry badly hit by the recession.
Will a new dishwasher get me some tax credits?Appliances don't qualify, but appliances carrying the Energy Star seal will help reduce your energy bill. Also, many states and local utilities are offering direct rebates—no need to wait for tax returns—on some appliances. Check to see details of programs in your state.
Might the program be reinstated for future tax years?Legislation has been introduced to extend the tax credits, but experts say it is unlikely Congress will pass it before the end of the year.
Will I be able to handle this on my tax return without having to call on an expert?The form is simple. Just make sure you save the manufacturer's certificate that states the equipment or service is eligible under the program. If not available with the product, the certificates can also be found on the websites of the manufacturers.
I'm subject to the alternative minimum tax. Will I still be able to qualify for this tax credit?These credits can be used to offset the AMT, says Gary R. Price, tax partner with Sensiba San Filippo LLP, an accounting firm in the San Francisco Bay area.
Are there any tax incentives for rooftop solar-power systems?Yes, and they are far more generous. Federal tax credits for solar-energy, small residential wind turbines and geothermal pump systems cover 30% of all costs—installation included—with no upper limit. These are good on both primary homes and vacation homes, new construction or otherwise. And they don't expire until 2016.Ms. Lemos Stein is a reporter for Dow Jones VentureWire in New York. She can be reached at
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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Red Martini for the holidays

So many to choose from! 104 more from Marie Claire.
Better Homes & Gardens Cranberry Martini


  • 1  cup  cranberries
  • 1  cup  granulated sugar
  • 1  cup  water
  • 1  750 ml-bottle  good-quality vodka
  • 1  recipe  Vanilla Sugar (optional)
  •     Ice cubes
  •     Cranberries (optional)


1. To make cranberry-flavored vodka, in a 1-1/2-quart saucepan combine 1 cup cranberries, 1 cup granulated sugar, and water. Bring to boiling, stirring until sugar dissolves. Continue to cook just until cranberries start to burst. Remove from heat, cool 30 minutes. Strain cranberry mixture, reserving cranberries and liquid. In a large glass pitcher, combine vodka, reserved strained cranberries, and 2/3 cup of the reserved liquid (discard remaining liquid). Cover and freeze for 3 days.
2. Strain cranberries out of vodka; discard cranberries (you should have about 4 cups vodka mixture). If desired, place some Vanilla Sugar on a small plate. Dip rims of eight martini glasses in water and in Vanilla Sugar to coat rims; set aside.
3. Place ice cubes in a martini shaker. For four drinks, add 2 cups vodka mixture; shake. Strain into four of the prepared glasses; repeat. If desired, garnish with additional cranberries threaded onto small skewers. Makes 8 drinks.
4. Vanilla Sugar: Fill a quart jar with 4 cups granulated sugar. Cut a vanilla bean in half lengthwise and insert both halves into sugar. Secure lid and store in a cool dry place several weeks before using.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Two for one at Starbucks! Valid tomorrow 11/18 thru 11/21 from 2pm - 5pm

Starbucks Holiday Beverages Are Back and Two for One November 18-21.

Your favorite holiday beverages are here to infuse warmth and joy into your festive season. Revel in the rich caramel experience of the Caramel Brulée Latte, the festive and chocolaty taste of the Peppermint Mocha or the spicy-sweet goodness of the Gingerbread Latte. And from November 18 to 21, between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m, when you purchase one holiday beverage at a participating store, we'll give you a second one for free! So dash on down and get your hands on one (or two) of these special seasonal treats.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Either get a paddle or let someone else do the work for you...

What is happening in real estate now and where is it going?
With more new homes than buyers, if you're looking to sell your house,
you need all the help you can get,
and buyers need the tools to find the best value.
Your real estate resource

Do you want to wade in the water and wait for something to happen?
Find out what your home is worth and how to get it sold.  In today's market
you have to be aggressive in everything you do.
Either get a paddle or let someone else do the work for you!
To get your home SOLD call:

 Karen Ferro

Two Appetizers for Thanksgiving dinner

Lemon White-Bean Bruschetta

     Good Housekeeping
  1. Slice 1 loaf Italian bread diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices.
  2. From 1 lemon, grate 1/2 teaspoon peel and squeeze 1 tablespoon juice. In medium bowl, with fork, lightly mash 1 can 15-19 ounce Cannellini beans with lemon juice and peel, 1 garlic clove chopped, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon ground pepper, and 1 tablespoon fresh parsley leaves.
  3. Place bread slices on grill rack and cook 2 to 3 minutes or until lightly toasted on both sides. Just before serving, top with bean mixture and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon fresh parsley.

    Roasted Peppers with Caper Dressing
Food and Wine

    1. Roast Red & Yellow peppers over a gas flame or *broil them, until charred all over. When the peppers are cool enough to handle, pull off the skin. Remove the stems, seeds and core. Cut the peppers lengthwise into 1/2-inch strips.
    2. In a large glass or stainless-steel bowl, using a fork, stir together 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice, 1 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar, 1/4 cup olive oil, salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste. 
    3. Add the roasted peppers and 2 tablespoons drained capers and/or halved and pitted olives, chopped tomato (remove seeds) toss and serve with a sprinkle of chopped fresh basil .
    *To roast the peppers quickly and with little mess, stand them upright and cut the flesh from each of the four sides, leaving the stem, seeds and core behind. Put the peppers on an aluminum-foil-lined baking sheet or directly on oven rack, cut-side down, and broil until charred. Peel off the blackened skin.

Monday, November 15, 2010

10 Feng Shui Steps for your business & financial flow

Wind & Water; Feng Shui, a Chinese art of creating beauty, harmony, balance and tranquility.

1. Clear your work area of clutter. Clean out your old & inactive files to make room for new business.
2. Add a large water fountain & keep it flowing to stimulate finances, best in the Southeast area of your office.
3. Incorporate the number 8 (infinite wealth) in your pricing, password, email, phone & license plate.
4. Keep the bills in your wallet neat & organized with plenty of room to welcome new money (emerald green and gold attract greater abundance).
5. Always start and end your signature with an upward stroke.
6. Make your moving screen saver water flowing, fish swimming or birds flying for greater productivity and overall good fortune.
7. Place your desk with a clear view of the door and a solid wall supporting your back. Add lush plants & flowers, certifications, awards, logo, business cards in the South area of office for New Opportunities.
8. Do not store important files and documents on the floor to be "stepped on".  Position your phone, fax, printer in the Northwest area of your office to increase referrals, communication and networking.

9. Hang artwork in you office that reflects growth and abundance: colorful nature scenes of spring and summer with lush, healthy foliage and smooth, clear, flowing water.

Avoid winter scenes: (dormant, frozen business & cool relationships) and any images that are desolate and depressing.

10. Hold sales and marketing meetings at round tales for cooperative and harmonious discussions.  The Southeast is related to relationships; to build & strengthen with colleagues & clients add a crystal globe and place photos of your business team.

Pastel Art: Lois Castellana
Feng Shui tips from Mary K. Stewart

Foods to avoid feeding your cat or dog.

While it is tasty and harmless to humans, onions are very toxic to cats. The following is a list of foods that cats should never eat:
Onions, Garlic, & Related Root Vegetables (gravy and soups are made with these - don't feed from your plate to your pet!)
Onions and Garlic destroys red blood cells in the cat, causing an anemia.
Green Tomatoes, Green (raw Potatoes)
Can cause violent lower gastrointestinal symptoms. The leaves and stems are particularly toxic. (Tomatoes in pet foods are ripe, and should cause no concern because they appear in relatively small amounts)
It's becoming more widely known that chocolate is very toxic to both cats and dogs: chocolate toxicity
Grapes and Raisins
These foods' toxicity has mainly been found in dogs, in quantities of varying amounts.
Although milk is not toxic to cats, it may have adverse effects such as lactose intolerance. Cats do not need milk. If they love it, cream may be fine, given less often (The more fat in the milk, the less lactose.) Another compromise is CatSip, a product made from skim milk with an enzyme added that helps the digestion of lactose. 
The bottom line is to feed your cat nutritious food developed with his needs in mind and choose treats designed for cats instead of table scraps.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thanksgiving Recipes

Thanksgiving is this month...the 25th. Yes, it will be here before you know it.  Are you preparing diner this year?  Here's two easy side recipes for you:
Baked oven-roasted Brussel Sprouts-  
Preheat oven to 400°F. Trim the stem ends of the Brussels sprouts and pull off any yellow outer leaves. Halve each sprout lengthwise, then toss in a large bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes until golden brown/turn, halfway thru cooking time.

Mashed Cauliflower-
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add cauliflower and cook until very tender, about 10 minutes. Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid and then drain well and transfer cauliflower to a food processor. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and reserved water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and puree until smooth. (Or, mash cauliflower with a potato masher). Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Photos and recipes from Whole Foods.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Free Coffee

I hear Brueggers is having a free coffee day tomorrow (Wednesday 11/10/10). Offered until 2pm and any donations made are going to the Children's Miracle Network.
I am a Starbucks fan myself,  I don't enjoy their strong coffee as much as I enjoy their drinks made with coffee. I do know where most of the Starbucks are, so much so, that whenever I give directions, I always seem to use a Starbucks as a waypoint....

Christmas Cactus

Now, a Christmas Cactus is safe for your cat or dog and if you own one and your plant is like's starting to bloom!  I don't know many plants that thrive on neglect like the Christmas Cactus but it hardly needs watering, likes the dark and has gorgeous bright beautiful flowering buds once a year that lasts for 2 months.  You can also create new plants without rooting the old one...just snip off a leaf and plant in soil.  It will root itself and you'll have twice as much to look forward to next year.

Monday, November 8, 2010

What's toxic and what's not....a short list for your pets;

It's coming on that time of year...Did you know that Holly and Poinsettias are poisonous to cats?  Also, aloe, eucalyptus, lilies, daisies, daffodils, ivy, foxglove, gardenia, iris, jade plant, mother in law plant, narcissus, peony, St John's wort, sweet pea, tomato plant, yew...for a complete list of toxic plants go to: