Are you working Memorial Day weekend?


Memorial Day weekend is almost here. It’s a national holiday dedicated to the memory of our soldiers who have fallen in service to our country. The long holiday weekend is a getaway for most, but for others, it’s all about keeping current with work.

Many small business owners and B2B professionals use time on the weekend to catch up on email, billing and other work. It’s a strategy that might work in the short-term—you get to a place where you feel caught up—but it has more serious repercussions: Stress, burnout and other mental and physical issues.

Of course, this email is being written over the weekend—it almost always is—so there will be no lecture. We won’t get into the many benefits of taking time off. Everyone probably realizes that. What you don’t realize, if you can’t take actual days/weeks off, there are things you can do to stay refreshed.

For example, taking short “play breaks” during the day to break up the work day somewhat. A post-lunch nap of 20 minutes can also have wonderful benefits. These are not substitutes for time off. Just things you can mix into your routine.

If taking extended time off is an issue, then schedule one long weekend a month and conduct zero business for those three days. You would be amazed at how beneficial it can be.

To stay fresh without taking an actual vacation, there are a few simple things you can do. Go for a long, quiet walk in the fresh air and sunshine, spend some time with the family, exercise, and most of all, “unplug” when you can – no phones, laptop, or looking at emails.

As for Memorial Day, please do take some time to reflect on those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms we in the United States hold dearly and, many times, take for granted. Memorial Day is about honoring those who serve and protect us.

This article is based on a blog by My Pinnacle Network.

Four Easy Ways to Add a Colorful Curb Appeal

Spring is here and it’s time to update your home’s curb appeal with pops of color that add a cheerful touch.

Get a Step Up with Railings

Chipped, tired railings can make a home look outdated and unkempt, but making those pieces look new again is a relatively quick and easy project. Keeping the railing monochromatic in a color that complements the rest of the home’s paint and trim creates a clean look. If you want to add some variety, use a secondary shade in the same color family and apply it to the main posts or spindles.

Create DIY Doormats

An affordable and unique way to create a “wow” moment at your home’s entry is to craft a DIY doormat with spray paint. A chevron pattern is an easy way to make a statement by simply using painter’s tape and two different colors of spray paint.

Put the Spotlight on Light Fixtures

Small splashes of color can go a long way, especially with a feature like exterior light fixtures. For light fixtures to stand out against a neutral-colored home, try spray painting them a bold hue, such as bright yellow, for a burst of color.

Refresh Patio Furniture

Over time, patio furniture loses its luster. If it’s still in good shape, you can bring it back to life with a fresh coat of spray paint. All the angles can make it difficult to cover every surface, so choose a product that promotes easy application. Remember to tilt furniture back and apply color to the feet and legs for an all-over finish that’s ready to weather the season.

This article furnished by Beth Davis of Keller Williams Realtors

Hottest Home Decor for 2019

Comfort is trending for 2019, a consensus of home decorators agree, with more people seeking warm colors, intimate spaces and a casual but sophisticated lifestyle.

Designers looking to pair physical coziness with emotional comfort forecast seven decor trends:

Scaled down furnishings – After years of favoring large furniture and open spaces, consumers are aiming for a ‘nesting’ environment and choosing smaller pieces arranged in more intimate settings.

Wall coverings – The return to traditionalism brings with it a return to wallpaper, fabric wall coverings and murals. Expect to see plenty of rich shades of green in fabric and wallpaper patterns.

Color changes – While blues and indigos have been huge in recent years, green is the new blue for 2019 and is likely to be used in everything from upholstery patterns to kitchen furnishings.

Color ‘pops’ – People are ditching beige minimalism in favor of fun colors, especially in family-friendly spaces. Yellow is the hottest color for small accent pieces–from ceramics to lamps to sofa pillows.

Warm woods and traditional styles – Antiques and even second-hand items are having their moment again, with consumers looking for skirted tables, wooden chests and other wood pieces with a sense of history.

Indoor and outdoor fireplaces – The coziness trend favors indoor fireplaces, working or not, with homey hearths as a nice spot to gather. Outdoors, fireplaces are preserving the joy of summertime barbecues.

Crafts and artisanal accents – In a world of increasing mass production, there has been a shift back to artisanal and boutique choices in pillows, wall hangings, quilts and other accent pieces all around the home.

This article provided by Beth Davis of Keller Williams Realtors



Short Winter Days Survival Guide

When we turned the clocks back an hour last November, we might have gained an hour of sleep, but we’re also lost an hour of daylight.

During these short winter days, it feels like you haven’t seen the sun in forever. A lack of sunshine means that you may not be getting enough vitamin D, which is essential for sufficient calcium, bone health, and a strong immune system. All of these are critical during this cold and flu season.

So what can you do when your exposure to sunlight is restricted in winter? Here are some ways to get this critical vitamin throughout the shortened days:

Get Out When you Can

As long as the weather permits, be sure you take breaks throughout the day and step outside, even if it’s just for a few minutes. And don’t eat lunch at your desk! Spend your lunch hour on a walk around the park, or even just a walk to and from a café.

Devour Some Vitamin D

While not many foods contain vitamin D naturally, there are a few that can help you get your daily dose:

•Fatty fish, such as tuna, salmon, and mackerel — these are the best natural sources with the most vitamin D

•Beef liver

•Portobello mushrooms

•Egg yolks

 •Cheese

•Cod liver oil

•Vitamin D supplements

•Foods fortified with vitamin D, such as milk, orange juice, cereals, and yogurt

 Be aware that many nutritionists do not believe you can get the full recommended daily dose of vitamin D through diet alone. The best way to get your Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of vitamin D is to expose your skin to direct sunlight.

Healthy Sleeping Habits

The time change can throw your internal clock and circadian rhythms out of whack. Need some tips for a good night’s rest? Try these:

•Turn off all screens an hour before you go to bed.

•Avoid eating and drinking late at night.

•Go to bed at the same time every night.

•And get up at the same time too (no sleeping in on weekends!).

•Make sure your bedroom is dark.

•Spend time outdoors in the sunshine. (Double benefit!)

•Get regular exercise.

•Cut back on sugar.

•Don’t hit the snooze button.

We’re just about halfway over the winter hump.  The spring sunshine and longer days will soon be here!

This article furnished by Susana Griffin of Envision Bank and Mortgage

Home improvement projects that add big value to your home

Even if you don’t have the funds or the energy for a big improvement project or remodel, small changes can make your home a more enjoyable place to live, increase its value, and help you command the best possible price when you sell.

Exchange light fixtures for ceiling fans. A stylish new ceiling fan instantly updates a room and can add value to your home. Choose fans that create a rustic vintage look or add a cool island vibe to an outdoor patio

Replace your kitchen faucet and sink. If your sink is chipped and stained, or your faucet is grungy, new fixtures will make food prep and washing dishes more enjoyable. Even a basic but deeper stainless steel basin will sparkle, and a pullout faucet will add a modern touch

Other simple changes in the kitchen and bathrooms can have a huge impact. A new backsplash can tie together the colors in your counters, floors and cabinets and can be an easy do-it-yourself project. New drawer and door knobs are a lovely addition. Adding a medicine cabinet or changing the mirror in a bathroom will instantly update the room.

This article provided by Beth Davis of Keller Williams Realtors, Plymouth

Keeping Safe During the Holidays

It’s that time of year again – Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and New Years Day. The holidays are here! It’s a joyous time when family and friends gather.

It’s also the most dangerous time of the year. There are more fires and accidents than any other season.

Here are some tips to keep you and your family safe during the holidays at home or on the road:

At Home

Christmas tree – If you’re having a real tree, make sure it is fresh and not dried out. Keep it away from all heat sources (radiators and vents) and open flames (candles and fireplaces). Replenish water in the tree stand.

Holiday lights/electrical cords – Check all light strings and extension cords. Make sure they are not broken or frayed. Do not connect more than three strings of lights together. Do not overload outlets. Use UL (Underwriters Laboratory) approved power strips with surge protectors. Never run wires under rugs.

Pet Safety – Keep live plants such as poinsettias away from pets. If consumed, these plants can be deadly to your dog or cat. Also, keep small decorations that can pose choking hazards out of their reach.

Deliveries – If you’re going away or not home during the day, have a neighbor or a family member get your packages that are delivered to your front door. In recent years, there’s been a surge in delivered packages being stolen from front steps.

On the Road

No Social Media – Do not post your travel plans on social media. An empty house is a magnet for holiday thieves.

Buckle Up – Make sure you and all your passengers have seat belts fastened before heading out in your vehicle. Check children’s car seats that they are properly secured.

Don’t Rush – Leave plenty of time for traveling to destinations. Obey speed limits and traffic laws. Slow-down in stormy weather. You’ll have plenty of company on the roads, so patience is a must.

Have a Happy and Safe holiday!

 

 

Thanksgiving Safety Tips for You and Your Pets

Thanksgiving is one of the most enjoyable family holidays of the year. Sadly, it is also one of the most dangerous for both people and pets.

The chances of house fires and risks to pets’ health are high on Thanksgiving. Unattended cooking can spark a fire while sharing your feast with your pet can be dangerous.

House fire risk

First, let’s look at the risk of house fires. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), there are more home cooking fires reported on Thanksgiving than Christmas or any other holiday. In 2015, fire departments responded to more than 1,700 home cooking fires in the U.S. on Thanksgiving Day.

Here are some tips from the NFPA to keep you and your guests safe on Thanksgiving:

  • Stay in the kitchen when you are cooking on the stovetop so you can keep an eye on the food.
  • Stay in the home when cooking your turkey and check on it frequently.
  • Keep children away from the stove. The stove will be hot and kids should stay 3 feet away.
  • Make sure kids stay away from hot food and liquids. The steam or splash from vegetables, gravy or coffee could cause serious burns.
  • Keep the floor clear so you don’t trip over kids, toys, pocketbooks or bags.
  • Keep knives out of the reach of children.
  • Be sure electric cords from an electric knife, coffee maker, plate warmer or mixer are not dangling off the counter within easy reach of a child.
  • Keep matches and utility lighters out of the reach of children — up high in a locked cabinet.
  • Never leave children alone in room with a lit candle.
  • Make sure your smoke alarms are working. Test them by pushing the test button.

Pet safety

Now, for our furry friends. The American Veterinary Medical Association warns pet owners to avoid the temptation to feed dogs and cats turkey and desserts.

Animals that consume turkey or turkey skin can develop a life-threatening illness, pancreatitis, due to their inability to properly digest fatty foods. Onions, raisons, and grapes can be poisonous to animals.

Chocolate and the artificial sweetener, xylitol, can be deadly to cats and dogs. Also, keep decorative plants away from your pets as many contain toxins.

Follow these safety tips for a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving!

Home Improvement Investment Returns

Which home improvements yield the greatest return on your investment?

Surprisingly, only home insulation returns more than 100% of your cost. Other improvements return less than your amount spent. Yet, they help attract buyers and get your home sold faster.

Here are some examples of what you can expect to get back on your home improvement project.

Attic Insulation

Project cost, $1,268. Resale value $1,482. Cost recoup is 116.9%.

Entry-Door Replacement

Project cost, $1,335. Resale value $1,217. Cost recoup is 91.1%.

Garage Door Replacement

Project cost, $1,512. Resale value 1,512. Cost recoup is 91.5%.

Major Kitchen Remodel

Project cost, $59,998. Resale value $38,938. Cost recoup is 64.9%.

Minor Kitchen Remodel

Project Cost, $20,122. Resale value $16,716. Cost recoup is 83.1%.

Roof Replacement

Project cost, $20,122. Resale value $14,446. Cost recoup is 71.7%.

Siding Replacement

Project cost, $20,142. Resale value $10,857. Cost recoup is 77%.

Bathroom Remodel

Project cost, $17,908. Resale value $11,769. Cost recoup is 65.7%.

As you can see, upgrading your home adds value, and, if you’re selling it, will draw buyers.

This article provided by Beth Davis of Keller Williams Realty.

Protect Your Home from Water Damage

Water damage is one of a homeowner’s greatest worries since it can result in mold and expensive repairs. The following tips can help you prevent potential sources of seepage in your home.

  1. Don’t plant next to your house.

 A flower or shrub border is lovely, and some folks like thorny bushes beneath their windows as a deterrent to break-ins, but watering those plants could damage your foundation. It’s wiser to keep your flower beds a few feet away from the house or make sure they slope away from it.

  1. Gutters and downspouts

Use gutters and downspouts to divert rain runoff away from your foundation. If you notice water pooling near the foundation after a rain, that area needs gutters. Also, make sure you have sufficient gutters for your entire roof. Extend downspouts away from the house and, if possible, discharge underground with a PVC pipe to drain into the street.

  1. Check Your Roof

Check your roof regularly for loose shingles – especially after high wind or rainstorms. Inspect metal flashing for damage and make sure skylights are properly sealed. Check your attic for wet spots or any signs of mold, condensation, damage to insulation, or a rodent or insect infestation that could lead to weak areas and subsequent leaks.

Simple tips like these can create a happier, healthier and more valuable home.

This article provided by Beth Davis of Keller Williams Realty.

IRS Scuttles Tax Breaks for Pirate Victims

It’s 1715 in the Caribbean and the Golden Age of Piracy is at its peak. The War of Spanish Succession is over, and thousands of privateers are left without gainful employment. From bases hidden away in the Bahamas, buccaneers like “Calico” Jack Rackham, “Black Sam” Bellamy, and “Black Bart” Roberts gather those sailors under new commands to terrorize the seas. (Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard, ties burning fuses into his hair to look more fearsome.) While there are never more than a few thousand pirates active at any given time, their legend will live on for centuries.

What do you call a pirate with two arms, two legs, and two eyes? Rookie!

Historians generally agree that the Golden Age of piracy “walked the plank” by 1730. At that point, European nations could deploy their navies to protect merchants, rather than fight each other. But pirates never fully disappeared. And our federal tax code — which some foes attack as its own form of piracy — may be making recovery even harder for the victims. (We all know auditors wear suits and skirts to the office. But don’t you think at least a few of them would rather raise revenue by donning a pirate sash, grabbing a cutlass, and swinging from the nearest yardarm?)

Does it strike you as odd that the “Pirates of the Caribbean” DVD comes with anti-piracy warnings?

Modern Day Pirates

Recently, the nonprofit group Oceans Beyond Piracy released their 2017 State of Maritime Piracy report. They found 71 pirate attacks in the Caribbean — a staggering 163% increase over 2016. 59% involved robberies on yachts, while the rest involved commercial vessels. There were 40 robberies, 17 failed attacks, 13 armed robberies, and 1 hijacking attempt.

The pirates made off with $692,000 worth of ship stores and equipment and $257,000 worth of personal effects. Sadly, the report doesn’t tell us how much of that loot wound up buried in wooden chests or identified on maps with “X” marking the spot.

Why do pirates read playboy? For the arrrticles!

Piracy and the Federal Tax Code

The tax code has always allowed itemized deductions for personal casualty losses, including shipwrecks. However, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 limits those losses to casualties resulting from federally-declared disasters.

The new law doesn’t change the theft-loss rules. But it essentially doubled the standard deductions, which should cut the percentage of taxpayers who itemize from about a third to about a tenth. (Of course, taxpayers who can afford a yacht large enough to attract a pirate’s attention probably aren’t suffering from a shortage of tax breaks!)

How do pirates talk to each other? With an Aye Phone!

Here’s the good news, matey. You don’t have to settle for letting the scallywags at the IRS take more of your doubloons than the law allows. And you don’t need a man-of-war to stop them. You just need a plan!

This article was written by Paul Dion, CPA, of Milbury. info@smarttaxadvisor.com