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StephanieZ last won the day on January 10 2014

StephanieZ had the most liked content!

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About StephanieZ

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    Child Wrangler

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  1. StephanieZ

    I think I am convinced to build

    great house plan!!
  2. My friend and her husband were on a cross country flight a couple years ago. They had booked an aisle and a window with a vacant middle seat between them. (Him -- an aisle seat, as that used to be the haven for tall folks. Her -- a window seat, so she could sleep.) A hugely obese woman was seated between them, in the middle seat, with a "seat belt extender", etc. She was so huge that the poor woman's body could NOT fit between the arm rests. Her bum was up above the rests, resting upon both of them, with her body literally pouring over BOTH arm rests. She couldn't lower her arms at all during teh entire flight. She had to hold them in front of her, hands clasped in front of her face, elbows up. For 5 or 6 hours (coast to coast). My (slim) friend was crammed against her window during the entire flight. She has so little space that she couldn't even use her small pillow between her head and the window. There was no way on earth she could have gotten up to use the restroom, as moving was pretty much impossible, and the middle seat passenger getting in or out of the seat was a heroic feat that involved a lot of time and difficulty. Thankfully, no bathroom emergency occurred. The obese passenger was clearly very uncomfortable for the 5+ hour flight and was sweating profusely. So, she was sweating and stinking on to both my friend and her husband. My friend and her husband are infinitely kind and compassionate people. They said NOT A WORD during the entire miserable flight. They did later warn me (and I'm sure others) about being aware of the middle "handicapped designated" seats, as apparently these are used for overweight folks . . . because the aisle seats can't be used because otherwise the passenger's body would BLOCK THE AISLE. Instead, they just take over their neighbor's seat space . . . IMHO, this is an airline problem and an obese passenger problem. Airlines have made seats (and aisles, and bathrooms) ridiculously small while the average passenger is getting larger and larger. There are not easy ways to upgrade to a "plus size" seat for a modest cost. If it's a $300 coach flight, first class might be $1000. Instead, there should be a "plus size" seat available that is, say 50% wider and 20% more leg room. Charge 30-70% more for the plus size seat, but not 3-5x+. Then they need to mandate that folks verify they can FIT INTO a regular seat if they don't want to pay for a plus size one. Honestly, I think it's abusive what happened to my friends AND to that poor middle seat woman. There's GOT to be a better way. Meanwhile, I do think it's required by good manners that if you can't fit your body into the allotted space of YOUR seat, you figure out another seat (upgrade, etc), another airline with better seating options, or drive/train/whatever if at all possible. It's just not cool to invade a seat mate's space, IMHO.
  3. This is incorrect. Many things can result in penalties during the year if you don't do them right, even if you send in all your taxes by April. There are numerous ways to owe penalties for under-withholding or under-paying estimated taxes, and I'm sure there are lots of other ways that I haven't had the pleasure of discovering, lol. You can likely avoid LATE FEES by paying by April 15, but not all penalties, for sure. If you pre-pay last year's tax burden PLUS 10% *during the year that ends Dec 31*, that (generally) puts you in a "safe haven" where penalties are not assessed even if you owe money. Since our own taxes due are very unpredictable and impossible to accurately calculate before year end, this is what we aim for every year, doing careful calculations quarterly to make sure we stay on track for "last year plus 10%" to avoid the easiest way for penalties to be assessed. If, for instance, we earned 100k last year and owed 10k in Federal taxes, then this year, if we pre-paid (by Dec 31) 11k, we should be in safe haven and not owe penalties, even if we earned more than 100k (say 120k) and so will owe more in taxes than we pre-paid. But, if we'd only withheld 10k this year, we'd owe the additional taxes PLUS penalties. (There may be some ways to lose your safe haven if you are ridiculous . . . but I've never been a ridiculous tax payer, lol. We do our best to comply with the rules. I.e., I can't guarantee that safe haven applies if you earned 10k last year and 1 million this year . . . I have no idea.) Also, if you use "estimated" quarterly tax filing (ie., you own your own business) instead of using the standard withholdings on your paycheck, you can get assessed penalties for not withholding enough throughout the year (they penalize you for under withholding early in the year and then trying to make up for it at year end) Since our own income includes both regular payroll withholding and other income that would typically lead to quarterly estimated payments, we actually use a "trick" to avoid the risks of THIS particular penalty by completely avoiding the quarterly payments and instead having extra withheld from our paychecks -- which thereby avoids that particular penalty risk, as with regular payroll deductions, you can do it all at year end if need be. (And, indeed, some years we've had to ramp up our last few paychecks to put all or nearly all of them into withholdings. This trick is quite handy for us since we often have no idea what our taxable income will be until the accountant is finished with our taxes. Even though we have quarterly reviews to do our best to estimate . . . At least with this trick, we can avoid the risk of penalties.) Anyway, I'm sure others with other types of income and issues face OTHER penalties, but I can speak to these couple, lol.
  4. That was true last year, as it is true in general. What it will look like THIS year is yet to be determined. The lack of predictability is a problem, and they did a very bad job rolling out the tax changes, as even our CPA has had to guess all of 2018 as to what many of the rules are, as many important issues were not clarified until very late in the year if ever. It makes our 2018 taxes even more of a "black box" than they always are (as small business owners with lots of year end calculations by the CPA required to have a good idea of what our actual taxes will be.) Be especially careful looking at "averages" because, as we know, an average is very skewed by BIG numbers at the high end. The median would be more relevant.
  5. Yup, the "tax scam" hit regular folks a lot harder than the scammers led us to believe. Shocked. I'm shocked. (Not.)
  6. StephanieZ

    Marie Kondo Series on Netflix??

    Have you watched the show? Everyone gets rid of heaps of stuff. She shows the mounds of donation bags and garbage bags and even shows them taking the stuff to donation centers. The emphasis is very much on assessing each item for personal value and "letting go" of things that don't bring value.
  7. I think they should be free nation wide. Personally, I have kept stocks of them distributed around my house (in every bathroom, in opened boxes so it's not obvious how many were/are there) ever since my oldest was a teen. I send big boxes to college, too. My goal is to do my part to make sure no teen/college kid I or my kids know gets pregnant unintentionally. From a purely selfish standpoint, can you imagine how distracting and upsetting it'd be if your college roommate got knocked up by her fling? I know that at least two doses of Plan B (that I paid for) have prevented that mishap in my kids' circle of friends. Worth every penny. It's not my business when or how or if they get used, but neither is whether poor parents feed their kids. I donate to food banks, too.
  8. StephanieZ

    Money bills - folded, straight, crunched?

    I typically drop everything into my bottomless purse and hope for the best. Some times, if I have my wallet handy, I put them back in there., where they belong. Bills start out in my wallet when I get a pile of cash from the bank, but they rarely return to my wallet when I get change/etc. I'd say 80% of my bills live in my wallet at any given time, with a few more floating around anywhere in my purse and pockets. Big bills are more likely to make it back to the wallet vs the bottom of the purse. But big bills are often lost in pants or jacket pockets when I stash the "emergency $40" when going somewhere w/o a purse. When I can't find enough money in the bottomless purse, I get more cash at next opportunity. At any given moment, I could have $20 to $300 (occasionally more) cash in my purse, and I rarely know how much more than maybe a $200 window. I notice if I run low on green bills, but I never actually know how much. Receipts get stuffed wherever. If it's a really important one, I put it in my wallet where paper money is supposed to be. If it's not important, I do my best to toss it in the trash ASAP. Middle-importance receipts are the ones that tend to float around in my purse until I clean it out (every 3-12 months). By then, usually they're destroyed enough to go ahead and throw away. My mom once bought me a new purse to get me to clean out my purse. This was a few days after she watched me have to dump my entire purse on the floor to find my car keys to get us home from the theatre. (That isn't a rare occurrence.) I know my purse is a mess. Whatever. It's fine with me. I would think you are a bit neurotic (nicely) to keep your cash and receipts so organized, and I suppose you'd think I'm neurotic to be as messy as I am. Personally, I believe there is a WIDE WIDE middle ground of reasonable tidiness/messiness and I'd guess that as long as we're each functioning effectively and happily, it's all good. If it makes you miserable, change it up.
  9. StephanieZ

    Need Recommendations For A New DIshwasher

    I triple heart love my Bosch dishwasher. Mine is 4 years old, so I'm sure the models have changed. I got one of the middle level Bosch ones, I think it was 800 series. It has the stainless interior and the third rack. I LOVE the third rack and would pay $$$ extra for it. I researched the heck out of appliances 4-5 years ago, and that that time, the Bosch dishwasher was the hands down winner of all the reviews I could find.
  10. StephanieZ

    Binge-worthy Podcasts?

    Bagman, by Rachel Maddow. If it was a book, it'd be in the "I couldn't put it down" category. Awesome history, too, so you can listen with the kids around.
  11. StephanieZ

    Getting our dog used to other dogs

    This, in a nutshell, tells you all you are doing wrong. 🙂 She was being "bad" . . . and you rewarded her with your contact, your kind words, your soothing. You reinforced her aggression. I point this out not to shame you, but to point out that all of us naturally often do things that teach our dogs the wrong thing. This lesson is critical. We're trying to be sweet and kind and we teach them the wrong things accidentally. So, you need to learn better. 1) Do NOT do that (rewarding bad behavior -- whether it is "bad" as in biting/growling or "bad for her" as in extreme fear/etc. Any response/behavior/feeling that you don't want repeated . . . you don't want to "reward". So, cuddles in response to shaking in fear from thunder is just as bad an idea as giving cuddles (or eye contact or other things dogs find positive) in response to peeing on the carpet or growling at the toddler . . . In that moment, you clearly needed to make the situation safe by removing/securing her. But, you need to be "business like" and NOT do things that reward her. So, no eye contact, no cuddles, no pats, no sweet words. Just grab her firmly and make the situation safe. You might add a sharp NO, but I would NOT suggest doing any "punishing" behaviors (other than a sharp NO on occasion and breaking eye contact when she's doing "bad" things") without getting expert feedback first, as you will likely just make things worse if you act without a good understanding of what her issues really are. 2) Now you know never to have her off leash until you are sure she's past this. So, that is a no brainer. In the house, you can/should keep her on leash as much as possible if she's in the room where she can/will bark at the window. Keep her by your side. When she does bad stuff, take here somewhere else where she won't do the bad stuff (I.e., a bedroom or the basement or wherever doesn't have exciting views from the windows.) 3) Find controlled situations (with her on a leash and in firm control, muzzled if you must) to expose her to other dogs. When she's GOOD (calm, not aggressive), then reward the crap out of her. Treats, eye contact, kind words, pats on head. Start slow. Reward small progress. If you can get another dog that a friend is willing to use, that other dog could be on the other side of a fence or other barrier, etc. If she's "bad", then ignore her and remove her to a place where she'll be "good." (Make sure whoever is handling the other dog has treats/etc for their dog. 4) Ask your veterinarian for a referral to a BEHAVIORIST (NOT A TRAINER). A behaviorist will help you see your errors and find ways to fix the problem. You may also need to use "negative" feedback (I.e., a sharp NO along with a rattle from a can with a few coins in it . . . or a sharp jerk on her collar . . . or breaking eye contact and just a firm NO may be all that is needed). But, I would NOT try negative responses until directed by an expert who has worked with your particular dog. 5) As long as your vet or behaviorist OKs it, find an excellent dog training class and do some classes. You may need to start with private training to get her firmly in your control before trying a group class. You can teach her to reliably go to her dog bed (or crate) that you put in a quiet, comfortable, soothing spot that she likes -- and is away from the window. (This is NOT A PUNISHMENT) When she starts barking, you can then give her a "NO BARK!" and if hushes, then you can reward her (treats, etc) or you can send her to her bed for a few minutes. It's a rare dog who will bark like a nut while laying down. So, if you can teach her to reliably lie down, that's another option for an "alternate behavior" Essentially, you can train her for general good obedience, and that will allow her to then do something you LIKE and can REWARD. 6) Do take this seriously. Behavior problems are the #1 reason for dogs dying or being otherwise abandoned in their first year of ownership (as well as overall during their entire lifespans, but a very high percentage are either abandoned or die in their first year . . . for this reason)
  12. StephanieZ

    Life 360....driving me crazy!!!!

    This is one of the reasons all five of my family members now have iPhones. FindMyFriends and FindMyiPhone are my go to apps. I tried Life360 for a while when our youngest had an android. It worked sometimes. I didn't want to hassle with it. So, we got her an iPhone when she got her driver's license. Gotta' have a good locator app, IMHO.
  13. StephanieZ

    Snorkeling advice & questions

    BLECH to using the provided gear. It might be OK, but it might SUCK. And ruin your whole day. For under $100, you can get all your own gear on Amazon and not have to deal with the lines/hassles of getting/returning gear or worry about it being gross or ill-fitting. (This is coming from someone who has stayed in $500+/night beach resorts and gone on $200/person day trips. Nope, never saw any decent gear for offer. It's all garbage. And you can spend 20 minutes walking to and waiting around at the "beach gear tiki hut" -- some places even require you to do that daily instead of letting you keep your stuff all week. We actually pay for an extra bag (so 120 or so round trip) when we go on beach trips and have an entire large suitcase packed with snorkel gear for 5 . . . plus my noodle, lol. I'm not frivolous, but we love to snorkel. It's WELL worth the extra small cost and trouble to bring your own gear if you really want to enjoy the snorkeling a lot. IMHO, required Gear: snorkel, mask, fins, "sea goop" or similar anti-fog "spit" optional Gear: swimming vest and/or noodle(s) -- depending on your swimming confidence and availability of rescue personnel. We usually snorkel where there are no other humans around, so we have to be ready to self-rescue in any situation. Also, depending on how far you like to adventure. We often swim/snorkel a mile or more and/or across a reef or two on a snorkeling expedition, which also makes it more important to be prepared in case tides surprise you and/or conditions change. We travel with all of the above if we're going to snorkel anywhere, ever. Be sure to test out all your gear in the bath tub as soon as you get it, so you can return/exchange it if it isn't a good fit.
  14. StephanieZ

    Snorkeling advice & questions

    Yes, bring your own flotation device. Snorkel excursions rarely provide such things, IME. Whatever they have would be something along the lines of my noodle -- which is fine for comfort for a decent swimmer, but not good enough for someone who actually can't swim well. You want to buy something that you can safely and comfortably snorkel in for hours, and you'd definitely be best off bringing your own. Remember that you'll be floating face down, so be sure whatever you get is designed for snorkeling and swimming, not just for a boating safety, as most safety flotation devices are designed to "flip you onto your back" if you're knocked unconscious, and you don't want that! (Dh and I always bring ALL our own snorkel gear, as even cheap stuff off Amazon is much better than what is provided on excursions or resorts, without fail.)
  15. StephanieZ

    Confused about real estate listing

    FWIW, I think the sellers were playing you, and you played JUST RIGHT for the win! Well done!! Just mentioning that so you are wary during your inspection negotiations. I wouldn't believe anything the sellers OR THEIR AGENTS imply or say. Keep your attitude that you took through the contracting, be prudent about exact wording of every contract stipulation, and you should be just fine.
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